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baptist minister and PhD student
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How can I explain Christmas this year? This is my tenth year in attempting to help you get this story again. I enjoy the challenge of seeing if I can find something different to say. The story of Christmas does not change, but it's a story which we can never exhaust its meaning, because the story is of the Incarnation, of God becoming human; of the invisible, almighty, transcendent, creator God being born in the same way you and I were born. How on earth does God become human and yet remain God? Why on earth would God subject himself to the fragility and vulnerability of being born? What on earth does God think He is doing coming close to a humanity that is so hostile, indifferent, and full of their own importance? These are questions that are begged when we say that in Jesus we see God in the flesh. What have I got to say to you this year? It’s this: think of the Christmas story like a ladder. At the top of the ladder is heaven and at the bottom of the ladder is earth. Up the ladder to heaven, down the ladder to earth. In the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 25, 2019 at andygoodliff
You can’t escape politics at Christmas. In the background of Luke’s version is the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus and in the background of Matthew’s version is King Herod. For those feeling like thank goodness the election is over and we can leave politics alone for Christmas, the story we are given is of the birth of a new king, who will be given a throne from which he will reign for ever, and whose kingdom will never end. This king will arrive and will challenge those who currently reign. He will when he is grown up be crucified under the name ‘king of the Jews.’ For those who would rather not have a political Christmas, we’ll need to start crossing out quite a bit of the nativity story. For those who would rather not have a political gospel, we’ll need to start crossing out nearly all the verses of the gospels. What is happening with the arrival of Jesus is the birth of a new king, and with it a new politics, a new kingdom. No wonder Mary and Zechariah sing. The announcement to Mary is an election.[i] Just as choices have been made in our United Kingdom, so God... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2019 at andygoodliff
The Guardian have been doing a series on the 100 best books/films/albums/etc of the 21st Century. I thought I'd look at my shelves and offer my 50 best theology books I've read, and in many cases return to a lot, published since the 21st Century. I limited myself to one book per author (apart from in one case), otherwise there would be more Freeman, Hauerwas, Wells and Williams. I recognise some of the big names/books are missing — David Bentley Hart, William Cavanaugh, Katherine Sonderegger, David Kesley, Oliver O'Donovan, Miroslav Volf, Michael Banner, John Barclay, John Milbank, and many others — I've just got round to reading them. Some on the list below will be little known, but there books have been important to me. A fair number are memoirs, and I've come to really enjoy this format. The list is in no particular order. Douglas Campbell, The Deliverance of God (2009) Curtis Freeman, Contesting Catholicity (2014) Willie Jennings, The Christian Imagination (2010) John Webster, Holy Scripture (2003) Stanley Hauerwas, Hannah’s Child (2010) Samuel Wells, Improvisation (2004) James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom (2009) Rowan Williams, Tokens of Trust (2007) Robert Jenson, A Theology in Outline (2016) Brian Brock,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2019 at andygoodliff
Theology Live is a one day conference I started with Simon Woodman and Steve Holmes back in 2017. We're back on 23rd January 2020. Its a day for Baptists engaged in post-graduate research and any other interested Baptists to get together to share papers, build friendships and encourage our Baptist family of the important of theology for the life and mission of our national Union and local churches. We've got a great line-up this year: Anthony Reddie — Author of Theologising Brexit (2019), Is God Colour Blind? (2010), SCM Core Text: Black Theology (2012) and the new Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture, Regent's Park College (from Jan 2020) Christine Joynes — the new Director of the Centre for Baptist Studies, Regent's Park College, Oxford and author of Perspectives on the Passion (2008) Joshua Searle — Tutor in Theology and Public Thought, Spurgeon's College and author of Theology After Christendom (2018) Craig Gardiner — Tutor in Christian Doctrine, South Wales Baptist College and author of Melodies of a New Monasticism (2018) Israel Olofinjana — Director of the Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World and minister at Woolwich Baptist Church and author of Partnership in Mission (2015)... Continue reading
Posted Sep 20, 2019 at andygoodliff
Brian Brock, Wondrously Wounded: Theology, Disability, and the Body of Christ (Baylor, 2019) This is a beautiful and challenging book and Brock's most readable one so far! The big reason for that is the presence of Adam, Brian's son. Through Wondrously Wounded Brock tells stories from Adam's life and how they shaped Brock's life and theology. Like the work of Frances Young, Amos Yong and Thomas Reynolds, this is lived theology or practical theology. Adam is profoundly intellectually disabled, although a big part of Brock's argument in this book is to challenge that description, to re-narrate who Adam is in society and in the church. In so doing it is to challenge the idea that we, as a society and as churches, have 'done' disability because we have made our buildings accessible and have embraced 'inclusivity.' The book is divide into five parts: Disability in the Christian Tradition; Welcome and Screening; Systems, Norms, and Modern Medicine; The Everydayness of Mercy and Wonder; and Body–Life as the Communicative Life of the Worshiping Community. At the end of each part Brock provides a Coda, which helpfully offers a summary and the 'general thrust' of the argument. In this brief engagement with the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2019 at andygoodliff
Helen Paynter, God of Violence Yesterday, God of Love Today? Wrestling Honestly with the Old Testament (BRF, 2019) Helen Paynter is a Baptist minister and Old Testament scholar based at Bristol Baptist College. This is her second book. Her first, a version of her PhD, was Reduced Laughter, looking at how to read the books of 1 & 2 Kings. This second book, written for a broad audience, engages with the thorn of subjects violence in the Old Testament. It arrives at the same time as the work of the Centre for the Study of the Bible and Violence (CSBV) begins, of which Paynter is the Director. The book comes in two parts. The first establishes some 'foundations' — reading the Bible as God's word, how to read the Bible well and what is meant or encompassed by the word 'violence.' The chapter in reading the Bible well is especially helpful in offering some important lessons. The second half of the book seeks through 5 chapters to engage with the most serious of questions around the Old Testament and violence. These 5 chapters make a series of important points. When violence is described, it is not always (often?) being endorsed.... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2019 at andygoodliff
On the first Sunday in Lent, The reading is always the story of Jesus tempted in the desert. And the sermon often ends up being something like this: Jesus got tempted. We get tempted. Jesus resisted temptation. We should resist temptation too, Here are three things to do. I had a couple of goes at sermons like that, And I wasn’t getting anywhere. (Writing sermons can be flipping hard work sometimes.) At one point I had a sermon about the importance of saying no and how my youngest child, has that learned to a fine art. At one point I had a sermon about the importance of reading the Bible and that reading the Bible can save your life. Then I had this little insight which flipped this story on its head, at least for me. This isn’t a story about how Jesus was a human being like us, who gets tempted, but it’s a story of how we wish Jesus would discover that he isn’t the Jesus we want. What kind of Jesus do we want — We want a Jesus who can turn stones into bread, We want a Jesus who would just take charge and fix the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2019 at andygoodliff
One way to read the Bible, a good way I suggest, is to notice that it speaks of an old world being replaced by a new world. One reality is ending, a new reality is being birthed. And what the prophets call us to — Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Micah and co. — and what the apostles call us to — Paul, Peter, John and co. — and what most importantly Jesus calls us to is to live on the basis of the new and not the old. The turning point of that old to new, of life out of death, of hope out of despair, of peace out of hostility, is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. If you begin to read the Bible with this kind of lens, this kind of frame, the words of Jesus that were read to us this morning make the right kind of sense. The blessings that Jesus announces are part of the new world coming, the woes that Jesus announces are part of the old world going. This kind of passage is one destined to get me into trouble, to which my response will always be, ‘don’t blame me, I’m just the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2019 at andygoodliff
Chris Raschka, Paul writes (a letter) (Eerdmans, 2018) Last Friday was the day that the church remembers the conversion of St. Paul. I was going to write about this book, but forget, so three days late here it is. This book is for 'young readers' and it introduces children to Paul the letter writer, rather than the Paul of Acts. We remember Paul because of his letters, but his letters are not easy to read, and so Raschka has found a way to bring this important part of Paul's life and this huge part of the New Testament alive. It takes little bits from each of the letters - mostly Paul's encouragement to his churches to act in Christ-like ways. The pictures and map are beautiful to go a long with it. It will help younger readers, and maybe also older readers, get an idea of who Paul wrote to, some of Paul's friends, and some of the things he said. Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2019 at andygoodliff
It appears some Baptist ministers are getting a bit angsty about the prayers included in the Spring 2019 edition of Baptists Together. The magazine, produced by the Baptist Union, has a focus on women in Baptist ministry, celebrating the contribution they have made in the last hundred years. Two of the prayers included at the end address God in fairly unfamiliar terms for the normal Baptist Sunday worship service. One prayer names God as the ‘Trinity of Maiden, Mother and Crone’ and another one is addressed to the ‘Risen Christa.’ Some are suggesting that these prayers are included demonstrates that the Baptist Union has ceased to be orthodox or evangelical! From the comments read most of those concerned claim to be supportive of women in ministry, but not of this kind of ‘liberal’ theology. It raises the question what are appropriate ways of naming God? Kendall Soulen’s fascinating book Divine Name(s) and the Holy Trinity (WJK, 2011) suggests we can address God in three ways: theologically, christologically and pneumatologically. The first reminds us of the name God gives to Moses: ‘I am who I am.’ God is Lord and the confession of the New Testament is that the name of... Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2019 at andygoodliff
2018 saw me hand in my PhD thesis and hopefully 2019 will see it pass. I published my second book edited with my dad: Rhythms of Faithfulness: Essays in Honor of John E. Colwell (Pickwick, 2018) I took my first sabbatical, which was spent largely writing up my thesis. I enjoyed opportunities to hear and meet up with Curtis Freeman and Douglas Campbell, and John Colwell to launch his festschrift. I was also asked to interview Sam Wells at St Martins at the beginning of the year and then was pleased when he came to speak at Belle Vue in October. I enjoyed reading: Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan The Apostle's Creed by Benjamin Myers A Unicorn Dies by Paul Fiddes Ponder These Things by Rowan Williams Paul: An Apostle's Journey by Douglas Campbell all the Harry Potter novels for a second time. I enjoyed watching: Black Earth Rising (BBC2) Marvellous Mrs Maisel (Amazon Prime) Killing Eve (BBC) Glow (Netflicks) Mum (BBC2) There She Goes (BBC) Mary Magdalene (film) Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2019 at andygoodliff
Those of us who are Christians are a strange bunch. Every December we make a pilgrimage to the little town of Bethlehem and then later in March and April we make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. We tell the same story over and over again. Its on annual repeat mode. Out comes the manager, out comes the cross, out comes the tomb. This year marks my nineth time telling the story in this church. Nine years of reminding you why the story matters more than anything else in all the world. The story is a particular story, a story rooted in time and history. You can’t get behind this story to some general myth and you can’t take a moral from this story to be applied to living. All we have is this story rooted in time and history. We go to the town of Bethlehem and the city of Jerusalem, because the story hinges on what happens in both these places. In Bethlehem the story begins with an eventful birth. In Jerusalem the story reaches a climax in a death, which looks like an ending, but is followed by a raising back to life and a new beginning. We tell... Continue reading
Posted Dec 25, 2018 at andygoodliff
The first Theology Live was held in December 2017 - a day of British Baptists sharing their research. The second Theology Live is being held on 10 January 2019 and promises to be another great day of amazing papers. There are still some tickets available, so any Baptists out there, book yourself on. Rob May: 'What Stanley Grenz might have said about preaching in postmodernity.' Rosa Hunt: "A Time to be Silent and a Time to Speak": theological language and the way of dispossession. Joe Haward: "Redeeming Judas: Men, Suicide, and Hope" Beth Allison-Glenny: “Performing the body of Christ: engaging with Judith Butler in our ecclesiology” Seidel Abel Boanerges: “Homiletical Apologetics and the Local Church: Equipping the local believers through apologetic preaching” John Weaver (and John Rackley): “Faith Journey as Theology” Tim Judson: “Sleeping with Satan from the Grief of Gethsemane: A Bonhoefferian Interpretation of Luke 22:45” Dan Pratt: A pendulum of Death and Resurrection: Towards a Theology of Modern Slavery and Liberation Tim Carter: 'Did God really say "You must utterly destroy" the seven nations in the promised land?' Hazel Sherman: '(Paid) "to equip the saints for the work of ministry”?’ Sally Nelson: Beyond liberation: a disability reading of... Continue reading
Posted Dec 18, 2018 at andygoodliff
Its Advent time. It's the time the church considers the coming of Christ and while the world outside the church is generally happy to give a nod in the direction of the babe born in Bethlehem, the church turns our attention to the coming of Christ again. Its Advent time and as Christians we live in Advent, between the coming of Christ and the coming of Christ again. The four Sundays of Advent have traditionally been an opportunity to consider death, judgement, heaven and hell that is to give our lives an eternal horizon. As Bob Dylan sung are you ready to meet Jesus? Are you where you ought to be? Jesus is coming and he will come with judgement. Why judgement? Judgement because the world is not yet as it should be, The world is not yet rid of the forces of evil. Satan is still on the prowl. Judgement names God’s determination not to let evil go unpunished; God’s determination to see love win. God will save us from judgement, but God will not save us without judgement. [i] Evil is not just out there, but in us, the line between good and evil runs through each of... Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2018 at andygoodliff
October ended with a great occasion today at Spurgeon's College. (The month began with me submitting my PhD thesis and also hosting Sam Wells at the church I serve). Today folk gathered for a day of theological reflection on the Order of Baptist Ministry, but really it was an excuse to surprise and present Rev Dr John Colwell with a festschrift that I have edited with my father Paul. Rhythms of Faithfulness: Essays in Honor of John E. Colwell (Pickwick, 2018) is a collection of eighteen essays that recognise the contribution John had made to be many of us as Baptists but also wider. The title of the book borrows from John's own book The Rhythm of Doctrine and it reflects some of its contents as part of the book reflects on the different seasons and feasts of the Christian calendar that shape John's sketch of Christian doctrine. The other half of the book is a theological exposition of the Daily Office of the Order of Baptist Ministry, which John help found in 2009. We hope this book both honours John, but also is a contribution to the life of the Order of Baptist Ministry and an encouragement to Baptists... Continue reading
Posted Oct 31, 2018 at andygoodliff
There’s a parable that goes like this: ‘There are these two young fish swimming along And they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, Who nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually One of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?’ The immediate point of the fish story is that the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about.’ [i] In preaching on screens last week and shopping this week I’m attempting to name some of the water in which we all swim, and to help us recognise how this water shapes, seduces, and speaks to our loves and imaginations with particular visions of the good life. The every day stuff of life is full of unconscious habits and rituals that can be good and not good for the soul. Jesus says, ‘follow me’ and we say ‘ok, but how?’ Jesus says, ‘I will make the difference in every bit of your life’ and we say ‘ok, but what does that look like?’ In first... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2018 at andygoodliff
Ben Myers, The Apostles' Creed (Lexham, 2018) I spent some of the afternoon reading this new book by Ben Myers which expounds the Apostles' Creed line by line and in some cases word by word. It didn't take long to read, which might suggest its a light read, but its brevity and simplicity is joined by a beautiful and truthful and profound description of Christian belief. It would make a great gift to one who is preparing for baptism and for anyone who needs a reminder of the essentials of the Christian faith. Ben, in this book, writes with lots of references to the early church fathers, showing that in many ways that all the questions and queries of Christian belief were already addressed in the first 3 or 4 centuries. This book will sit aside another short-ish book on Christian doctrine — A Theology in Outline — by Robert Jenson. Both books demonstrating that theology can be readable, understandable and brief and so books to easily return to. We need more of this kind of writing. Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2018 at andygoodliff
Have you ever realised that Jesus liked his food. He enjoyed a good meal. He liked a good meal so much that he was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard. In one of the gospels, Luke, we have eight dinner scenes. The first is the banquet Jesus shares at Levi’s house. The second is the dinner he has at Simon the Pharisee’s house, during which a woman interrupts to wash is feet. The third is a meal in the wilderness with over five thousand. The fourth is another meal with a Pharisee where Jesus doesn’t wash his hands. And the fifth is yet another dinner with another Pharisee, a prominent one we’re told where Jesus heals a man with dropsy. The sixth is when Jesus has tea with Zacchaeus. The seventh meal, the climatic meal, is the one Jesus shares with his disciples in an upper room that we call the last supper. And then there is one more sit down meal. Its at Emmaus when two disciples ask him, not knowing who he was, to stay for dinner. So much of Jesus’ life, his ministry, happens round a table, eating with people. Each of these meals are... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2018 at andygoodliff
Paul Beasley-Murray, This is My Story: A Story of Life, Faith and Ministry by (Wipf & Stock, 2018) Last year Baptist minister Keith Clements published an autobiography of his life: Look Back in Hope. We know have a second autobiography from a similar period in this account of his life by Paul Beasley-Murray. Both autobiographies interestingly mention the other in passing from their time overlapping as students in Cambridge. Paul is the son of George Beasley-Murray, one of the leading Baptist New Testament scholars of the twentieth century. He followed his father into Baptist ministry, into doing a New Testament doctorate and into being Principal of Spurgeon's College. Here is a story of what it is like to be child of the manse and of college (George taught at Spurgeon's College and the International Baptist Theological Seminary while Paul was growing up). Paul although following in his father's footsteps has charted his own course - he trained for ministry at Northern Baptist College while doing his doctorate at Manchester, spent two years as a Baptist missionary with BMS and had two long pastorates in churches that grew. Apparently when Douglas McBain published his book Fire Over the Waters in 1997... Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2018 at andygoodliff
It's over two years since I last wrote any on Baptist issues on this blog. The last two posts were on how the Baptist Union was responding to same sex marriage. This new post is compelled by the same subject. The issue then was what Associations (regional bodies) were going to do when the Council of the Baptist Union acknowledged that the Declaration of Principle meant churches were at liberty to discern together (in conversation with Scripture and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit) whether to register or not as places of worship in which same sex marriages could be conducted and as a result that ministers would not be barred, if church was affirming and conscience allowed, to officiate or be involved in some way. Since then some Associations have dissented from this position and have looked and are looking for ways they could exercise control over ministerial settlement and in one case to extend that control over churches who might seek to register. As was clear in March 2016, the issue is not settled. In December 2016 I was part of a group of ministers who wrote a statement which called British Baptists to have the courage... Continue reading
Posted Jul 13, 2018 at andygoodliff
Sam Wells, Incarnational Ministry (Canterbury, 2017) and Incarnational Mission (Canterbury, 2018) The first thing I read by Sam Wells was back in 2004, an essay he wrote for a festschrift in honour of Stanley Hauerwas. I quickly came to the conclusion that here was someone worth listening to and later that year I came across his book Improvisation. Wells has so far not written a bad book and these two new ones are among his best. In 2015 Sam Wells published A Nazareth Manifesto, which sought to describe the theology of being with, the argument that at the heart of the Christian faith is God's commitment to be with, revealed must clearly in Jesus Christ, who while he spent a week in Jerusalem working for us, and three years in and around Galilee working with us, he spent 30 years in Nazareth just being with us (hence the title A Nazareth Manifesto). Wells' conviction is being with is the heart of the gospel and the Christian life. A Nazareth Manifesto set out to demonstrate why theologically. The book was subtitled Being With God. While no book by Sam Wells can ever be described as just academic, A Nazareth Manifesto is... Continue reading
Posted Jun 11, 2018 at andygoodliff
15 years ago today Colin Gunton died. Many were eagerly awaiting his systematic theology, volume one was in draft. It would have been the culmination of a long study of scripture and the tradition. He left a legacy in books and students, (although in my opinion, sadly not at King's College London where he spent all his years teaching) He was one of a very few non-conformist theologians to become a Professor. He made us all think about theology, especially the doctrine of the Trinity, even if you ended up disagreeing with him. I sat in his lectures each year while I was undergraduate - introducing Christian theology, the theology of Karl Barth and in my third year some of the sessions of the Research Institute in Systematic Theology as he read draft chapters from his systematic theology. His books which fill a shelve in my study remain key volumes I pick up and read. It is good to see a growing number of books engaging with his work, and there is a promised T & T Clark Companion in preparation. Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2018 at andygoodliff
In February this year, Douglas Campbell published Paul: An Apostle's Journey (Eerdmans). (I review it here.) He has very kindly agreed to some answers to some questions about his new book and wider field of Pauline studies. Enjoy! (For those in distance of London, Douglas is speaking at St Mellitus College on Monday 21 May, 6.45pm.) What led you to spend most of your life reading, researching, and trying to understand the apostle Paul and his letters? An excellent question! Hopefully it was God or I have made a horrible mistake. In a little more detail … I was a convert, walking the aisle, quite literally, at the age of twenty. As a student at the time I was drawn naturally to “the book,” which is to say, to the Bible. I read it voraciously, and ended up pursuing graduate studies at the University of Toronto in Religious Studies. Someone told me I needed to study with Richard Longenecker there so I enrolled in his famous class on Romans. It was so popular that they had to move all the tables out of the dining hall and move in chairs every week because it was the only room at Wycliffe... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2018 at andygoodliff
I first came across the Tenebrae service when I attended one led by Maggi Dawn in Cambridge in 2005. In 2008 I attempted my own version and then in 2012 I wrote another version. This year I have tried another one, but which tried to be appropriate to all ages. So we used only one song and we acted out the story shadow by shadow. All-Age Tenebrae : a service of shadows and sadness We have 7 candles. As we remember what happened to Jesus, We will blow them out one by one. Until none of them are lit. Jesus prays in garden Jesus went to pray in a garden called Gethsemane Jesus was feeling sad and troubled. His friends Peter, James and John were with him, and Jesus asked them to stay awake with him. Jesus prayed to God, ‘Father, there must be another way. But I will do what you want.’ Jesus knew that he was going to suffer. Jesus’ friends fell asleep, just when Jesus needed them the most, which made he more sad. We blow out a candle for sadness and sorrow Jesus is betrayed by Judas Into the garden came some soldiers to arrest Jesus.... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2018 at andygoodliff