Essentials

Who Cares About Justification?

The New Perspective on Paul

1. What is The New Perspective?

The last twenty-five years has seen a paradigm shift take place in some quarters of New Testament studies by proponents of what is called "The New Perspective" on Paul ('TNP'). TNP re-frames the way we understand the issues Paul deals with in his letters to the Galatians, Philippians and Romans among others. At the heart of TNP is a change in the way we should understand Judaism leading up to Paul's time – called Second Temple Judaism – and the Pauline language of righteousness/justification. This change to represents a significant departure from the Reformation understanding, and has caused great concern amongst a number of evangelicals.

This article provides a brief introduction to TNP and outlines some ministry implications.

1.1 Second Temple Judaism

A dramatic shift took place with E. P. Sanders' Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977). Sanders argued that Second Temple Judaism was a religion that relied on God's grace, not legalism or works as theologians of the Reformation onwards characterise it.

Hitchhikers' Guide to the Bible

Open any catalogue from a Christian book retailer and you will find pages and pages of different Bibles for sale. Study bibles, devotional bibles, Bibles for men, women, teenagers, seniors and children. There are Bibles to suit every possible occasion in life – baptisms, confirmations, weddings - with only funerals thus far escaping the ploy of the marketing experts!

Yet although we have plenty of Bibles on hand to own and look at, very few of us really spend much time seeking to read and understand its message. The most recent Australian Church Life Survey showed that only 19% of church attendees read the Bible daily or on most days, with another 46% reading it only occasionally and 37% hardly ever or never at all.
The Bible may be perhaps the most owned (US Statistics point to an average of 6.8 Bibles per household) but least read of any book ever printed.
And not only least read, but also least understood of any book. Those Sunday school bloopers - "the epistles were the wives of the apostles", "Solomon had 300 wives and 700 porcupines" - are humorous, but also are sadly true of many people in our churches for whom the Bible is largely a mystery. The old saying, "Wonderful things in the Bible I see, most of them put there by you and by me", is often an all too common experience.
It was with this in mind that the leadership team of our church devised a 10 week series called the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Bible to help our church members and visitors understand something of the big picture of the Bible and thus make it more accessible and able to be read and enjoyed.

Choosing a New Leader for your Church

Reprinted from the August 1994 edition of Essentials

In the previous articles I have considered how to develop a ministry description for the vicar or rector, how to prepare a parish profile, how to write a philosophy of ministry, and how to interview candidates. In this article we will look at how to form a short list of potential candidates, and how to make the most of the interregnum.

Theology is everything
A leader's theology will make or break a church's spirituality and effectiveness. The basic issue is authority: we all resort to some ultimate authority. There are four possibilities for the Christian: rely on the teaching of the church and its councils over the centuries, rely on his/her own ability to understand the truth, rely on his/her own spiritual experiences as a form of direct revelation, or rely on the scriptures as God's authoritative word.

The wise committee seeking a new leader will discern the candidate's attitude to the Bible and to the priority of Bible teaching. This attitude will influence other commitments; for example, which training college was chosen, which missionary societies are given allegiance, the passion for evangelism and so on.

Person to Person about Christ

I could hardly believe my eyes. Ten years before, I'd spent two hours debating with John1 the Good news of Jesus' death and rising to life, but he left my home still unwilling to accept it for himself.

Prior to that I'd invested two and a half years of intentional relationship building, invited and occasionally got him to attend a variety of men's outreach events, poured out heaps of prayer and spent regular periods providing encouragement to his Christian wife, Carol. All this effort apparently to no avail. Yet here I was, preaching in a different suburb and towards the back were John and Carol both sitting and listening intently!

After the service we caught up and I discovered John was now a Christian and attended church with his wife and children twice each weekend. One part of me (the sinful) wanted to say – "It's not fair, all my efforts and someone else reaps the rewards!" However, the other part of me (the Christian) was rejoicing at the wonder of God's grace.

How to present your parish when looking for a new leader

Knowing that everything rises or falls depending on the quality of leadership in the parish, the work of the incumbency committee is therefore vital in selecting the best possible leader. In the previous article we looked at developing a ministry or job description for the vicar or rector. Here we will consider ways to present the vacant parish through the parish profile and the interviewing process.

1. How to prepare a parish profile

The parish profile needs to be prepared with clergy in mind. Most profiles are internal documents and often are confusing to the outsider. For example, one major parish asked me to look at their profile which had no information about the local community and no indication as to the size of the church membership or budget. It is wise to ask a sympathetic clergy person to read through the profile and make suggestions for improvement. Remember to be honest and as objective as possible. The profile should include concise information under these headings:

Book Review - Spiritual Friendship

Spiritual Friendship - Finding love in the Church as a celibate Gay Christian
Wesley Hill  Brazos Press, 2015

It is not very often that I would say that a book is deeply moving, but this one is both powerful and profound.

I’ve been thinking for quite a while that as much as we need to defend biblical orthodoxy with regard to human sexuality we also need to say a lot more than that. Wes Hill is among a group of courageous people who have been willing to share their struggle and their responses to being same sex attracted and celibate. With regard to this, Vaughan Roberts and Ed Shaw also come to mind.

Wes was in Melbourne last year and was the main speaker at a very well attended pastoral forum run by Ridley College. He also spoke at three large public lectures. Wes lectures in New Testament at Trinity School for Ministry in Pittsburgh and is pursing ordination in the Anglican Church. He lives with a married couple and is the godfather to their first daughter.

Wes offers a fresh and unique exploration of ‘friendship’ and takes us to surprising places and people along the way. Wes, as with his first book ‘Washed and Waiting’ is remarkably honest about his own vulnerabilities and struggles. Here is a real person exploring what it means for him to be faithful to God when it involves the challenges of being celibate. It is rare to read a book that is as frank about the pain involved in that predicament. Wes explores friendship as an idea and responds to a range of thinkers over the centuries in relation to this important area in each of our lives. He delves into biblical, theological and historical insights along the way. Hill explores what it is to be involved in committed friendships and to find true friendship in the context of a Christian community.

The book is broken into two parts.  Part One looks at the background and biblical/theological issues and Part Two focuses on the living out of friendship today, especially for same sex attracted believers who accept that they will remain celibate.  Chapter 1 looks at the weak nature of friendship in western culture. Chapter 2 explores how friendship can be expressed in a committed way. Chapter 3 looks at the scriptural and theological underpinnings for our practice of friendship. Does Jesus death and resurrection transform friendship? Chapter 4 looks at the intersection between erotic love and friendship. Chapter 5 asks what it means to cultivate committed friendships and Chapter 6 explores how we can pursue and nurture friendships in the church today.
‘Friendship is a good and godly love in it’s own right, just as worthy of attention, nurture and respect as any other form of Christian affection. That’s what the Christian tradition has said. And that’s what I want to say - from a fresh angle of vision – in this book.

Wes Hill will challenge you as well as help you to think about these issues in unique and very helpful ways. His is a prophetic voice in the church today and he offers hope and positive ways forward for those who are same sex attracted and looking for love and companionship. I strongly recommend this book.

Stephen Hale

What should you look for in a minister?

Reprinted from the Autumn 1993 Edition of Essentials

This is the first in a series of practical articles designed to help parishes, incumbency committees and pastors to become more effective in extending God's kingdom. The other articles will cover topics including:

how to develop a parish profile
how to best interview a potential rector
how to form a short list and how to discern the right person
how to conduct a ministry review

In this article we will look at developing a job description or profile for your pastor.

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