Window on the World (Revised Edition), Mandryk and Wall

Window on the World - rev

I am grateful to Inter-varsity Press for sending me a copy of the newly-published revised edition of Window on the World, one of several resources associated with the Operation World prayer guide. I have particular enthusiasm for this book for at least two reasons.

The first reason is personal. The original edition of Window on the World was written by my mother-in-law, Daphne Spraggett, building on earlier work by Jill Johnstone (see the image of the original cover below). A brief account of the origins of the book and the work of Jill and Daphne is included in the introduction to the new edition (4). I am very thankful for Daphne’s contribution to the church through her work on the original Window on the World, and I know that she is pleased to see it being taken on in a revised form 51cj+3vuinl1138917909..jpgfor a new generation through the editorial work of Jason Mandryk and Molly Wall (who also work on Operation World).

The second reason for my enthusiasm for this book is its value in making information about the world accessible and usable for Christians and churches that might be overwhelmed by the detail of Operation World. While the original purpose of the book was to encourage children and families to pray for the world, I have found that it is a very helpful guide for adults and church prayer groups due to its attractive and manageable presentation of information.

Of course, in our rapidly changing world, it was inevitable that Window on the World would require revision as statistics changed considerably with the passing years. Yet the fundamental structure of the book remains much the same as in the original edition. There is still a mixture of entries on countries and entries on people groups. Some of the original selections have dropped out to be replaced with others. Such changes are entirely understandable. For example, it is great to see an entry for the Rohingya people (whose plight has so often been in the news), another for the world’s newest country, South Sudan, and another for the category of ‘Street Children’, the ‘unseen millions’ found in numerous parts of the world. (I confess I was a little sorry to see that the Xhosa people, with whom we lived and worked in South Africa, were not included in the revised edition! However, I was pleased that there was a new entry for South Africa.) The new edition is beautifully presented, with fresh colours and images. The short stories about people from these nation remain a helpful feature of the book. Whether you work through the book methodically or browse through it occasionally, you will find much here to educate, to fascinate, and to prompt to prayer.

I warmly commend this book to anyone who wishes to understand the world better and to pray for the world more effectively.

Book Review: Walls, Crossing Cultural Frontiers

The following book review was published in Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 36.1 (2018), 92-94. It is posted here with permission of the editor. Further details about the issue of SBET can be found here.

Walls Crossing Cultural Frontiers

Crossing Cultural Frontiers: Studies in the History of World Christianity. By Andrew F. Walls. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2017. ISBN: 978-1-62698258-1. xii + 284pp. £26.99.

The name of Andrew F. Walls is revered within the field of Mission Studies and the development of the discipline of ‘World Christianity’. Despite his significance as a towering figure in the academic area, Walls is not known primarily for major academic publications. In fact, it might well be said that Walls, like Paul the apostle, has produced ‘living publications’ in the form of the many students he has supervised and encouraged over the years. Yet Walls has published many papers in various journals and other publications, many of which would not be easily accessible to most readers. In recent decades, two collections of Walls’s essays were published: The Missionary Movement in Christian History (1996) and The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History (2002). Now, after a long wait, a third collection has been produced, edited by Mark Gornik, Director of the City Seminary, New York. Without doubt, this collection will be warmly welcomed both for the inherent value of the essays and as a further testament and tribute to the pioneering work that Walls has done.

The essays are grouped into three main parts: ‘The Transmission of Christian Faith’, ‘Africa in Christian Thought and History’, and ‘The Missionary Movement and the West’. The topics discussed by Walls reflect the range of his interests. Essay titles include, ‘World Christianity and the Early Church’, ‘Towards a Theology of Migration’, ‘The Discovery of “African Traditional Religion” and Its Impact on Religious Studies’, ‘Kwame Bediako and Christian Scholarship in Africa, and ‘The Future of Missiology—Missiology as Vocation’. Some of the essays reflect personal friendships and collaboration (with Kwame Bediako and Harold Turner) and Walls’s interest in and association with Sierra Leone is marked with the essay, ‘A Christian Experiment: The Early Sierra Leone Colony’. The essay ‘Missions and the English Novel’ is an interesting discussion of mission and missionaries as portrayed in some classic English fiction. Several essays focus on notable figures in the history of mission: one discusses John and Charles Wesley (evidence of Walls’s Methodist affiliation and his passion for hymnody), another looks at Jonathan Edwards and David Brainerd. I was pleased, having a strong connection to the Eastern Cape of South Africa, to see the inclusion of an essay that discusses Tiyo Soga.

Walls writes in an engaging style. In his introduction to the book, he writes, ‘This book […] is a ragbag, reminiscent of those bags of my grandmother’s day that held strips of cloth from miscellaneous sources to be used for making clootie mats (rugs, warm if dust retaining)’ (p. ix). He also comments in the introduction on his thoughts about the term ‘World Christianity’, noting that he is ‘a late convert to the use of the term’ (p. ix). Sometimes Walls includes personal reflections, in which he is gently self-deprecating. For example, in the first essay, Walls recounts his decision, in choosing the topic of his dissertation, to focus on a fragmentary Latin text of a Greek original, rather than one of the other versions in Coptic, Arabic or Ethiopic. He comments, ‘And so, following conventional wisdom, I missed an important point about the early church that the history of this text illustrated: its vast geographical spread and linguistic diversity’ (p. 3).

Some themes run through more than one essay, even to the point of similar phrasing. One of these themes is Walls’s conviction that Western theology has been dominated by an Enlightenment worldview, and that theology must take more account of spiritual realities that are ‘bracketed out in an Enlightenment worldview’ (p. 47). He comments, ‘It is not that Western theology is wrong; it is simply too small for the operating systems of Africa (and indeed, of most of the world) (p. 47). Walls continues, ‘Perhaps we need to consider more deeply what Paul calls the principalities and powers in charge of the course of the world, yet defeated by the Resurrection of Christ and dragged behind the triumphal chariot of the cross’ (p. 48, with reference to Colossians 1:13–15). This is a helpful emphasis, when taken as part of the whole scriptural account of the work of Christ, and several recent scholars have given more attention to Christ’s victory over the Powers in their writings. While I welcome Walls’s call to learn from the ‘big universe’ of Africa, I am not convinced that it is helpful to regard the category of ‘ancestor’ as a valuable concept in developing Christian theology. In the same essay, Walls adds,

Perhaps a richer theology of the family, one that has a place for the ancestors, will come as richer family reality of Africa and Asia than the atomised one of modernity. African Christianity may help us to reflect more on the Lord’s words about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: ‘He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. (p. 48)

I would like to hear the response of African and Asian theologians as to whether the concept of ancestor can be used without importing with it aspects of indigenous beliefs and practices that would stand in tension with Christian confession. Nonetheless, Walls’s citation from Luke 20:37–38 highlights his readiness to face his readers with challenging ideas from the text of Scripture as well as from African culture.

I would encourage readers who wish to understand the contours of the church today, of World Christianity, to read this book. It is not intended to be a systematic introduction to the topic. Other books accomplish that task more effectively. What this book does is to bring the reader into contact with a brilliant and fresh thinker who wishes to draw together Scripture, voices from the early church, the lessons of mission history, and the perspectives of contemporary Christians throughout the whole world, so that the church of Jesus Christ will grow and thrive. There is much to learn here.

At the time of writing, Walls recently marked his ninetieth birthday. He comments in his opening remarks to this book, ‘My deepest gratitude must be for the privilege of being allowed for so long to move around the amazing workshop in which the renewal and construction of World Christianity has been taking place. Gratias Domino refero’ (p. xii). In his concluding essay, he asks the question, ‘Is there any more exciting vocation at the present time than missiology?’ If the implied answer (‘no’!) is correct, then that is in no small measure thanks to the work of Andrew Walls. Many will echo his expression of thankfulness to God for his life and work.

Alistair I. Wilson, Edinburgh Theological Seminary

Logos Free Book of the Month – June 2018

If you use Logos software, be sure to pick up the Free Book of the Month for June. This month you can get the Word Biblical Commentary volume on Ecclesiastes free of charge. If you are willing to pay a few dollars, you can pick up two further volumes from the WBC series.

If you don’t already have the Logos Basic software so that you can read these books, you can download it completely free here.

Mission Quotes: Chris Wright on theology and mission

This excellent quotation comes from Chris Wright’s superb book, The Mission of God’s People. If you haven’t read it yet, please go and get a copy! Or listen to Chris read his book to you in audio book format.

There should be no theology that does not relate to the mission of the church – either by being generated out of the church’s mission or by inspiring and shaping it. And there should be no mission of the church carried on without deep theological roots in the soil of the Bible. No theology without missional impact; no mission without theological foundations.

Chris Wright
The Mission of God’s People
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), p. 20.

Book Review: Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels

The following book review was published in Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 35.2 (2017), 219-21. It is posted here with permission of the editor. Further details about the issue of SBET can be found here.

 

Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels. By Richard B. Hays.

Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-481-0491-7. xix + 504pp. £33.50.

Richard B. Hays’s book, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (New Haven: Yale UP, 1989), had a huge impact on the field of New Testament studies. The notion of ‘intertextual echoes’, along with Hays’s seven ‘tests’ for detecting them, have played a significant (though not uncontested) role in biblical interpretation ever since.

Now Hays has produced a much larger volume that self-consciously builds on the earlier work (seen clearly in the parallel title and the similar cover art), this time considering the four canonical Gospels.

Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels appeared soon after the publication of a shorter volume dealing with much the same theme, entitled Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2014). As Hays explains in his preface to the larger book, the material for the 2013-14 Hulsean Lectures (Cambridge), published as Reading Backwards, was in fact drawn from the draft manuscript of Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels. So, if you have already read Reading Backwards, you will have been given a good taster of Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels. If you have not yet read Reading Backwards, then you can afford to skip it and simply read the more fully developed work.

The book follows a consistent pattern. Following an introductory chapter that lays out the principles adopted in the book, there are four lengthy chapters on the four canonical Gospels: ‘The Gospel of Mark: Herald of Mystery’, ‘The Gospel of Matthew: Torah Transfigured’, ‘The Gospel of Luke: The Liberation of Israel’, and ‘The Gospel of John: The Temple of His Body’.

Each chapter has five sections. These deal with the following issues (quoting Hays’s bullet points on page 9):

  • The Evangelist as interpreter of Israel’s Scripture: overview
  • How does the Evangelist invoke/evoke Scripture to re-narrate Israel’s story?
  • How does the Evangelist invoke/evoke Scripture to narrate the identity of Jesus?
  • How does the Evangelist invoke/evoke Scripture to narrate the church’s role in relation to the world?
  • Summary conclusion: findings about the distinctive scriptural hermeneutics of the Evangelist.

Following the main chapters, Hays provides a brief conclusion. There are some seventy-four pages of end notes, some quite substantial, followed by a bibliography, an index of Scripture and other ancient texts, and an index of names. In the preface, Hays acknowledges significant help (particularly relating to the notes) from a number of academic colleagues as he worked to complete the manuscript during a period of serious illness.

In his introduction, Hays indicates his presupposition that ‘all four canonical Gospels are deeply embedded in a symbolic world shaped by the Old Testament’ (p. 10). In considering intertextual references, Hays employs the categories, familiar to many of his readers, of ‘quotation’, ‘allusion’, and ‘echo’. At the heart of Hays’s approach is the concept of ‘metalepsis’. Hays explains (p. 11),

Metalepsis is a literary technique of citing or echoing a small bit of a precursor text in such a way that the reader can grasp the significance of the echo only by recalling or recovering the original context from which the fragmentary echo came and then reading the two texts in dialogical juxtaposition. The figurative effect of such an intertextual linkage lies in the unstated or suppressed points of correspondence between the two texts.

In his conclusion, Hays states succinctly his notion of ‘figural interpretation’ (p. 359, italics are original):

In short, figural interpretation discerns a divinely crafted pattern of coherence within the events and characters of the biblical narratives.

Reading Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels was a pleasure. Hays writes clearly and elegantly. The book is a rich collection of short studies of passages from the Gospels. Hays recognises that some of the cases he makes are stronger than others, but even where the reader may not always be convinced by Hays’s argument, there is much to learn from his careful discussions of specific texts. Hebrew and Greek script is used both in the main text of the book and in the notes, but readers without Hebrew and Greek should still be able to make sense of the discussion without much difficulty.

Combined with the detailed analysis of possible verbal correspondences in various texts, Hays offers a richly theological reading of the Gospels that will be of great benefit to preachers. In particular, he emphasises the high Christology that his studies suggest. For example, with reference to Matthew’s Gospel, Hays writes (p. 175, italics are original),

Matthew highlights the worship of Jesus for one reason: he believes and proclaims that Jesus is the embodied presence of God and that to worship Jesus is to worship YHWH—not merely an agent or a facsimile or an intermediary. If we read the story within the hermeneutical matrix of Israel’s Scripture, we can draw no other conclusion.

Perhaps one of Hays’s most significant legacies will be a renewed emphasis within academic biblical studies on the coherence and interconnectedness of Scripture. In his conclusion he urges readers to become immersed in the texts of the Old Testament as the Evangelists were (p. 357, italics are original),

What would it mean to undertake the task of reading Scripture along with the Evangelists? First of all, it would mean cultivating a deep knowledge of the Old Testament texts, getting these texts into our blood and bones. It would mean learning the texts by heart in the fullest sense. The pervasive, complex, and multivalent uses of Scripture that we find in the Gospels could arrive only in and for a community immersed in scriptural language and imagery…. But, alas, many Christian communities have lost touch with the sort of deep primary knowledge of Scripture—especially Israel’s Scripture—that would enable them even to perceive the messages conveyed by the Evangelists’ biblical allusions and echoes, let alone to employ Scripture with comparable facility in their own preaching and renarration of the gospel story.

I hope many teachers, students and preachers will read this book, consider carefully its ideas, and so take up Hays’s challenge to enable themselves and others to engage with the Old Testament (and the Gospels) more fully and effectively.

Mission Quotes: Emil Brunner

As I read literature relating to Mission Studies and World Christianity, I intend to share short quotations, partly to highlight statements that seem to me to be thought-provoking and partly to highlight books and authors that readers may find interesting and useful.

This quotation is very short but is striking, memorable, and widely cited:

‘The Church exists by mission, just as a fire exists by burning.’

Emil Brunner, The Word and the World (London: SCM Press, 1931), 108.

The citation in its wider context is reproduced by Dr Thomas Schirrmacher here.

Readers who would like to read further in Mission Studies might wish to look at this Bibliography of Mission Studies and World Christianity.

Mission Quotes: Kirsteen Kim

Kim Joining in with the SpiritAs I read literature relating to Mission Studies and World Christianity, I intend to share short quotations, partly to highlight statements that seem to me to be thought-provoking and partly to highlight books and authors that readers may find interesting and useful.

In the following quotation, Kirsteen Kim, Professor of Theology and World Christianity at Fuller Seminary, comments on the significance of understanding mission as ‘the mission of God’ (Latin: missio Dei):

‘Mission as God’s mission implied a move from the periphery of church and theological concerns – as the activity of enthusiasts in far-away places – to establish mission as an intrinsic part of what it means to be Christian and to be church. At the same time it implied a change in the nature of mission activity from a series of tasks commanded by God to the realization of God’s promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1.8) and eternal presence (Matt. 28:20).’

Kirsteen Kim, Joining in with the Spirit (London: SCM, 2012), 29.

Readers who would like to read further in Mission Studies might wish to look at this Bibliography of Mission Studies and World Christianity.

Mission Quotes: J. H. Bavinck

As I read literature relating to Mission Studies and World Christianity, I intend to share short quotations, partly to highlight statements that seem to me to be thought-provoking and partly to highlight books and authors that readers may find interesting and useful.

The following striking quotation is from the Dutch missiologist, J. H. Bavinck. It is quoted in an excellent study of his life and thought by P. J. Visser.

‘In the final analysis and in the face of all rational arguments, the whole of missionary work consists of nothing more or less than the childlike witness: “Come and see”! (John 1:46)’

J. H. Bavinck, Christus en de mystiek van het Oosten (1934), p. 229.

Cited in P. J. Visser, Heart for the Gospel, Heart for the World, (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2003), p. 33.

Readers who would like to read further in Mission Studies might wish to look at this Bibliography of Mission Studies and World Christianity.

Lectures by Michael Goheen: ‘The Church and Religious Pluralism’

Dr Michael Goheen is a distinguished missiologist in the Reformed tradition, the author of numerous books, including a good introduction to mission, Introducing Christian Mission Today. Goheen gave the 2013 Kistemaker Lectures at RTS Orlando. The subject for his series of four lectures was ‘The Church and Religious Pluralism’. Goheen’s lectures have been made available on SoundCloud here, and it would be worth your time to listen to these lectures.

Mission Quotes: Johannes Verkuyl

As I read literature relating to Mission Studies and World Christianity, I intend to share short quotations, partly to highlight statements that seem to me to be thought-provoking and partly to highlight books and authors that readers may find interesting and useful.

The following quotation is from the Dutch missiologist, Johannes Verkuyl.

[M]issiology may never become a substitute for action and participation. God calls for participants and volunteers in his mission. In part, missiology’s goal is to become a ‘service station’ along the way. If study does not lead to participation, whether at home or abroad, missiology has lost her humble calling.’

Johannes Verkuyl, Contemporary Missiology: An Introduction (Translated and edited by Dale Cooper; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978), 6.

Readers who would like to read further in Mission Studies might wish to look at this Bibliography of Mission Studies and World Christianity.