Foundations: No.74 Spring 2018


Martin Salter

About ten years ago I sat in a lecture room and listened to Dr. Mike Ovey give an impassioned plea to young theologians to take theological education seriously. Mike was committed to the importance of life-long learning, and its importance in both equipping and protecting the saints (to combine Ephesians 4 with Acts 20). As unusual bedfellows as Ovey and Prof. Karl Barth would be, I think Mike would agree with Barth when he wrote,

Theology is no undertaking that can be blithely surrendered to others by anyone engaged in the ministry of God’s Word. It is no hobby of some especially interested and gifted individuals. A community that is awake and conscious of its commission and task in the world will of necessity be a theologically interested community.[1] 

In other words, if you want to be a true witness you need to be engaged in theology. It cannot be left to some class of élite professionals or dismissed as irrelevant in the “I just want to preach the Bible” sort of way. Barth continues,

Theology would be an utter failure if it should place itself in some elegant eminence where it would be concerned only with God, the world, man and some other items, perhaps those of historical interest, instead of being theology for the community. Like the pendulum which regulates the movements of a clock, so theology is responsible for the reasonable service of the community.[2] 

Theology doesn’t belong in the academy only; it must serve the church in being a witness – from the community, for the community. Without robust theology the community becomes a clock telling the wrong time; without the community all you have is a pretty pendulum in a cabinet that has been disconnected from the clock’s movements.

In essence, leaders are readers and teachers are students. If you want to edify and build up then you must start at home. There are many ways and places to continue our theological learning and reflection, and I hope Foundations may provide just one such watering hole for your ministry. Whether it feeds you as a sole pastor, stimulates you as an academic or lay-person, or is used in a variety of team situations, I hope it serves in some small measure to “equip the saints”.

My second hope is that Foundations provides a space in which a younger generation of emerging scholars may begin that process of learning and training through contributing. It’s an exciting opportunity to be able to encourage a generation of younger scholars to “stretch their legs”, so to speak. They need somewhere to write that first piece, and some encouragement to employ their gifts over a lifetime for the edification of the church and its leaders. Foundations, I hope, may be a place to do something small towards that end.

The greatest privilege I’m discovering lies in the reading of a range of excellent articles. The opportunity to think, reflect, and interact at a deeper level is already having pay-offs in my own ministry. To that end I’d encourage you to carve out time, perhaps on your own, or perhaps with other leaders, to read and reflect on the articles in this edition.

Dr. Jamie Grant has written on “Imprecation in the Psalms”. Considering the genre and its function in relating to injustice is important for Christians to grapple with. The vocabulary of the psalms provides a way for human beings to express human emotions back to God. Jamie encourages us to think about how we unapologetically appropriate what imprecation has to offer us today.

Heather Harper has written on “Isolation in Job”, reflecting on the ways in which Job’s experience may serve to inform the spiritually struggling today. She skilfully weaves careful examination of the text with practical and pastoral application.

Jon Putt has written a fascinating theological exploration of culture, class and ethnicity, considering some of the implications for ministry that stem from a robust biblical understanding of these concepts. He includes pertinent reflections from some of the overspill from the recent MLK50 and T4G conferences.

Fiona Gibson is currently conducting doctoral research into acedia or “sloth” as it has also been called. She has written an engaging piece on the fourth century desert Father Evagrius’ understanding of sloth as a “capital sin” from which others flow. After outlining the nature of acedia, she offers reflections on what we could profitably learn today in a culture in which busyness can, ironically, be a mask for spiritual laziness.

Finally, Daniel Stevens is a PhD student at Cambridge and has provided a review article on the Tyndale House Greek New Testament. The THGNT is a significant contribution to the editing of the Greek New Testament and Daniel helps us to think through why it is important and what it has to offer.

So why read any further? Richard Dawkins has written,

What has “theology” ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody? When has “theology” ever said anything that is demonstrably true and is not obvious?… What makes you think that “theology” is a subject at all?[3]

Cyril Georgeson responds,

It is a subject because of its Subject. Where Christianity is lived well, the charge that theologians can engage only in the pursuit of theology devoid of contemporary issues should sound false to the ears of this generation. For all truth is God’s truth.’[4]

Each of the articles in this issue combine rigorous theological engagement with practical and pastoral application. As such, they have much that is useful to academics, practitioners and the church more broadly. Theological reading and reflection is critical to a fruitful ministry. So I commend the articles that follow and pray they may stimulate your minds, shape your practice and encourage your hearts.

Martin Salter
May 2018


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