Archive for the ‘reformational’ Category

Elaine Storkey has a new piece over at the fulcrum website looking at what the future may hold for the Church and culture at large.  The closing paragraph ends with a call to action and cultural engagement.  I agree with this and simply want to comment that evangelical leaders are (aim to be) pretty good at consuming time, energy and resources from their congregation in maintaining and expanding the Church (church gathered, institutional church). We need a holistic missional ecclesiology in which the CHurch (dispersed,body) looks beyond the Church (gathered, institutional) and  seeks to shape culture and the world.

Unless Christians move out of their parochial concerns and address the issues which are dominant in the rest of our world, we will be increasingly marginalized, and our contribution to the events of the coming decade will be minimal. Not only that, but the way people hear the Gospel and the implications it has for the whole of life, will be blurred and confusing.

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Jake Belder, via his blog, introduced me to the book ‘Who gets to narrate the world?’ by Robert E. Webber. My copy arrived today and I have ploughed through the first few chapters.  So far, so good. Webber encourages us to look at the comprehensive biblical narrative which is desperately needed as Christians face real problems, both internal and external, in the 21st century.

However, I was surprised, given this book calls us to move away from a reductionistic understanding of God’s story and mission to find the following,

The overriding theme of this book is to respond to these challenges by understanding and practising the fullness of God’s narrative. Whether you are a pastor, a youth worker, a worship leader, an evangelist, a teacher or active layperson in the church, the effect of restoring God’s narrative is manifold. (page 19)

Why, please tell me, does a book which is against reductionism, have as its target audience people who work in a church? Surely the call of the gospel is to people working in all spheres of life. I have taken the liberty of re-writing the above paragraph and would be happy for Robert to use it in in any future editions of the book.

The overriding theme of this book is to respond to these challenges by understanding and practising the fullness of God’s narrative. Whether you are a pastor, baker, butcher, scientist, artist, teacher, economist, lawyer, candlestick maker,  the effect of restoring God’s narrative is manifold.

If this potential new edition contains the above paragraph I would only ask that a glossy picture of myself be included on the back cover. This would have the added advantage of increasing sales…..

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Chapter 4 is entitled ‘Deep Truth’ and explores issues of epistemology.  He thinks that traditionalists have often misrepresented postmodernism and have failed to understand postmodernity as  emergent leaders understand it. Is postmodernity in all forms the enemy? Lstenign to the rhetoric of some evangelicals you would think so. However, he also criticises the emergent church for not recognizing that there are movements and thinkers in the evangelical world who also reject modernism.

‘Emerging voices tend to overstate the traditional church’s captivity to the rationalism and individualism of modernism by ignoring the last hundred years of evangelical criticism of Enlightenment rationalism by thinkers such as Abraham Kuyper, C.S. Lewis, Cornelius Van Til, Herman Dooyeweerd and Nicholas Wolterstorff [quite a few neocalvinists in this list]. Long before post-modern thinkers came on the scene, these Christian thinkers have been debunking the church’s captivity to science and rationalism. It concerns me that bright scholars like Stanley Grenz and John Franke, two influential thinkers for the emerging church, do nor bring this up. It seems the emerging church, for rhetorical purposes, uses sweeping generalizations about the traditional church that are unfair.’ 76

But the traditional church is just as guilty. By not taking the time to understand what the emergent church means by postmodernism, traditional thinkers jump to the conclusion that the emerging church is abandoning historic Christianity. This is certainly not true of the whole movement…Brian McClaren rejects ‘hard’ postmodernism. Few embrace radical relativism or deep constructivism that rejects all revelation or external authority.’ 76

I think Belcher’s analysis is spot on.  I will post more later

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The librarian at Trinity college, Bristol is excellent. I told her about the book ‘Deep Church’ by Jim Belcher which had recieved numerous good reviews. She ordered a copy  which I was able to pick up today.

Deep-Church-200x300The book explores a path, which he calls Deep Church,  which can be taken which avoids both  traditional evangelicalism and the emergent scene.  A friend pinted out to me that people in the UK may get a little confused as there is a ‘Deep Church’ movement/set of books/blogs in the UK.

There is a ‘Deep Church’ website and excerpts can be found here.

Why was I so keen to get my hands on this book?

Firstly, I appreciate the theological leanings of some of the main traditional evangelical preachers/teachers in the UK such as Don Carson, Wayne Grudem and John Piper. However, I do think that the emergent scene has rightly criticized, amongst other things, the impact of modernity in the formulation of rationalistic evangelical theology. This places me in a strange place. I spend half of my time defending a traditional evangelicalism but this, at times, leaves me feeling uncomfortable. Perhaps this book will help me be more comfortable with my posiition.  Secondly, a quick look at endorsements reveals that this book is spoken highly of by a wide ranger of scholars and practitioners. ie. Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, Scot McKnight, Rob Bell, Dan Kimball. If these people from different theological and ecclesiological positions are in agreement that this is a great book then it should be read. Thirdly, I want to have an ecumenical spirit (I really do) which seeks to build bridges and find unity in the Christian Church. What has Athens to do with Jerusalem Emergent to with Conservative Evangelicalism?… well for starters both camps claim allegiance to Jesus Christ. This book, which seems to be balanced, will explore and critique both traditional and emergent.

Here are some of the endorsements.

“Jim Belcher shows that we don’t have to choose between orthodox evangelical doctrine on the one hand, and cultural engagement, creativity and commitment to social justice on the other. This is an important book.”
—Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City

“Smart, passionate, thoughtful, hopeful and Jesus-centered–this is the Jim Belcher I used to hang out with in the early nineties (like it was so long ago!) at the Huntington–and this is the Jim Belcher in this book. Lots of people are going to find this book very helpful.”
—Rob Bell, pastor, Mars Hill Bible Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan, author, Velvet Elvis

“Rising above the usual shallow, facile critiques of the emergent church movement, Jim Belcher has written for us a book that, indeed, goes deep. Jim took the time to listen to emergent voices, and as a result, he appreciates the movement for what it is. And, further, his admonitions ring true. While Jim and I have theological differences, I can heartily recommend Deep Church as an invigorating study of and healthy corrective to both the emergent and traditional church.”
—Tony Jones, author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier (http://tonyj.net)

“Deep Church is a thoughtful, helpful and practical addition to the growing field of missional church thinking.”
—Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church, Seattle, president, Acts 29 Church Planting Network, president, Resurgence

I have just read the first few chapters and am not disappointed. Here are some of the highlights so far.

His goal is to provide  ‘well rounded picture of the emerging community’s conviction’. After surveying many books and blogs he sees the emerging church as being critical of several aspects of the traditional church. (For ordinands we must recognize that this book is from a US perspective and that traditional means ‘traditional evangelical’ as opposed to Anglican traditional which means liturgy and bells and smells).

1) Captivity to Enlightenment Rationalism (Yep! evangelicals do like their water tight theological systems)

2) A narrow view of salvation (Being a Tom Wright and Neo-Calvinist fan I agree with this)

3) Belief before belonging

4) Uncontextualized Worship

5) Ineffective teaching. I have tried to deal with some of this here.

6) Weak Ecclessiology

7) Tribalism

He goes on to mention the three fold division which Ed Stetzer employs to describe the emergent church.

1) Relevants- Driscoll

2) Reconstructionists

3) Revisionists- Emergent Village

In this book Belcher will mainly interact with those of the reconstructionists and revisionist camps.

I am going to enjoy reading this book and may well blog my way through it.

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Naugle, in his significant study of the concept of worldview, describes the crucial role of stories and meta-narratives..

‘These stories that establish a symbolic world do indeed guide all forms of human activity. Worldview narratives create a particular kind of ‘mind’, and serve in a normative fashion as ‘controlling stories’. The most fundamental stories associated with a Weltanschauung—those closest to its metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical epicenter—possess a kind of finality as the ultimate interpretation of reality in all its multifaceted aspects. Such stories are considered sacred, and they provide the adhesive that unites those who believe in them into a society characterized by shared perspectives and a common way of life. They also provide a tenacious grid by which competing narratives and alternative claims to truth are judged. Controlling stories, therefore, function in a regulatory fashion both positively and negatively, and are able to bind those who accept them into an intellectual or spiritual commonwealth. Thus the bulk of human praxis does seem to be under the jurisdiction of a worldview, including the significant activities of reasoning, interpreting and knowing’ 303

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My good friend Rocky (aka Mark Roques) who works with WYSOCS and Reality Bites has developed a series of entertaining and challenging podcasts on worldview. Anyone interested in worldview or looking for fresh ways to engage youth(or house group, or church) with important issues should check these out.

Click here for more details.

My particular favourite (so far) is ‘Having a pop at golfers in spain’. Rocky will be speaking at the Living at the Crossroads conference, which is to be held in Bristol on the 4th of April. Places are still available. Click here for more details.

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Narrative and Ontology is also discussing worldview. I thought I would repost this old post in case its any use to anyone doing work on worldview.


I started a paper a few months back which sought to offer a worldview reading of Galatians. Here is the first part of if. I have added the rest of it as a PDF file. See the link at the bottom of the page.

It still needs a conclusion….

It essentially takes N.T. Wright’s worldview model and seeks to read Galatians in a way so that the Pauline worlview can be sketched out.


Galatians and the Pauline Worldview

Historiography, Hermeneutics and Worldview

Interpreting Galatians, like any other ancient text, is far from simple for the chasm which stands between the interpreter and the original author is immense—this immensity being created by the differences to be found in historical location, culture, language and rhetorical conventions between the Pauline interpreter and Paul himself.

This hermeneutical challenge, which exists in all forms of communication, is in one sense minimised or bypassed by the ‘naïve’/modernist reader who think that simply by a close reading of the text the intended meaning of the author simply appears when the tools of realism, objectivity and empiricism are vigorously and methodologically applied.1

On the other hand the post-modern Pauline adventurer may simply see the chasm as being insurmountable as the historical tools of modernism are viewed as the worthless and arrogant product of an enlightenment epistemology. A post-modern adventure for Pauline studies may be described as a move from asking‘What did Paul mean?’ to ‘What does the text do and mean for my community?’, thus resulting in a shift away from ‘objectivity’ to the ‘subjective’ approach of multiple possible meanings.2

In contrast to both a modern and post-modern historiography I intend to sketch out and use a ‘Worldview Hermeneutic’ as a methodology to interpret Galatians and begin to construct ‘a’ Pauline theology. This worldview hermeneutic, as discussed in a previous essay3, relies heavily on the methodology of N.T Wright but seeks to apply this to one book within the Pauline Corpus. Before setting out on a worldview approach to Galatians it is necessary to sketch out, in broad strokes, the basic structure of a worldview.


In recent decades there has been a steady rise in the use of worldview (Weltanschauung) which is seen not only across the academic community at large but also within the church, at both a popular and academic level, in its development of evangelism, mission, bible translation, ethical theory. The use of worldviews is so pervasive owing to the fact that it seeks not to offer a theoretical construct aimed at one area of life, instead it provides a interpretative framework which can be applied to all fields and spheres of human interpretation and existence.

A worldview (or vision of life) is a framework or set of fundamental beliefs through which we view the world and our calling and future in it. This vision need not be fully articulated….this vision is a channel for the ultimate beliefs which give direction and meaning to life. It is the integrative and interpretative framework by which order and disorder are judged; it is the standard by which reality is managed and pursued; it is the set of hinges on which all our everyday thinking and doing turns.4

Any worldview, whether ancient or modern , according to N.T. Wright, contains four basic interrelated components5;

1) Stories: Worldviews ‘provide the stories [grand narratives] through which human beings view reality’.

2) Questions: These grand narratives provide answers to the basic worldview questions. Who are we? Where are we? What is wrong? What is the solution?6

3) Symbols: Stories express themselves in cultural symbols, whether that be the symbol of the ‘credit card’ expressing the consumerist meta-narrative, or the ‘eagle’ expressing the grand narrative of Roman imperialism.

4) Praxis: Stories, Symbols and the answers to basic worldview questions provide a ‘way-of-being-in-the-world’, the stories which people indwell and the symbols which they cherish provide a call to action, whether that be the praxis of a terrorist ideology or the outworking of a nihilist mindset.

I intend in this essay to explore, within Galatians the role of story, symbol and praxis within the Pauline worldview.

  1. Story

Worldview Shift and the Damascus Road

And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles,…” Galatians 1:14-16

The events on the Damascus road undoubtedly had a major significance for the Apostle Paul. Once he was ‘advancing in ιουδαισμω Judaism ’ (1:14) but now he sees himself, in some sense, as separate from Judaism (1:13)7. The events of Damascus road have been variously described as conversion—from one religion to another—or by others as calling or commissioning8 which reflect his call to preach the gospel to the gentiles.

I propose that the Damascus event is best seen as a ‘Worldview Shift’. By using the word ‘worldview’ I intend to highlight that this is not simply a ‘religious event’ as the word ‘conversion’ in popular usage suggests, nor does the notion of ‘commissioning’ do full justice to the change in the entire outlook of Paul, a change that, as we shall see, provides an alternative to the story, symbol and praxis of Saul the Pharisee. I use the word ‘shift’ as opposed to ‘change’ to highlight, an obvious although important point, that Paul’s post Damascus worldview is still essentially Judaic through and through, but a modified form.9 By using the word ‘shift’ I mean that Paul’s worldview after Damascus has not changed completely but has shifted from what it once was, the worldview, in my opinion, has been modified.


1 For further discussion see Wright, The New Testament and the People of God Chapter 2-3

2 The phrase ‘Postmodern adventure’ I have taken from the influential essay by Clines A Postmodern Adventure in Biblical Studies: The Pyramid and the Net:

3 For a discussion of New Testament Historiography in the light of postmodernity see Swales, Postmodernity and New Testament History

4 As cited in Naugle Worldview 349, likewise N.T. Wright “Worldviews are thus the basic stuff of human existence, the lens through which the world is seen, the blueprint of how one should live in it, and above all the sense of identity and place which enables human beings to be what they are. To ignore worldviews, either our own or those of the culture we are studying, would result in extraordinary shallowness.” New Testament and the People of God 124

5 For a full discussion see Wright New Testament and the People of God esp pp 122-126

6 Mark Roques Five Big Worldview Questions provides answers to the basic worldview questions from a Nazi, Hollywood, Liberal, Christian, Enlightenment, Romantic, Pagan and a Buddhist perspective.

7 Ἰουδαΐσμός is used within Maccabees to differentiate between the way of life of Seleucid Hellenism and the Jewish religion (2 Macc 2:21, 8:1, 14:38, 4 Macc 4:26) becoming a term of honour amongst the Jews. See Longenecker Galatians

8 As with Stendahl “There is not—as we usually think—first a conversion, and then a call to apostleship; there is only the call to the work among the Gentiles” Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West

9 N.T Wright helpfully shows the similarities and differences between the Judaic and Pauline worldview in his frequent refrain of triad of covenant, monotheism and election. See Fresh Perspectives Wright

The full draft text is available by usign the following link.

Jon Swales. Worldview Reading of Galatians

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 Just a collection of quotes from N.T. Wright

 In order to answer the question ‘Why?’ in relation to the past, we must move from the ‘outside’ of the event to the ‘inside’; this involves reconstructing the worldviews of people other than ourselves’1

 ‘Worldviews are the basic stuff of human existence, the lens through which the world is seen, the blueprint for how one should live in it, and above all the sense of identity and place which enables human beings to be what they are. To ignore worldviews, either our own or those of the culture we are studying, would result in extraordinary shallowness.’2 

‘Worldviews, as I said earlier, are like the foundations of a house: vital, but invisible. They are that through which, not at which, a society or an individual normally looks; they form the grid according to which humans organise reality, not bits of reality that offer themselves for organisation3

 “Worldview are the lenses through which a society looks at the world, the grid upon which are plotted the multiple experiences of life.”

Worldviews may be studied in terms of four features; characteristic stories, fundamental symbols; habitual praxis; and a set of questions and answers.

A mindset is a worldview held by a particular individual 


‘Their world view is their picture of the way things in sheer actuality are, their concept of nature, of self and society’ 4 

There are four components of a worldview 

  1. ‘provide stories through which human beings view reality. Narrative is the most chacteristic expression of worldview, going deeper than the isolated observation or fragmented remark’5 
  2. ‘from these stories one can in principal discover how to answer basic questions that determine human existence: who we are, where are we, what is wrong , and what is the solution?’
  3. Stories and the answers provided to the questions are expressed in cultural symbols’
  4. Worldviews include a praxis, a way-of-being-in-the-world .6


1NT &POG 121

2NT&POG 124

3NT&POG 125

4Gertz, Clifford 1973 The interpretation of cultures: selected essays New York: Basic Books, 1973 127

5NT&POG 123

6NT&POG 124

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I am currently writing a critical reflection of my time in Hamilton, Ontario in which I  want to make mention of the influence of the Dutch Reformed community in the area. Reflecting upon my conversations and observations with many neo-calvinists/reformed types [If you are one of these folks- Thank You, Thank you] I am thinking of making the following large scale interpretation. If any dutch reformed/neo calvinists are reading this then please comemnt and let me know if this is a fair broad-stroked assessment. I do not want to offend and realise that I am an outsider who does not know Dutch Calvinism from within.

Two types: I am deliberately exaggerating the tendencies and am offering a caricature.

Type A: Non-Missional Dutch Calvinism: This group value and stand by their reformed heritage and Dutch heritage. They see Christ’s Lordship as being exercised over all of life, including church, family, and economic life. Their is a tendency to create Christian schools, Businesses which honour Christ. However, the focus on these things is not missional. Inone sense they would seek to create a new Geneva, and function their lives, as much as possible, within the dutch reformed community. This group are concerned about shaping their own lives and community. Evangelism is not high on the agenda, not church planting.

Type B: Missional Neo-Calvinists: This group are similar to Type A but see the Lordship of Christ as being something which should propel people to shape their lives under God with an outward focus. A missional focus, that of being a blessing to the world, is involved in the spheres of businesses, arts , media and family. This group are concerned about shaping and influencing the world. They are concerned about evangelism and church planting and more likely to work with non-Dutch organisations.

I think both groups have major strengths in the rejection of a dualistic view of the Christian life.

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I am teaching tonight on the redemption and consummation acts of the biblical meta-narrative.

Part two of two

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