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In the Darkness

In the darkness in a world in darkness, two small lungs fill with air. A piercing, angry squall of newborn shock, a mother’s smile and tender arms and tears, a father’s strong and gentle hand. In the darkness in a world in darkness, nothing changes. The dying sigh their final breath. The mourning weep their salty tears. Angry fists rain blows. Children cower. Women weep. Hunger gnaws at empty bellies. Prisoners lie in chains. In the…

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John Webster Theology

‘Biblical Reasoning’, A Brief Reader’s Guide

Having assigned John Webster’s essay, ‘Biblical Reasoning’ for the first week of an introductory course in systematic theology, I re-read it and discovered that it’s denser and more difficult than I remembered. So I produced this short guide which summarises the different sections of the essay, offers definitions of difficult terminology and translations of bits of Latin, and suggests some questions to aid reading. I post it here on the off-chance it might be useful…

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Anthropology Ethics Pastoralia

Fruitfulness in the Ruins

Neither grace nor glory destroy nature. They perfect it. And so the ordinary means by which the Lord Jesus Christ our Creator and Redeemer works, from now until the End, is through the procreation and nurture of children, by the Spirit in the Lord, in families and in the church, by prayer and catechesis, worship, Word and sacrament. The future belongs to the fecund people of God.

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John Webster Pastoralia Prayer

Grace in a Time of Coronavirus

In our current trials, painful as they are, we are being given a gift—a gift as Christians, a gift as pastors, a gift as churches and a gift as nations, if only we will take it. This time of losses, restrictions, anxieties and griefs, it also a matchless opportunity for grace. In The Culture of Theology, John Webster invites us to take our own existence, and the situation in which we are placed, with full seriousness.…

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Pastoralia Suffering

On Coping (or not) with a Crisis

I’ve been trying to work out why I’m feeling existentially disconnected from Covid-19-related fears. I’m taking it seriously, but it’s not registering in any deeply personal way. Partly it’s that my routines are largely undisrupted. But as I reflect on people’s reactions I think there’s more, because a lot of these feelings have been my friends for more than 2 years now.  Early in December 2017, I had a fairly epic nervous breakdown. The reasons…

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Ministry Theology

Our Abusive Leaders: Do We Love God?

And Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37–40, ESV) The recent and growing number of stories—sadly all too believable—of repeated and grotesque abuses of…

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Anthropology Christology Scripture

The Word Became Flesh

“Something is always going. Something is always disappearing.” Those words of a friend, still young, still near the beginning of adult life, haunt me. In early adulthood, so much of life is flux: jobs, relationships, housemates, houses. Friends drift into and out of our lives. They move cities and they get married and they have kids. The relationship changes. Ambitions are frustrated, dreams die. In middle life, hair grays, skin starts to sag, waistlines expand,…

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John Webster Theology

Theology in the Order of Love (2)

For even as it is better to enlighten than merely to shine, so it is better to give to others the fruit of one’s contemplation than merely to contemplate. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II.188.6 Last time, with the help of John Webster’s essay “Theology in the Order of Love”,[1] we considered the shape of the God-given order within which we do our theological work in relation to God, and in relation to the communion of…

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