God of Violence Yesterday, God of Love Today? A review

This review in the Baptist Times of Helen Paynter‘s latest book is a comprehensive introduction for those new to the questions it explores; will bring new insights to those familiar with the subject: 

Review by Peter King 

Over the past few years I have become increasingly troubled by the violence in the Bible. Although this is a subject we don’t often talk about in our churches, I know from a number of informal conversations that many churchgoers (and others) have questions they would like to explore on these issues.
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The Depleted Self – how narcissism is linked to bureaucracy

I am currently continuing my reading on the writings of former Professor of Pastoral Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary Donald Capps.  I hope to write a more detailed review of the book ‘The Depleted Self – sin in a narcissistic age’, but want to write something here that struck me about his one of his comments on psychotherapeutic literature relating to narcissism.  

71evB0k1zILFirstly, narcissism is far more than mere obsessional “self-love”, following Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection, leading to his own suicide.  Capps very helpfully takes the reader through a maze of discovery drawing on contemporary theories, and critiques the Church for failing to distinguish between the old cultural value of guilt and the contemporary ones of shame, a cause itself of anxiety.  Theologians and Churches have rather denounced “narcissistic behaviour” and being locked into a “guilt” framework have thus focused on moralistic remedies that address superficial behaviours, and not underlying ontological causes and conditions.

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Book Review ‘Be Afraid’ exploring Horror, Culture and Theology

Below is my review of ‘Be Afraid – How Horror and Faith Can Change the World’ by my friend and fellow Baptist pastor Joe Haward, which was recently published in the Baptist Times.  Given a very limited word count, it was not possible to dig deeper into my comments about the theological method which relies heavily on the work of Rene Girard.  This brings an interpretive framework that can draw out different conclusions than one might expect, but is a conversation/debate that is well worth having, as it could stretch the reader beyond their theological comfort zone, which is never a bad thing in and of itself but a reference point worth remembering.  My commendation for the back cover has been edited, but here is my full version: 

IMG_0386“The bold plan in this book is to bring together the horror genre of popular culture and Christian theology, in such a way as to draw out an insightful conversation between the two. We live in a complex, violent and confused world that swings between extremes of multiple and competing ideologies, and thus continues to make the same mistakes. Using a wide range of contemporary film, writers, thinkers and ancient texts, Haward interprets “horror” theologically and shows therefore, how this genre is indeed rich pickings for discovering theological insight to “see beyond” the cultural impasse. The irony is that the “alternative vision” is a very, very old vision located in the peaceable Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The book is well worth a read, here’s the review:

“Rare is a conversation with horror, which is why I welcome this book. Joe Haward helps Christians to make the links with theology and the horror genre of popular culture. He draws out key characteristics and then makes one direct comparison after another with biblical themes as they relate to zombies (resurrection), vampires that eat flesh and drink blood (Eucharist), violence and sacrifice (atonement), and so on.

Be Afraid Joseph Haward

It is interesting for a reader like me, because I don’t like the horror genre; but even so, many in our churches do, which means there is a preaching opportunity to be had here.

Haward’s theological method draws on the work of Rene Girard. As such, he regularly alludes to the scapegoating mechanism and mimetic rivalry, and shows how these ideas are put forth in horror and ancient religions. Sometimes this method can be at odds with biblical reception-history, yet the insights offered can prove fruitful. Reading his interpretive conclusions alongside two or three good commentaries on the subject will be a great way to interact with Girardian theory.

Haward is good at interpreting contemporary Western culture, and he is relentless in exposing consumerism, violence, trafficking, the worst excesses of social media and the human obsession with an utterly godless dystopian future. Throughout, he shines the light on the Person and work of Jesus Christ, who He is, what He has done and what it all means. If anything else, this is a master-class in helping anyone interested in the art of interpreting film through a Gospel lens.”

Can Science Explain Everything – a review

This review in the Baptist Times of ‘Can Science Explain Everything?’ by John Lennox, is written by my former tutor, the Revd Dr Ernest C. Lucas, who is Vice-Principle Emeritus of Bristol Baptist College and a former research biochemist:

“John Lennox is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University. He is a well-known speaker and writer on Christian apologetics, especially in the area of science and faith. This book is intended to be an introduction to the “Science and God Debate”. It is especially written for those who think that “God and science don’t mix”.

Can Science Explain Everything

In response to the claim that it is not possible to be a scientist and believe in God he points out that many of the outstanding pioneers of modern science were convinced believers in God, and that more than 60 percent of the Nobel Prize winners from 1901-2000 identified Christianity as their religious preference.

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When Introverts Speak

Book Review:  ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain

A few years ago I was in a bookshop and stumbled upon this book as I was browsing.  I picked it up and was hooked immediately.  I think I read the first chapter before paying for it.  What follows is my review that I’ve recently rediscovered, and I offer it here.

The sub-title of the book reads: ‘The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking’.  And although this book is secular, the author not only accesses her biblically Jewish roots, but what she says is as relevant to Christian ministry as it is to industry chiefs and educators.  

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Cain refers to the introvert/extrovert divide as the most “fundamental dimension of personality”, arguing further that in a world of extroverted pomp, introverts make up over a third of the human race!  It is not the pomp of extrovertedness that she critiques per se, but rather the inevitable downside view that the sensitive and serious are seen as undesirable, in both the popular mind of culture and business.

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A Season with Donald Capps

This autumn I am wading into the intriguing work of the late Professor Donald Capps, starting with the following three works, reviews to follow in due course:

Pastoral Care and Hermeneutics
download (2)The basic idea of this book derives from Paul Ricoeur’s view that since texts and meaningful human actions are sufficiently similar, methods and theories developed for interpreting texts may also be used for interpreting human actions. Donald Capps applies this view to the broad range of pastoral actions and, in the process, formulates a unique and helpful hermeneutical model of pastoral care. Capps maintains that such a model can be extremely useful for understanding what a particular pastoral action means to those involved in it, and for evaluating its effects on these persons.

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Visit Coventry because I was born there!

Every human being is born with such a narrow view of the world and we all have to learn to broaden our horizon.  This is equally true for people when they become Christians.  A Christian is a person-becoming-an-adult, a “child of God” with ‘L-Plates’ front and back.  We are serially myopic in our vision of the world and we need help.

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