Praise as Defiance in the Face of Suffering and Death

Catherine Delve - Praise as Defiance in the Face of Suffering and Death

Praise as Default

Ever since I was a child, I’ve known something of the power of praise. Praise was a default after my dad walked out, albeit after 24 hours once the initial shock had passed. It seemed something of a rebellious act—my own small act of rebellion in the face of disaster and grief. And it has seemed like this at multiple times since, when all appeared to be lost. Whether close to bankruptcy (a fair few times), or dealing with the onset of a chronic health condition in my 30s (which threatened to lead to confinement to a wheelchair), facing the seemingly impossible has been a regular occurrence in my life, as I’m sure it probably has been in yours too.

When Paul and Silas found themselves in prison in Acts 16:25, facing the injustice and humiliation of a Roman flogging and having their feet restrained in stocks, their response was to praise God. I can’t imagine that this was praise born out of thanksgiving for the situation in which they found themselves. A Roman flogging was not like a tame rap on the knuckles. It was a brutal act; their backs were likely torn and bleeding. They would have been in terrible pain and discomfort. Nonetheless, they continued to believe that God was exactly who he said he was, and they praised him as a result. As they did so, something powerful was released. There was an earthquake and the prison doors flew open! Freedom manifested itself.

In the West, our challenges are normally less extreme, but nonetheless they are real. But now, the unparalleled and testing times we find ourselves in globally as a result of the coronavirus are stretching many of us to our limits, and for many, are extreme. The grief of the loss of loved ones, the feelings of loss of control, the sudden loss of income for so many, and uncertainty about the future presses in on every side. It is so easy at times like this to feel blind-sided by our circumstances and to be overcome by fear or anxiety. Equally, it is easy to question where is God in all of this. Where are you God when I can’t seem to see you or feel you? And indeed, who are you, God? Can I trust that you are good, that your mercy is new every morning?

NT Wright wrote an insightful piece recently (you can read it here), which despite its clickbait title, helpfully encourages us to join God in lamenting the tragedies which overwhelm us. As my friend and OT scholar Matt Lynch has already identified, the charismatic church doesn’t really know how to lament if the lyrics of the top one hundred songs in contemporary Christian music are anything to go by.[1] Now would be as good a time as any other for us to focus on developing this. However, what our tradition is much better at is eschatological hope. Consider some of the songs of the moment: Raise a Hallelujah, Way Maker, God of Revival, Good Grace to name but a few.[2] Much of our sung congregational worship is of this ilk. Perhaps we could even say that this trend in contemporary Christian music has led us to build a somewhat lopsided tradition which knows how to do declaration and hope, but knows less how to do reverence or lament.

In times such as these, this lopsidedness poses challenges and demands that we become more thoughtful and nuanced in what we are singing and why. Sometimes it is very challenging to sing songs of hope when hope is in danger of being drowned out by fear and death. Is it even appropriate to sing songs like this when people are dying, businesses are failing, many of the self-employed have lost their incomes overnight, and victims of domestic violence are in lockdown with their abusers and more at risk than ever? Isn’t this type of worship triumphalistic and naive?

I would like to suggest that just as Paul and Silas raised their voices to sing while they were in prison, we could do the same whatever our ‘prison’ is. It is at times like this in particular that we need to hold onto our hope more than ever. Do we really believe and trust that God is who he says he is and that he will accomplish all he has promised? This is not inappropriate triumphalism. We may not see the realisation of his promises in our own lives this side of eternity, but we pray in the promises for the world nonetheless. That is where our faith is truly tested and stretched. Just as Israel questioned where YHWH had gone in their time of exile, we may well wonder where God is, but let’s not be mistaken in believing that God has abandoned us. Now is the time for us to put our hope squarely in the right place. It is not about being naive. People are dying and will continue to, whether from Covid-19 or of something else, despite our best efforts (rightly so) to prevent it. However, one day I will die, and one day you will die! The essence of our faith is trusting that death does not have the final word.

However, praise as a form of defiance is not just about declarations of hope. It is also about resisting the powers. Twentieth-century theologian, William Stringfellow, brilliantly articulates the reality of the principalities and powers as aligned with either the power of death or the power of life.[3] He observed that war is a symptom of death, and not the other way around, i.e. death is not a symptom of war. This same logic applies to Covid-19. This virus is a symptom of the power of death powerfully at work in our world. Death is not a result of the coronavirus. The coronavirus is the result of death. As such, our resistance as Christians is against the manifestation of death in all its forms, rooted in the hope we have that death has been swallowed up in the victory of Christ on the cross.

Thus praise is our defiance in the face of death. Praise is our small act of rebellion in the face of fear, loss, grief and isolation. Except it is not a small act, it’s a powerful one. The power of the resurrection life of Jesus cannot be contained. The tomb couldn’t contain him; nothing since has contained him. Whatever state the church has been in—whether limping or running, colluding or serving, complicit or cooperating, defeated or empowered by the Spirit—the resurrection power of Jesus has broken through. My faith and yours are a testament to this.

So today, tomorrow and for as long as my body has breath in it, my praise will continue to be my powerful act of rebellion and defiance—rebellion against the power of death, and against the power of fear. I encourage you to try it! Even when it’s a sacrifice, even when I’m grief-stricken, even when I feel weak and out of control, I will declare with every fibre of my being that Jesus has overcome the power of sin and death. While taking faltering steps towards a better co-expression of joy, pain, reverence and hope, my cry is ‘Come Lord Jesus, come.’ In my life, in the lives of those in my household, in the life of the church, in the life of my neighbours, in the life of all in my city and nation, in the nations. Come on, Church! I believe this. We believe this. Now is the time to raise our corporate voice, our corporate and powerful act of rebellion against the power and fear of death.


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Charismatic Christians, Crisis, and Coronavirus: Part III

This is the third post in the series on Charismatic Christians, Crisis, and Coronavirus. For part one of this series go HERE. For part two of this series go HERE.

What Happened to 2,000 Years?

I love history and wish I had studied more of it in my life. I’m a bit shocked, if I’m honest, at how little history we all know, how little general history and how little Christian history. I remember one of my professors (a Roman Catholic) at King’s College saying that Charismatics and Pentecostals concertinaed time because we look back to the Bible and then map it straight on to today as if there was nothing in between. It’s so true. It means that now, Charismatics are looking to the Bible to make sense of what’s happening, and the results of trying to find guidance for this specific time can be a stretch. What would help us would be to speak to our historians who will provide us with some valuable resources from history that are much more specific to our situation because Christians have lived through plagues before. For a really good example of this see Bruce Hindmarsh’s post on the history of the church and plagues here.

One example that struck me is from Cyprian of Carthage (c.200-258 AD). He himself was martyred, but in the years before he was executed, also endured a plague. He writes about this in one of his Treatises (Treatise 7) on the question of mortality. In this piece of writing to the church, he encourages Christians to see their lives in the perspective of eternity and all that lies before us. For it is immortality ‘that is our peace, that our faithful tranquillity, that our steadfast, and abiding, and perpetual security.’ (§3)

Just like Christians today, many were clearly disturbed that being in Christ didn’t afford them any special physical protection from the disease. ‘But nevertheless it disturbs some that the power of this Disease attacks our people equally with the heathens, as if the Christian believed for this purpose, that he might have the enjoyment of the world and this life free from the contact of ills; and not as one who undergoes all adverse things here and is reserved for future joy.’ Famine, war, rain, drought, shipwreck make no distinction. ‘…and the disease of the eyes, and the attack of fevers, and the feebleness of all the limbs is common to us with others, so long as this common flesh of ours is borne by us in the world.’ (§8)

What is more important, according to Cyprian, is how we behave now. Some Christians like to claim that disasters are God’s judgement on the earth for the folly of humanity. In this treatise, Cyprian is saying that the judgement that falls on the human race is how the sickness and trial exposes our true motives. We are judged by how we respond. He writes this, ‘And further, beloved brethren, what is it, what a great thing is it, how pertinent, how necessary, that pestilence and plague which seems horrible and deadly, searches out the righteousness of each one, and examines the minds of the human race, to see whether they who are in health tend the sick; whether relations affectionately love their kindred; whether masters pity their languishing servants; whether physicians do not forsake the beseeching patients; whether the fierce suppress their violence; whether the rapacious can quench the ever insatiable ardour of their raging avarice even by the fear of death; whether the haughty bend their neck; whether the wicked soften their boldness; whether, when their dear ones perish, the rich, even then bestow anything, and give, when they are to die without heirs.’ (§16)

Apparently, doctors would flee the plague, relatives would dump their kin out of their houses even before they had died, and the rich would leave the cities for the country. Christians, on the other hand, have been known at many times throughout history for being highly sacrificial, tending the sick, and caring for the vulnerable, many becoming sick themselves. It is very sobering to think that this is what healthcare workers are doing all around the globe at this very moment, many of them while they wait for the correct equipment and having to make do with protective equipment that places them at risk. We are deeply indebted to them. I pray daily for the equipment to reach them and for proper testing. Nobody should have to take unnecessary risks, and I’m not advocating that Christians rush in to treat Corona victims! But we can be seen to be behaving out of a spirit of generosity and trust. How is this situation searching out the righteousness of each one? If we have two toilet rolls and our neighbour has none, we should give one away. Aren’t we the people who believe that God will give us our daily bread? I read a poignant article by an Italian novelist in Rome who wrote this about her experience of lockdown, ‘The true nature of the people around you will be revealed with total clarity. You will have confirmations and surprises.’[1]

Christian Leadership in a Time of Crisis

We want our world leaders to take control and to find solutions to this massive problem. We want them to save lives, to act wisely and quickly, to put structures in place that will save future generations from making the same mistakes as we have done. We also want this for our Christian leaders. We need wisdom and comfort, faithful and wise decisions, and protection from making mistakes that will wound the next generation. The key thing now is that we don’t sell a false comfort or mislead people in their expectations so that they are then either bitterly disappointed, completely worn out, or forced into denial. I would recommend reading a recent blog post by James McGrath on “What Does the Bible Say about Coronavirus?” for a reminder of the dangers of false promises in the face of hardship. If we do this, as he says, we run the risk of ‘making a serious crisis worse by adding, on top of the illness itself, a long-term negative effect on your own faith and that of others.’ [2]

The Lord is My Salvation

Our faith and our scriptures teach us that real safety, security, and certainty can only be found in a relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, we are promised that these things are our spiritual inheritance, the riches given to our inner beings, our minds, and hearts, and souls, but not necessarily evident in our circumstances and the world around us. When we search the scriptures for comfort, we find that God promises to be our shelter, our rock, and our fortress. He will never leave us or forsake us. He alone is our salvation. We can also find scriptures that promise us that he’ll shelter us under the shadow of his wing, and that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God in Christ. But we will be hard-pressed to find scriptures that promise us we won’t have trouble and hardship in our lives or that we won’t find ourselves in the midst of them. When everything in our world is shaking, he is our ever-present help in the midst of trouble (Ps 46:1).

The reality is that human life is precarious and unstable. The world can be a beautiful and a dangerous place and nothing in it belongs to us to hold on to forever, not even our own lives. This has always been true for every human being that has ever lived. It’s only when the reality sinks in that we cry out in protest because in our inmost beings; we don’t want it to be true. But the Christian faith gives the deepest answer to that cry of pain and fear at the uncertainties of life. Christians, along with non-Christians, get caught up in the cataclysmic events of history as well as the everyday struggles and challenges of life. There is no difference in the conditions of existence. The difference is supposed to be where we find our sure and certain hope, and the most important hope that we have by far is that this is not the only life. This is not the only world. Jesus came to offer a far, far better world to come in which God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and there will be no more death, no more plagues and disease, no mourning or crying or pain, for the first things will have passed away (Rev. 21:3-5). This is the hope we have that no one and nothing can take away from us. God’s love poured out into the world through Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit is precisely so that death won’t have the last word, but that it will be the beginning of a beautiful, new, whole, free, forgiven, life. That’s the wonderfully good news.

And The Creation Is Still Good…

I led the staff devotions the week we went into lockdown and I’ll admit it was a challenge to lead our first staff devotions together since the world had changed so suddenly all around us. I deliberated for a long time on which passage I wanted us to look at together. In the end I chose Genesis 1:26-2:3. I chose it for what it tells us about God, what it tells us about us, and what it tells us about creation. It tells us that the world is in his hands because it is his, he made it, and he is watching over us. We belong to him and he is the author of life. It tells us that when he made creation, he made it good, and when he made humanity, they were very good. What we are seeing now is bad. It is threatening to life, and frightening, and out of our control. It’s impossible to answer the ‘why’ questions, but Genesis does tell us that the fall gave rise to disharmony, brokenness, and evil. What was first intricately and beautifully connected is broken and twisted and the relations between humanity and God, human beings with one another, and humanity and creation are alienated and fractured.

But the Bible also tells us that God created human beings to govern the creation under his watchful care and so it doesn’t surprise me that what we are doing more than anything else right now is trying to bring this threatening and hostile aspect of creation under our control in every way we can. We know that to some extent, we are powerless, but we also know that if we can find a vaccine, if we can change the way we behave, if we can find a treatment, that we can defeat this hidden predator and save lives. As societies, we are offended by those who are not helping or making things worse. We know that the key to winning this war is good and wise management and so we take encouragement from various things:

  • Scientists are working around the clock to find cures and a vaccine for which we are grateful.
  • Specialists and experts are coming forward to advise governments and all of us on how we should tackle this.
  • We can learn lessons from this that will protect future generations from this sort of scenario ever happening again.
  • People in all places are displaying righteousness in one form or another. I’ve been so impressed by how sacrificial some companies have been at protecting their workers, protecting the elderly, caring for the vulnerable.

Linked to this was another reason that I chose this passage. In the week leading up the devotions I was horrified by the rhetoric coming out of the US about the over 70s being expendable because they were no longer working and contributing to the economy. As I read through Genesis 1 and 2 and I got to the part where God himself establishes the Sabbath and rests so that his people would learn to rest, it struck me how wicked it is to imagine that those who cannot ‘work’ to earn money should be seen as having nothing to contribute to society. The Sabbath rhythm demonstrates that one of the rewards for older people, who have worked through their lives, is that they should have time to rest, to spend time with their families, and be honoured just for who they are. I can’t describe how much my own parents gave to us and to our children in their 70s. I can’t express how grateful and blessed we all were to have them, their wisdom, their fun now that they were retired, their home that was a place where we could all flop and rest ourselves. Our children adored their grandparents and had the invaluable gift of being the centre of their worlds and the pride of their lives.

But even then, even if they hadn’t given us anything, it would have been a privilege to have them in our lives. I don’t want to live in a society where people forget that to care for people who cannot care back is a privilege for the carer. It is also something we may all need one day and so it reminds us of our own sense of frailty and dependence. It forms us in ways that nothing else can and challenges all of our selfish, utilitarian impulses. It reminds us to value a life because it is a life and God has breathed it into being. It makes us more Christlike and thus, more human. If we, for a second, imagine that we would be better off without the elderly and the vulnerable we have completely forgotten who we are and what we were made for and we have lost our Christian foundations altogether.

The Lord is My Shepherd

Back in January, at our residential, one of my colleagues, Freddy Hedley, led us in a devotion that I found deeply moving. I have to admit that my heart sank a bit when he said he was going to lead us in a meditation. I’m normally really bad at anything that looks like meditation because my mind is too restless, but this time was different. I felt as if we were on holy ground. Freddy shared that he had found it hard to sleep the night before, but that instead of fretting and worrying or turning on his computer or phone, he had decided that he would lie there and meditate on Psalm 23. He repeated it over and over until he fell asleep. The next day he led us as a college in the same meditation, repeating the Psalm slowly and deliberately over us. I think he spoke it out four or five times, each time slower than the last. By the final time, every word seemed to be speaking to us all; it sank into our hearts and our minds. I felt we had been led into God’s transforming presence and it’s stayed with me ever since.

Pray Without Ceasing

I’ll finish where I started and that is with the idea that, for all our faults, at least we Charismatics will be praying. We’ll pray believing that our prayers make a difference and that God can change things. We’ll be praying for governments and nations, families and individuals, businesses and charities, people on the frontline rushed off their feet and people at home on their own. We’ll be praying for healings, for miraculous provision, and for signs and wonders in the times up ahead. Hopefully, we’ll also be doing, caring, reaching out to the vulnerable, the sick, and the elderly. And we’ll be encouraging one another to remain hopeful, to keep giving, and to seek God’s face in the chaos and confusion.

Whatever your circumstances, and whatever you’re facing, I pray,

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

I will finish by letting you read Psalm 23 for yourself. I hope it speaks to you.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.


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A Hunger for Learning: Changing our Eating Habits

Hungry Bellies

A few things have happened to me in the past few months that have made me want to write something on the fact that seemingly very few Christians are reading the Bible and engaging in theological reflection, why this might be the case, and what we’re doing about it.

In doing this, I’m assuming that studying the Scriptures and engaging in theological reflection is a good thing for Christians to do. I wrote a bit about that a while ago in relation to charismatics here.

One of the things that got me thinking is that this year I processed the bulk of our applications for the coming year. That job normally falls to Matt as the Academic Dean, but as he was on sabbatical, I got to do it. I loved it, actually—reading through the reasons that people want to put their time, money, and effort into studying theology—getting to read some of their stories and some of their hopes and fears—while all the time knowing what’s ahead of them when they arrive and knowing that they’re going to love it!

The two words that stood out more than any other in the applications were “hunger” and “depth.” People are hungry, and they want something of substance to be “eating”. I’m assuming that all the people starting at the other theological colleges this September have written similar things.

The second thing that happened was that I spoke at New Wine, giving the main Bible talks. I thought it was brave of Paul Harcourt and his team to ask me. I’m not well known and I’m mainly now an academic although I have been involved in church leadership for 30 years. I’ve heard hundreds of talks in my charismatic evangelical world and I know what people are accustomed to from that kind of mainstage presence. But as I was preparing for New Wine, I also knew that I wasn’t going to be able to follow any kind of ‘style’, and that I was just going to have to be myself.

What I did in the end was essentially to give six WTC-style lectures. Now I know for sure that I won’t have been everybody’s cup of tea, and I’ve learned over the years that most Christians in our circle here in the UK are too polite to say when they don’t like something. So most of us probably only get the positive feedback in the end. Nevertheless, I think that what I saw in the way that people fed back to me was that a lot of people had found doing Bible study and theology like that thought-provoking and rewarding. I have a joke with my friend, Lindsey Hall, about our lovely mutual friend Gavin D’Costa who turned to me once after an academic discussion and said, “Well that was thrilling!” So nerdy, but so true.

The third thing was that Tim Brearley from Bible Society asked me and my husband, Nick, if we would do a short video for them on why we thought people didn’t read the Bible and what we thought could be done about it. I think we must have talked with Tim for about three hours all in all for a 3-4 minute video! We were all fascinated by the topic and talked around loads of different themes. Tim asked us some great questions and got us thinking.

The fourth thing was Nick launching his Bible for Life website in a great new format – all based on eating a substantial multi-course meal of the Spirit! I realized how effective he is being in providing a resource that could enable this generation to engage with Scripture in ways that are fruitful, accessible, and interesting—at no cost apart from just putting the time in. His background as a good evangelical and a Navigator have been put to great use for something much more exciting than ticking off your quiet time every morning. After years of young men and women seeking him out to study the Bible with him, I’ve been encouraging him to write something on how to engage with Scripture. Look up Bible for Life and watch this space. https://bibleforlife.co.uk/

The last thing was something that has stayed with me since March. A great friend of mine, Tina Cooke, travelled to Winchester from London to hear my Lent Lectures, which meant a lot to me. I think the lectures were a bit too dense really and not as thrilling as they might have been. But Tina wrote me a beautiful email in response and included this. “I turned to my neighbour and said, ‘The thing is, you don’t realize how thirsty you are until someone puts a glass of water in front of you.’”

Hunger, thirst, depth. People are hungry – they want to be eating solid food. I know they are. And the Bible is a fascinating book. It is also food for the soul.

Food for the Soul

I don’t really know how this works, and I know that it is Jesus, the Word, who is the bread of life, but there is also something about the word of God in the Scriptures that feeds us. In Jeremiah we read, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight…” (Jer 15:16). Jesus declares that “human beings shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4) The word of God is associated with food—it can fill our spiritual bellies if we are actually eating what is given us. It is nourishing, satisfying, nutritious, delicious.

So why are we not sitting down to eat?

The Bible is Unfamiliar

I think one of the reasons is that the Bible is unfamiliar and people don’t know where to start or how to make sense of a lot of what they read and so they give up. It’s a great legacy of the Reformation that we can have Bibles in our own language in our hands and on our phones, but I don’t think it helps us to think that the Bible is always just self-explanatory so we can all be left to it.[1] The Bible needs to be taught and it’s a much more fascinating book if it is. I love hearing great Bible teachers telling me something about the context and the language that I didn’t know that brings the text to life.

The Bible is unfamiliar because it’s not read at home or in schools in the way that it would have been in the past. Church is now the only place where most people will encounter the Bible, so preachers and teachers need to take that responsibility seriously. For some reason, however, Bible teaching has gone out of fashion in evangelical charismatic churches. I don’t really understand this, but just from conversations I think there are a few things going on.

The first is that I think leaders have made assumptions about people in the congregation just getting on with it when they’re not. The second thing is that I’m unsure about whether leaders are immersed in the Scriptures. Put it this way, if they are, it’s not filtering through. The third is that I think there is a fear that in-depth teaching will be perceived to be boring, put people off, and they won’t come back.

Teaching or Inspiration?

Consequently, a lot of what we hear is a few verses from the Bible used as a springboard for a talk that is largely made up of stories, life wisdom, and maybe a few jokes. I love hearing testimonies and stories of what God is doing around the world, and it can be hugely inspirational, but it’s not teaching. The same can be said for interviews. I like people and I like hearing about what has motivated them in their lives, but it doesn’t serve the same purpose as teaching. Much of what we get at festivals and also in our local churches falls in these categories, which would be fine if we were also receiving good teaching, but I think we all know that for the most part, it’s become the main event.

The one thing that I have heard particularly in charismatic circles is the skill or gift to take a story from the Bible, work through it, and apply it to our lives today. I’ve heard some people do that brilliantly and prophetically. It strikes me that this is teaching, and I think it is a good thing.

Even so, just taking stories or working through themes as a practice for the preaching series can mean that communities never really engage with the whole of the Bible. Communities of believers should work through books (or the lectionary), so as to ensure that we’re engaging with the Scriptures on its own terms and not just ours. Let the Bible ask you hard questions and ask them right back. Get stuck into a good discussion about what something might mean, read a commentary or two, phone a friend, draft in a scholar.

Flaky Listeners?

I don’t know if this is true or not, but I think that the sloppy practices that we’ve got into is to do with an idea that we think people don’t want to sit through something that might be seen to be dry or overly academic. Is it because we’re so desperate for people to come in and stay that we think we need to make every talk entertaining? Or is it because we think that we’re dealing with a generation that can’t concentrate any more? I can promise you that anyone who can binge watch Netflix or play a video game for 24 hours non-stop has no problem concentrating. They’ll just concentrate on what they want to concentrate on. Like eating junk food.

Personally, I don’t think we need to pander to a fast-food culture, especially as I see so many people come alive when they’re taught the Bible by people who love it, believe it, and understand the power of it for knowing God and knowing ourselves. I think it’s about changing our cooking and eating habits.

Changing a Nation’s Eating Habits

For some while now I’ve been interested in Jamie Oliver and his mission to change the eating habits of whole nations. I love food and I love the effect of good food on people and I get what Oliver is doing. I think he’s right to want to start a “Food Revolution.” I recently watched his Ted Talk on this in the US.[2] You can see his passion in this talk. I actually think there are things the church can learn from him, precisely because his mission is to change a nation’s eating habits, and it strikes me that this is the task before us with the Bible.

The two things he focuses on are education and producing delicious food. Teach people why good food matters, let them taste delicious food, and then teach them to cook nutritious, delicious food for themselves. A simple vision.

It’s fascinating watching his Ted Talk peppered with what I associate with prophetic language—the time is now, the time is ripe, people are ready for change. I feel the same about biblical literacy and theological education. People are hungry and bored, tired of eating food that leaves them sluggish, and ready for something more engaging. It will undoubtedly mean more work for everyone, but it will be so worth it.

So just to carry on with the food analogy a bit longer…

When you’ve become used to/addicted to fast food, you need to do some work to change your palate and your cooking and eating habits. It’s about changing your expectations of food: the buying, the preparation, the eating. Finding spiritual food requires more time than getting a sugar-hit or a salty, cheesy burger delivered to your door while you lie on the couch in your pj’s watching Netflix. We all might enjoy a sugar-hit or a burger moment, and we may have had the spiritual equivalents of these moments. But the general rule for eating spiritual food from the Bible is that it requires foraging, simmering, picking through bones, marinating, refrigerating, smoking. It’s food that will take time to bring out rich and deep flavours.

One of the things that Oliver disturbingly demonstrates is how milk is now served in American schools – it now has added sugar and flavours. So rather than just plain milk, children are being loaded up with pounds and pounds of sugar because someone somewhere decided that milk on its own was no longer appetizing. When does something served as “milk” cease to be nutritious and thus not really milk at all?

I’m one of 5 siblings and my mum in her day was a health freak. We had very little sugar at home, no white bread, no crisps etc. As a result, we loved eating fast-food. Whenever we could we binged on it. I used to swap my horrible home-made brown bread and cheddar cheese sandwiches with Clare Taylor who had white bread and Dairylea. Yum. That was primary school. The long-term result though is that in reality Mum taught us all how to cook good food and to love it. She passed on good eating habits.

I wasn’t nearly as conscientious with my kids (who all also love fast-food!). I did read about making kids eat a tiny bit of what they say they don’t like though, and I tried that because I didn’t want fussy kids. It totally works and eventually gives them the ability to eat what is put in front of them. A lesson on how eating habits can be formed over time.

Oliver has a simple formula: education, letting people taste delicious food, and teaching people to cook for themselves. The parallel for us is this: education (why Bible study/scholarship matters and why I should bother), letting them taste delicious food (making Bible study and theology as fascinating as it really is), and teaching people to cook (giving them skills for their own study).

Serving up proper meals and changing our cooking and eating habits will mean a fitter, more robust, more flexible, more resilient, long-lasting body that is the church. It’s totally within reach and I personally think, along with Jamie Oliver, that the time is ripe.

[1] This is linked to the idea of the perspicuity (or clarity) of Scripture that is inherent in the Scriptures themselves. This is a Protestant principle found in such texts as the Westminster Confession of Faith, although even there it is stated that ‘All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unti all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.’ (7.1) My italics. Scripture can lead a person to faith, learned or unlearned, but is not necessarily ‘plain’ in all things.

[2] https://www.ted.com/talks/jamie_oliver/transcript?language=en

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Why Study Theology? Reflections for the evangelical charismatic church

I remember very clearly, in my 30’s, realizing that I wanted to study theology at degree level. I had no idea that it would end with me doing a PhD, leading a college, writing books, and teaching. It hadn’t been a “career move”! I thought I was studying theology so that I’d be a better co-pastor with my husband and because I loved it. I also thought then that these were good enough reasons for all that study and investment, and I still think they are.

Harvest_Community_Church_Goshen_Worship_Service_1-24-2016 (1)

A Time for Minor Chords (Part III): Objections to Lament

[This is Part III of a series on lament. Part I is HERE, and Part II HERE]

Objections objections…

Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. (Jas 4:9)

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’
Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky (Phil 2:14)

In the popular worship scene, lament songs exist. Sometimes they’re even sung. I appreciate the efforts of those with enough facility in musical style and lyric to lead God’s people in lament, and through lament, to praise.

By Scott Lucht (Own work) [GFDL -http://bit.ly/2pPqcTG]

But attempts to shift contemporary music toward substantial engagement with lament feels like trying to pull a Carnival Cruise off its course with a canoe. Even if it’s headed for rocks. The ship is just too heavy and the music too loud to hear the shouts of those paddling furiously away from the boat—the line taut between them. Those in the canoes might seem like they’re ‘working against’ the boat (big thumbs down!). It might be pointed out—rather obviously—that they’re ‘not on board.’ They’re ‘overly negative’ in all their talk about ‘sharp rocks’ and whatnot. Even more, they’re not grateful for all the benefits offered on the party ship … not to mention Paul’s insistence that we do everything ‘without grumbling or arguing.’

This reaction shouldn’t be surprising, especially since lamenters often describe themselves as isolated and unseemly to others:

Do not ignore me in my time of trouble! Listen to me! When I call out to you, quickly answer me, for my days go up in smoke, and my bones are charred like a fireplace …. I am like an owl in the wilderness, like a screech owl among the ruins (Ps 102:1-6).

The canoe tips over.

Resisting Lament

Why the resistance to lament?

Some reasons are cultural. Maybe we don’t like public displays of negative emotion. Perhaps we ought to endure our hardships quietly, with a stiff upper lip. It can be hard to hear lament.

But I think other reasons are more idiosyncratic to church cultures that emerge in the wake of the mega-ship Carnival Cruise liners. Despite the lyrical gestures toward vulnerability, brokenness, and desperation in the songs I reviewed (in the first post of this series), we’ve simultaneously exorcised the practices that instantiate those ideals—individual confession and lament.

Some Objections

Let me address just a few common objections to the use of lament in worship services.

  1. Lament doesn’t fit the tone of our worship services

It isn’t uncommon to refer to worship services as ‘Celebrations,’ and for churches to seek to create an environment where people—especially visitors—feel warm and welcome. I’m going to sidestep debates about seeker-sensitive church services, but suggest that creating a worship culture that allows people to voice their pain to God is not only welcoming (of all human emotion) but might eventually facilitate a turn toward genuine praise. Maybe worshippers are longing for that kind of environment, where real pain and suffering finds their voice and praise becomes real.

  1. Lament is for personal use

They are, but not exclusively. The psalms are replete with ‘psalms of communal lament,’ set to music. It might be hard for some to imagine … especially if you’re not connected with wider traditions (cf. the African American MAAFA service),[1] and not closely affiliated with an actively practising liturgical tradition,[2] but the biblical evidence tips strongly in favour of laments for communal use. Even individual psalms of lament were often set to music by the choir director (e.g., Ps 5, 88), giving the lonely individual worshipper an opportunity to cry out to God in a corporate environment—or perhaps more to the point, giving the community an opportunity to take up the cry of others.

  1. Lament is uttered by those without hope of the resurrection

(I have actually heard this argument) The basic premise here is that lament is an Old Testament activity, and symptomatic of life BC. But this claim is wrong on two accounts. Individuals in the Old Testament did have hope of resurrection, though perhaps not in the same way Christians would express it (‘But God will rescue my life from the power of the grave’ Ps 49:15).[3] 

But more to the point, I’d be so bold as to say that Jesus had resurrection hope. Yet, from the cross he cried out (from Ps 22:1), ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ And by the way, Ps 22 is ‘for the choir director, according to the tune …’ In other words, it was meant for inclusion in the worship repertoire. In Gethsemane Jesus’ soul was ‘deeply grieved, even unto death’ (Matt 26:38, echoing Ps 42:5-6).  And he cried out to his father to be spared from the cross.

The author of Hebrews writes that ‘Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. (Heb 5:7). For many of us, this sounds like an oxymoron. How could ‘loud cries and tears’ count as ‘reverent submission’? To this I suggest reading the book of Job, where the suffering man of God rails against God, takes him to court, accuses God, yet is declared to have ‘spoken rightly about me [God]’ (42:7). Reverent speech sounds irreverent when we lose connection with the biblical lament tradition, and sounds defeatist when disconnected from the hope of the resurrection.

  1. There aren’t any lament songs

There are. There just aren’t (m)any on the CCLI lists to which many churches subscribe, especially those that use ‘praise bands’ to lead in sung worship. Reclaiming lament requires re-education for all of us, especially those of us who have grown up in worship environments oriented toward the positive and uplifting. We might consider resources like THIS, THIS, or THIS, and songs like Dry Bones,  By the Waters of Babylon (or THIS version), or Leonard Berstein’s Chichester Psalms, or the songs listed HERE or HERE. There are enough to at least get started.

  1. People aren’t/wouldn’t be comfortable singing lament songs

See point #4 … and as an addendum, those going through terrible suffering are not comfortable singing only praise, and perhaps we might heed the words of Ecclesiastes:

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. (Eccl 7:2)

Or the words of Jesus,

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matt 5:4).

Or Paul,

            Weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15).

[1] The ‘MAAFA Service’ remembers slaves who died in the ‘Middle Passage.’

[2] J Frank Henderson, Liturgies of Lament (Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1994).

[3] See Jon D. Levenson, Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life (Yale: Yale University Press, 2006). I can’t recommend this book enough!

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By Turbulent Force

A Time for Minor Chords (Part II): Protest at the Divine Court

Time to Protest?

In my previous post I discussed the continued lack of lament in contemporary worship (of the ‘worship band’ variety). My point was that there’s been very little appreciable movement toward lament in the past decades among the major producers of the songs listed on the CCLI lists and the like. Because of that, the average small seeker-type church—which tends to draw heavily from the CCLI top 100—plays 99% praise, with the occasional (awkward) cry for help. I find this astonishing, especially given the tendency for said churches to read books like The Emotionally Healthy Church/Leader/Woman/Etc (http://www.emotionallyhealthy.org/).

I don’t have enough perspective to evaluate the current level of discontent with the persistent optimism and cheerfulness of contemporary worship music. But if I were to sit down with the chief strategists for Contemporary Worship, Inc., I’d suggest that something in the order of Nirvana’s 1990 flannel and grunge revolution needs to take place in worship music, a clearing of air for the raw and abrasive songs of lament (and protest).[1]

I don’t like to idealise lament. Some studies I’ve seen urge lament on the grounds that it’s psychologically and emotionally healthy. This may be true, and it’s probably healthier than repression. But it must be admitted that time also heals wounds, if not all of them. So, not lamenting might leave lamenters and non-lamenters in an emotionally similar place, at least 10-20 years on. I don’t think selling lament (exclusively) on its personal benefits is what the church needs. The point is not self-expression or psychological benefit, as good as those might be.

Lament as Persuasion

The greatest benefit to our worshipping communities is a reclaiming of genuine relationship with God. For all our emphasis on ‘relationship’—and perhaps that word is past its sell-by date—worship often reflects a belief that ‘the chief end of man [sic]’ (glorifying God) is the ‘only end of man.’[2] Our worship often portrays a God who only permits praise, and will not allow objections. Brueggemann writes,

A community of faith which negates laments soon concludes that the hard issues of justice are improper questions to pose at the throne, because the throne seems to be only a place of praise.[3]

Treating the throne room as a place for praise alone ignores the fact that the divine palace is also a (supreme) court, a place where citizens of the kingdom press their case with confidence that the divine judge hears, listens, and responds.

 A Rich Biblical Tradition of Protest

The biblical tradition is rife with examples of God’s people pressing their case, either against God or against societal injustice. God seems to invite his people into the courtroom for that very reason, from Genesis onward.

After choosing Abraham ‘to accomplish righteousness and justice,’ God unveils his plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. This provokes Abraham’s protest:

Far be it from you to do such a thing — to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike! Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Gen. 18:25)

This bold approach to the throne seems to be just what God expects—and wants. Through dialogue and debate, Abraham challenges God to ensure justice for the few potential victims of God’s judgement. Put another way, Abraham urges God to limit his severity, and he does so by protesting his actions. Though God does rain down sulphur on Sodom (and some suggest Abraham could have pushed God even further), God rescues Lot and his family and preserves another small town (19:20-21) that was otherwise due for destruction. God is still God, but Abraham’s protest effected some mercy.

Protest within the divine-human relationship is not unusual in the Old Testament. In fact, one of the purposes of prayer and yes, even worship, is to ask God to limit his severity. For reasons unavailable to us, God constructed the divine-human relationship so that our pleadings persuade God to set limits on his justified use of wrath. Put another way, God invites humans into the process of fostering and exercising divine mercy. Covenant partners are not only passive recipients of mercy, but active agents in its implementation.

The next major occasion where God’s servant protests God’s actions takes place right after the golden calf (Ex 33-34), when Israel breaks the first and second commandments and nullifies the covenant that God had just made with them. God was so angered that he proposed wiping out the nation to start anew with Moses.

But Moses intervened by appealing to God’s reputation:

Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains …’ Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people! (Exod 32:12)

God did not reprimand Moses. Instead,

The LORD changed his mind about the disaster he planned to bring on his people (32:14).

And he did so on multiple occasions where Moses protests divine action and calls God to be just, or to turn from his wrath (e.g., Exod 33:12-16; Num 11:10-15; 12:13ff; 14:13; 16:46ff; 21:7ff).

The tradition of protest continues in the words and actions of prophets like Habakkuk (1:3-4) and Jeremiah (11:18-20; 12:1-6), the psalmist (e.g., Ps 10), and the non-Israelite Job.

In sum, in failing to lament, we fail to exercise our covenant responsibility to bring matters of justice and righteousness before the divine judge. We fail in our civic duty.

Opening the Torah Ark

Jewish novelist Chaim Potak discusses a tradition of lament during the Shabbat service:

There used to be a tradition, which may still be in existence in some Jewish communities, where if you had a complaint against God you stopped the service on Saturday. You went up to the ark, you opened the [Torah] ark, and you stood there shouting at God until the rabbi finally led you away.

Potak goes on,

You shout out of faith, not because you don’t have any faith. If you don’t have faith, you don’t have anyone to shout at.[4]

What if we saw our worship music as a means of leading people to the ark? Or the courtroom? There’s something enormously dignifying and freeing in telling people that their disputes and complaints will be heard in this court. They may feel themselves without power in the halls of human political power,[5] but not in the divine court.

Let us find the chords to bring them there, and let us enter His court with protests.

See here for Part 3.

[1] Perhaps this risks an unnecessary pendulum swing, but I’d be thrilled to have the conversation.

[2] Brueggemann, ‘The Costly Loss of Lament,’

[3] Brueggemann, ‘The Costly Loss of Lament,’ 64.

[4] ‘Giving Shape to Turmoil: A Conversation with Chaim Potok,’ Mars Hill Review (Winter/Spring 1997), http://potok.lasierra.edu/Potok.interviews.MHR.html, accessed 30/03/2017.

[5] Bruegggemann sees the two inextricably linked (‘The Costly Loss of Lament,’ 62ff).

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Warfare Joshua 6

Joshua and Violence (Part 6): Worship as Warfare

choir-309051_1280Joshua and Violence (Part 6)

Worship as Warfare

The book of Chronicles tells of a story where King Jehoshaphat of Judah faced an enemy coalition of some 2 million soldiers, or just a few shy of modern China’s active military. The story is clearly engaging in some hyperbole, since the size of this army alone is well beyond all human population estimates for this time. The author is painting something larger than life, with the odds stacked against Judah. The central questions driving the narrative appear in Jehoshaphat’s desperate prayer in the courtyard of the temple: ‘Are you not God in heaven? … Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel?’ Based on God’s actions in Joshua, Jehoshaphat builds to his point: ‘O God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless.’ (2 Chr 20:6-12).

The inflated imagery in this story suggests that the story-teller isn’t doing historical realism. He’s using impressionism or cubism. The artist is accentuating the staggering odds, Judah’s powerlessness, and most importantly, the location. This prayer took place at the temple, the very place where Solomon had said (1 Kgs 8) that Israel should come if they ever faced trouble.

A Levitical temple singer then arose to prophesy:

This battle is not for you to fight; take your positions, stand still, and see the victory of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem (2 Chr 20:17).

The ensuing scene is almost comical. The army still goes out … but only to watch. They proceed as if going to battle, when in reality, they were play-acting. By the time they reached them, their enemies had already turned on and killed each other.

But though the army had no role, the Levitical Priests took center stage. Their special duty was to accompany Yahweh into battle and announce his arrival. In the past, the Levites would have carried Yahweh’s ark, or throne. Throne or standard-bearing was a common motif in ancient Near Eastern warfare.

Since the ark had already ‘come to rest’ in the Temple (a major theme in Chronicles),[1] the Levites went forth instead as singers. Their praises formed a veritable throne for Yahweh as he went forth to fight for his people.[2] This concept is likely behind the psalmist’s claim that Yahweh is ‘enthroned on the praises of Israel’ (Ps 22:3). Rather than the ark, the priests bore Yahweh into battle on the praises of Israel.

At the beginning of this battle against the 2 million, the singers were silent … until that crucial moment, when with the army in position, the Levites lifted their song. Chronicles’ account is stunning:

At the moment they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the Ammonites, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed (2 Chr 20:22).

Praise seems to effect something powerful here. It’s as if praise is the storm-cloud in which Yahweh comes against the enemy. Chronicles emphasizes the co-ordination between singing and Yahweh’s visitation. In the previous verse, Jehoshaphat appointed the Levites to literally ‘praise (his) holy theophany,’ or dramatic visitation. As they sang, Yahweh came in power (cf. 2 Chr 5:13). In sum, this post-exilic story paints the image of a God who achieves victory over the enemy, accompanied by the praise of the powerless.

Joshua and the Liturgy of Jericho

We have strong indications that parts of Joshua were edited during the post-exilic period, during the same time that the Chronicler was writing. Though they probably weren’t study buddies, the Chronicler and the post-exilic editor of Joshua share a concern for highlighting the priestly dimensions of warfare.  Priests probably highlighted and clarified an earlier edition of Joshua (a ‘Deuteronomistic’ edition, in scholarly parlance) that already put a strong emphasis on the Levites.

It’s not surprising, then, that the story of Jericho lands smack dab in the middle of the book’s account of entering the land. Elsewhere, the book flies through the battle accounts in chs. 10-12 without much specificity. But for Jericho (and Ai), the tempo slows … almost to a snail’s pace … or perhaps better, to the metronome of a Levitical procession.

Joshua 3-6 reads like a liturgical procession. It takes two whole chapters for Israel to process across the Jordan, stopping at each significant site to mark it for later re-enactment. If there’s a main character here, it’s the ark. Mentioned some 24x in these chapters, the ark is without doubt the narrator’s preoccupation. There’s a kind of mesmerizing effect as the ark proceeds before the people before they crossed the Jordan. They were forbidden to approach it within 3,000 feet, and they couldn’t move until it moved. The assumption is that Yahweh’s presence was so dangerous and unapproachable that the people needed to stand back, much as they would related to his presence in the Tabernacle itself:

As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” 5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” (Josh 3:3-5)

The actual battle at Jericho begins and ends at Gilgal, one of Israel’s oldest and most significant places of worship, and all along the way, it marks the priestly procession with stones used for an altar. Leading this 7-day ceremony are the priests, who carry the ark before the people. The 7 day pattern of walking around the city (Josh 6) recalls the 7-day Passover celebration in Joshua 3-4, and the distinctive 6+1 rhythm of the Jericho liturgy recalls the 6+1 story of creation. Not surprisingly, on that 7th holy day, when the city was finally encircled 7 times and destroyed, all of its valuables were given over (as herem, or sacred offering) to the sanctuary, God’s resting place (Josh 6:24).

As in the story from 2 Chronicles 20, the people were accompanying Yahweh into the land, but were in essence standing back in worshipful reverence to watch him win a victory. And like the story in 2 Chronicles 20, the Priests and people remain silent until they unveil—or proclaim—their secret weapon. The people burst forth with shouting and trumpet blasts, but Yahweh is the real actor in the story. Their joyful shout joins the priestly trumpet blast that announces Yahweh’s arrival in the city. In sum, Yahweh achieves his victory amidst the priestly procession and celebration of his people, and culminates in an offering to the sanctuary.

Implications for Considering Violence in Joshua

In the last post I explained how the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua and Kings ‘re-frame’ extermination commands in terms of differentiation. Interpretive shifts were already under way that dislodged the story of conquest from any essential association with genocide. Whether this was for reasons of moral discomfort or what we cannot be sure. But the effect is the same. The story of herem warfare was understood to mean: Don’t cavort with idolatrous nations, and even more importantly, remain true to the Torah.

I want to tentatively propose another similar shift taking place within Joshua. I’m calling it a priestly re-framing, from warfare to liturgy. Joshua is ‘liturgizing’ an earlier story of conquest, with Yahweh’s lone military action in the foreground and Israel’s participation in worship as the accompaniment.

Like Chronicles, Joshua is hyperbolizing (not falsifying! Is Monet falsifying the water lilies?) its historical sources in order to make important theological points. This is a non-controversial claim. Lawson Younger detailed the many ways that Joshua’s conquest rhetoric participates in standard ancient Near Eastern warfare rhetoric, where ‘putting to the sword everything that breathes’ basically meant, ‘winning a victory,’ and everyone knew it. I’m suggesting further that Joshua is also participating in a broader biblical pattern of liturgizing warfare—i.e., (a.) heightening the drama of divine victory, (b.) downplaying or completely eliminating any meaningful human contribution to the victory, and (c.) heightening the significance of the worship system within the battle scene. This sets the stage, I suggest, for the reception of such stories in worship settings for a totally different purpose, namely, to celebrate the power of Yahweh effected in the praise of his people.

trumpet-312321_1280The effect of this liturgizing was to render an older story of conquest meaningful for a people whose land had been effectively taken away. The returnees from exile, who most likely put the finishing touches on the book of Joshua, were but a powerless and vulnerable people in the land. They had no standing army, no king, few defenses, and little political clout. But they did have a temple. They did have priests. So when they looked back on their history to ask, where is the powerful God of the past in our day? they answer, He’s present in our worship. Therein lies our strength.

According to Joshua, Israel’s army was never its source of strength. It was ‘not with your sword or with your bow,’ Joshua later reminds the people (Josh 24:12). Rather, it was the God enthroned in the praises of Israel who defeats the enemy. He was the one who ‘ordained praise from the mouths of infants, to silence the foe and the avenger’ (Ps 8:2).

So while Joshua could be read in such a way that warfare is seen as a form of worship, I’m suggesting that the momentum of the book was in the other direction, toward the idea that worship was a form of warfare. The book ‘permits’ both readings, but only one leads toward the one who later took up the name Joshua/Jesus.

[Jesus entered Jerusalem] ‘And the crowds went before him. … But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry. And said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself [to silence the foe and the avenger]‘?” (Matt 21:7, 15-16)

Jesus’ march on Jerusalem continues the Joshua story. To the praise of children he achieved his victory.

To read part 7 click HERE.

[1] E.g., 1 Chr 6:31-32.

[2] I detail this in my book Monotheism and Institutions in the Book of Chronicles (Mohr Siebeck, 2014), 165ff.

Women and Worship

Lucy Peppiatt – Women and Worship at Corinth

Women and Worship at Corinth

In this WTCLive episode: Matt Lynch interviews Lucy Peppiatt on her groundbreaking new book, Women and Worship at Corinth: Paul’s Rhetorical Arguments in 1 Corinthians (Wipf & Stock, 2015).

In this book, Lucy outlines an argument for reading key texts in 1 Cor 11 and 14 as supportive of the full participation of women in the life of the worshipping Church. She suggests that in 1 Corinthians Paul quotes and then refutes the misguided views of his opponents.


Lucy Peppiatt PhD

Principal, Systematic Theology

Lucy has bachelor’s degrees in both English and Theology. She completed her MA in Systematic Theology at King’s College, London, and her PhD through the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Lucy’s research interests are Christ and the Spirit, Charismatic theology, discipleship, and 1 Corinthians. She and her husband, Nick Crawley, lead Crossnet Anglican Church in Bristol. They have four sons.

Buy the book here:

Woman & Worship at Corinth