An Avalanche of Publications in Wesley Institute School of Theology
It is very rare for any theology department, Australia or overseas, to have four major monographs published in one year, as well as an edited book. But this is precisely what will happen in 2011 for staff members of Wesley Institute School of Theology: namely, Dr Chris Green, Dr Jim Harrison, Dr Grenville Kent, and Dr Mark Stephens. In the case of Chris, Grenville and Mark, the publications are their revised doctoral theses, whereas in the case of Jim it is a new monograph, as well as an edited work. This is an occasion of great thanksgiving to God for providing the Institute with such fine theological scholars, as well as a rendering of glory to God for His faithfulness in helping each staff member to bring their individual studies to such a fruitful result. What will you see for all this hard work?Chris Green’s monograph, Doxological Theology: Karl Barth on Divine Providence, Evil and the Angels, is to be published by T & T Clark.
Grenville Kent’s monograph, published by Pickwick Publications, will remind you of a classic Humphrey Bogart film: Say It Again, Sam: A Literary and Filmic Study of Narrative Repetition in 1 Samuel 28.
The title of Mark Stephen’s monograph, published by Mohr Siebeck, is Annihilation or Renewal? The Meaning and Function of New Creation in the Book of Revelation.
Last, Jim’s new book, published by Mohr Siebeck, is titled Paul and the Imperial Authorities at Thessalonica and Rome: A Study in the Conflict of Ideology.
We might legitimately ask what are the practical results of this new theological research for Christians living in the twenty first-century? This is a question that needs to be regularly posed lest we pursue knowledge for its own sake, with little concern for authentic engagement with Christ, His people and His world.
In the case of Chris Green’s book we are reminded of God’s providential control of every event that occurs, whether it be the birth of a child, the arrival of a Third World refugee on our shores, or the relentless natural tragedies of the first three months of 2011. Even where the strong and arrogant perpetrate unspeakable evil against the weak and vulnerable, as in Libya, Calvary reminds us that God’s weakness is greater than human strength. Our God is in total control when everything else is ‘out of control’. By means of the divine abandonment of Christ on the cross due to our sin, God stripped all power from the superhuman enemies ranged against us so that we might be truly free and glory in God’s mercy. Such a suffering God can be engaged prayerfully in the expectation that He will be sympathetic, comforting us so that we can comfort others. Herein is the ground for our optimism in the future and unexpected joy.
Precisely because of the innovative methodology used in Grenville Kent’s book, we see the importance of the intersection of theology and the arts. This is the very dynamic animating Wesley Institute. Gripping narrative and character development, with all its artistic subtlety, is as central to the Bible, as it is to the genre of film. Indeed, the gospel unveils how the story of Israel found its culmination in Christ as Messiah and Lord, oscillating in its narrative between expectation and disappointment, between recurring symbols and unexpected developments, between the familiar and the radically different. Here is divine artistry at its best, intriguing and challenging its audience in its core beliefs, aiming to engage its audience with a new transforming power. Film tries to aspire to these lofty heights, but rarely succeeds in the formulaic and money driven culture of Hollywood.
Mark Stephen’s book wrests Revelation from the hands of the futurologists and the literary and historical critics. In particular, John’s pastoral focus shows us how the new creation changes one’s perspective on how one lives in the present. Mark reminds us that amidst the idolatry of wealth and imperial power that comprised first-century Asia, John wanted to minister to churches that faced vastly different spiritual issues in each of the seven cities: those who had accommodated with imperial power and its benefits: those who were suffering persecution at the hands of the imperial rulers; those besotted by wealth and the opportunities provided for the upwardly mobile by the local elites; those who had so compromised with the dominant culture that they were not even aware that they were in a perilous spiritual state. Mark reminds us of how a great pastor like John operates: he becomes all things to all people, so that he might win some to the risen and reigning Christ.
Jim Harrison’s new monograph centres on how Paul engaged the political ‘super-power’ of his day: Rome. Paul critiqued its self-promoting culture, honoured the Roman ruler as appropriate, enlisted Christians to be involved in civic beneficence for the weak, sponsored the Body of Christ as an alternative family to Nero’s ‘Body’ of state, and warned believers about the dangers of the idolatry of imperial power. Paul’s holistic, incisive and nuanced approach to political authority stands in contrast to the unreflective and ‘jingoistic’ support that some Christian groups accord various political parties in our age. Alternatively, the ‘separatist’ stance that some Christians have adopted towards the world of politics is equally as dangerous. By contrast, Paul applied rigorously the mind of Christ to affairs of state in the first-century, so that the heavenly citizenship offered by Christ might shine all the more clearly in the city-states of the first century. We need to recapture his holistic vision for God’s world.
Keep an eye out for further publications from Wesley Institute Theology Department. Watch this space.