From the Dean

News items, published articles, and reading recommendations from Dean Timothy George

The Dean Recommends: The Southern City that Lies Forgotten

By Jason Cook
November 28, 2016

Editors’ note: Watch this brief video to see how God is restoring hope through the church and non-profit partnership in a forgotten Southern city.

What do you do in a city where hope has gone to die? Where is hope to be found once it’s moved out of your neighborhood and despair has taken residence? Ministry to the poor and marginalized is often accompanied by the visceral reality of hopelessness. Not only is there a need for the gospel of Jesus Christ to penetrate hearts, but there’s also the urgent need for economic growth. Where unemployment and crime rates far exceed the national average, and schools fall well below state and national standards, the church must rise to action. On occasion, the church has to meet basic human necessities before a spiritual remedy can be received. The church must bring a plan to care for the poor that includes both gospel witness in word through preaching and gospel fruit in deed through financial investment. 

Fairfield, Alabama, was once a predominately white city many of Birmingham’s steel workers called home. After racial integration in the 1960s and 1970s, Fairfield became home to more ethnic minorities. White flight soon followed. Not only did white citizens leave for other parts of the city, but so did businesses, jobs, and opportunity. Most alarming were the churches who closed their doors and left for different parts of the city.

In the wake of this turmoil, a city lies forgotten on the west side of Birmingham. Given high rates of crime and poverty, hopelessness renders Fairfield—for many political, business, and even religious leaders—untenable and unworthy of long-term investment. Read the rest at The Gospel Coalition.

Jason Cook is a graduate of Beeson Divinity School.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Friday, December 2, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: Semper Fidel

By Robert Royal
November 30, 2016

It’s not hard to understand why many secular people in the West were fascinated by a figure like Fidel Castro. Where religion retreats, political faiths tend to advance to fill the absence of meaning, purpose, authority (yes, people crave that, too). Add a bold, charismatic leader willing to fight – even die – for something? It was the IliadRobin HoodStar Wars, in hip scraggly beards, jungle fatigues, defiantly smoking Cuban cigars.

But why many religious people over decades were taken with the now departed máximo lider is harder to grasp. Vaticanist Sandro Magister has wittily observed: Pope Francis cried at his passing, Patriarch Kirill wept, but among those close to the situation – the Cuban bishops – it’s dry eyes all around.

In 1998, during Pope John Paul II’s pilgrimage to Cuba, George Weigel and I took in Havana’s Museum of the Revolution. I convinced him to go because my American guidebook, which lied nearly as much as the Castro brothers, called it “a must for anyone with a taste for history – allow yourself plenty of time.”

It was indeed a “must,” but not as advertised. A piece of a fighter jet shot down during the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Dusty artifacts with curling paper labels, clearly neglected for decades. As for time, the crowd was minimal – in fact, just the two of us, despite all the foreigners in town. Read the rest at The Catholic Thing.


Posted by Kristen Padilla at Wednesday, November 30, 2016
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By Timothy George
November 28, 2016

Five years ago, InterVarsity Press launched the Reformation Commentary on Scripture, a projected twenty-eight-volume series of exegesis covering both the Old and New Testaments, gathered from the writings of sixteenth-century preachers, scholars, and reformers. Now comes the ninth volume published in the series. At 745 pages, it is the largest volume thus far in the RCS. It offers Reformation comment on six of the “historical” books of the Old Testament: 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, and 1-2 Chronicles. The in-house editorial moniker for this volume is Samicles: “Sam(uel, Kings, and Chron)icles.” The volume is the work of Derek Cooper, who teaches world Christian history at Biblical Theological Seminary, and Martin J. Lohrmann, professor of Lutheran confessions and heritage at Wartburg Theological Seminary.

One of the major purposes of the RCS is to cultivate the art of listening to what God has been saying to his people across time. This is a form of contextual theology, except that the “context” here is not this or that group chosen from the panoply of today’s identity politics, but rather the oft-disregarded community of believing Christians through the centuries. When it comes to the Bible’s historical texts in particular, like those chosen for scrutiny in this volume, this means that we must deconstruct reductionist approaches to Scripture in order to listen afresh to how God addresses the church through the inspired remembrances of ancient Israel. Cooper and Lohrmann help us to do exactly this, by giving careful exegetical selections from a wide range of Reformation-era readers and interpreters.

Those who attempt to read the Bible straight through will find lots of show-stopping drama in these historical books of the Old Testament. Here we encounter some of the best-known characters and episodes in the entire Bible: the slaying of Goliath by young David, Elisha’s cursing of boys who made fun of his bald head, Saul’s quest for wisdom from the witch of Endor, the faithful prophet Micaiah. There are also Hannah the praying mother, Jonathan the beloved friend, Solomon the wise king, and Elijah the Tishbite with his villainous foes Ahab and Jezebel. All of these people are characters in what Christopher J. H. Wright has called “the narrative of God’s mission, through God’s people, in God’s world, for God’s purpose—the redemption of all of God’s creation.” Because of this, these writings found a special place within the Tanakh of ancient Israel, but they also resonate in the theology and witness of the New Testament and the early church. Jesus, the apostles, and the early Christian writers all read and quoted from these books. Read the rest at First Things.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Monday, November 28, 2016
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