And now for the contents of the November 2009 issue of Conversations, which includes papers from the recent Calvin 500 Anniversary conference held here as well as the Wisdom's Feast conference and Cato Lecture by Daniel Smith Christopher:
This issue of Conversations brings together papers and talks from
three events: Wisdom’s Feast 2009, a day long conference to celebrate
the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth, and the Cato Lecture from
the recent Assembly meeting.
- Introduction to the Cato Lecture – Robert Gribben
- The Cato Lecture:
‘Overboard with Jonah, Over the Line with Ezra: Biblical Themes for the Church in Exile’ – Dr. Daniel L. Smith-Christopher
This was the CATO Lecture for July, 2009, given at the 12th Assembly of the Uniting Church of Australia, University of NSW, Sydney, Australia. We are grateful to the Cato Trust for kind permission to publish this lecture.
Daniel Smith-Christopher begins with a question: how is the Old Testament a source of guidance for Christian faith and practice? He is convinced that we must continue to engage the Hebrew tradition as modern Christians, but he has not been happy with many of the traditional and recent approaches to doing this. He notes that in its fullness the Hebrew Bible does not leave us either in the Promised Land or in the United Monarchy of David or Solomon. Rather, the Biblical narrative leaves the Hebrews in exile. He describes how one might engage in a Biblical Theology of the Old Testament for modern Christians that is a theology of exile and diaspora, more engaged with movement, journey, identity, and witness to an often hostile surrounding culture than with power. He concludes by looking at Jonah and Ezra as symbols of critical issues for modern Christians in Exile.
Two papers from the conference ‘Wisdom’s Feast’ held at the Centre for Theology and Ministry, June 19-23, 2009.
- ‘Comfort ye my people and speak kindly to Jerusalem’ – Rachael Kohn
Beginning with some remarks in the area of the sociology of religion and its role in providing comfort, Rachael Kohn, builds on the idea that religious life does not only hinge on the perpetuation of beliefs, but on the maintenance of community. She explores the struggle of Jews through history for comfort and justice which is not just about equality of opportunity and resources in a material culture, but about recognising hatred and stopping it from spreading, wherever it is found. She argues that the God of the prophetic scriptures, which is one of the Jewish gifts to the world, works his purposes in history, only when we let him; that is, only when we let him work through us.
- Bible Study: Romans 10:14-21 – Sean Winter
500th Anniversary of the Birth of John Calvin
- ‘Some Reflections on the Biblical, Pastoral, and Practical Calvin’ – Prof. Elsie McKee
McKee notes that when Calvin emerged on the scene in Geneva, the Reformation was already well under way and, indeed, Protestants themselves were already divided. Calvin was not a pioneering innovator like Luther, but his gifts for organisation, thought and writing, ensured that his place in Reformation history. McKee explores how Calvin was not only a very Biblical theologian, but also a very pastoral and practical one. He is best understood as a man of the 16th century, ‘who addressed the people and context of his own day with all the intensity of the conviction that God had redeemed him and called him to be an instrument of proclaiming that redemption by teaching, preaching, correcting, even as an exile, a foreigner, though still a part of a Christian world.’ She argues that we honour Calvin best and gain the most from ‘by understanding him in his own context and ministry’.
- ‘The Spirituality of John Calvin’ – Prof. Emeritus Ian Breward
Calvin lived in a time of great spiritual vitality and renewal. While many spiritualities of the time, even those of noted reformers, were shaped by monastic piety and its priorities, Calvin had a different experience. He had never been part of a monastic community. ‘For Calvin, spirituality grew out of a lived encounter with God, who had graciously revealed forgiveness through Jesus’ work on the Cross, justifying and regenerating us.’ His spirituality, with its framework founded on the Scriptures, was both Catholic and contextual, providing people with practical suggestions about how to grow into Christ and His community. The corporate aspect of his spirituality was further demonstrated by his conviction that Christian citizens were committed to the creation of a more Christian society, in which Church and Magistrate were vocational partners on the pilgrimage to eternal life.
- ‘Calvin’s Commentary on the Psalter: Christian or Jewish?’ – Dr. Gregory Goswell (This articles will be co-published by Pacifica in the near future by arrangement.)
Greg Goswell explores Calvin’s debt to preceding Jewish exegetes on the Psalter and seeks to determine how explicitly Christian his interpretation of the Psalms was. Use is made of the medieval Jewish commentator Rashi as a conversation partner. When it came to Jewish exegesis of the Psalms, Calvin was neither uncritical nor hypercritical. He was neither a prisoner to Jewish or earlier Christian opinion. Calvin’s focus on the historical context of psalms was not derived from Jewish exegetes but from his humanist training and inclination. He related a psalm to its historical setting but then saw no difficulty in a psalm referring to David and at the same time being a prediction of Christ.
- ‘Calvin on Psalms: Reading his Hermeneutic from the Preface to his Commentary’ – Howard N. Wallace (This articles will be co-published by Pacifica in the near future by arrangement.)
Calvin loved and lived the psalms. A lifetime of reflection and praying them stands behind his commentary on the Psalter. The Preface to the commentary, in which Calvin tells much of his own story, is revealing of his hermeneutic when dealing with the psalms. Parallels between his own life and that of David as psalmist functions as a major key for interpretation. This article explores Calvin’s hermeneutic when dealing with the psalms and notes ways in which it correlates with principles of composition of the Psalter itself.
- ‘Things Seen and Unseen: Sacramental Theology in the Reformation’ – Martin Wright (This article was previously published in Conversations 1/1 (Dec. 2007). It was read in a similar form at the conference on Calvin and is reproduced here for completeness.)
Martin focuses on how the reformers Luther, Zwingli, Bucer and Calvin approached the question, ‘What is a Sacrament?’ The sacramental controversies of the 16th century were concerned with understandings of earth and heaven, the eternal and the temporal, and gave rise, not only to the question of their relationship, but also to where ‘God chooses to make himself known in the commonest elements of his creation’.
- Sermon: ‘For in Christ every one of God’s promises is a “Yes”. (2 Cor 1:20 a)’ – preached by Chris Mostert on Reformation Sunday, 25 October, 2009, Congregation of Mark the Evangelist, North Melbourne.
Book launches and reviews:
- Wesley for Armchair Theologians, by William J. Abraham, Illustrated by Ron Hill, WJK, Louisville, USA, 2005. Reviewed by A. MacKinnon-Love
- Together in Ministry: Essays to honour John Paver, Heather Cameron, Colin Hunter, Michael Kelly and Randall Prior (eds), Melbourne: Uniting Academic Press, 2009. Reviewed by Avril Hannah-Jones.
- Psalms, Readings; Sheffield Phoenix, 2009, by Howard N. Wallace. Remarks at the launch of the book by Mark G. Brett, Sept. 18, 2009.