Rhett Snell


Leave a comment

The Best Books I Read In 2014

I managed to get through a decent variety of books this year.

I finally read Volf and Girard, both of who felt better to have read than to read. Like always, I read McKnight and Keller, but I managed to read a little less from them than I usually do. In the end, these were the best books I read this year…

10. Community & Growth by Jean Vanier
A lovely, rambling book about what true community and commitment can look like. Written by a man who has given his life to other people.

9. If God Then What? by Andrew Wilson
I am more and more a fan of Andrew Wilson. Saying that this is an apologetic sells it short. It’s full of imagination. This is my current go to for non-church people wanting to know about God.

8. Ill Fares The Land by Tony Judt
The only non-theology book on my list, this is a fascinating history of (and case for) social democracy. Recommended to anyone interested in politics.

7. The Moral Vision of the New Testament by Richard Hays
While I absolutely did not agree with Hays on every point (does he really all but paint the Jesus of John’s Gospel as anti-semitic?!), this book is still a juggernaut. On almost any ethical issue, I think it’s mandatory to consult Hays.

6. Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill
This book is a gift to the church: a same-sex attracted Christian who has chosen to remain celibate, telling his own story, and advocating a historical Christian position on sexuality. A must-read for anyone with questions (or relating to people who have questions) in this area. So… everyone.  Continue reading


15 Comments

New

I’ve been wondering about the insatiable desire to say something new, especially in the Christian academic and publishing worlds.

If you want to get a PhD, for example, you probably want to discover something new, or at least present a fresh angle. Likewise, if you want to get noticed as an author or academic. Sometimes, it seems to me, this sort of drive leads to the kind of hyperbole which can come across as self-parody. At other times it can lead to biblical scholars presenting work which could have been presented as another helpful angle, instead as the solution to the Church’s last 2000 years of bumbling about in the dark. (I think of N.T. Wright here, who’s work I otherwise enjoy).

I’m reading Richard B. Hays’ The Moral Vision of the New Testament at the moment, and I’m finding it really worthwhile. But, I did just come across this paragraph (on page 199), where Hays responds to the suggestion that his ethical framing of the New Testament is “dependent on the mainstream Christian tradition of canonical reading that goes back to Irenaeus”. You can almost hear the huffing and puffing when Hays responds. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Scot McKnight at Laidlaw

Over the last two days I had the opportunity to go to Laidlaw College’s “Mission of the Church in the 21st Century” conference, which featured Scot McKnight.

Instead of regurgitating my notes, I figured I’d write about my personal response, particularly to McKnight’s content. So, here are some scattered thoughts on a fascinating couple of days…

Scot McKnight is one of my favourite biblical scholars, I think because he’s so accessible. I can understand what he is saying! This was reinforced at the conference. He was immensely engaging, and without a doubt the funniest Christian academic I’ve heard.

In his first address, he contended that we are using the biblical word “Kingdom” in ways the New Testament doesn’t, and that the word is more synonymous with the word “church” than the generalised good works which we often ascribe it to.

In his second address, McKnight gave a very clear and concise overview of the New Perspective on Paul, and then explored how it gives us theological resources for multiculturalism.

McKnight’s third address explored the biblical meaning of the words “love” and “grace” in contrast to cultural, and sometimes, he contended, misguided theological understandings.

My thoughts are going to assume some familiarity with the above terms and debates, so my apologies for that. If you’re interested, McKnight’s first talk, at least, is available for free on iTunes (under the title “General Session 3 – Leadership Conference 2013” from New Life Conferences).

Continue reading


Leave a comment

Can You Do The Gospel?

Over the last few years an in-house debate about the gospel has intensified in the Evangelical world.

Squaring off like prize fighters, in one corner you have an articulation of the gospel purely in terms of conversion, repentance, and forgiveness of sins. In the other corner is a gospel framed more as joining a movement, engaging in social justice, or following in the way of Jesus. A cottage-industry of publishing has developed around the word “gospel” in recent years.

More anecdotally, last Easter I noticed how many of the “this is what Easter Sunday means” status updates on Facebook included a of critique of the other corner, depending on which view the person posting held.

If I’m starting to sound cynical; I’m not. If anything, I’m more convinced that what I believe and teach about the gospel is crucial in ministry. On top of that, conversations and observations over the years have convinced me that there is still a lot of misunderstanding out there. Many people in the church still conceive of Christianity as an essentially moralistic religion… be good and God will let you into heaven.

I do believe there is truth in the critique that some have made the gospel too narrow, as if personal salvation is all that it entails. But I’m deeply hesitant about overcorrecting and turning the gospel into something you do. I’m with Tim Keller in his Centre Church, when he argues that we need to clearly differentiate the gospel from the implications of the gospel.

So, having said that I believe the gospel is vital, perhaps I should talk about how I’d communicate it. Continue reading


2 Comments

The Things I Wish I’d Preached…

I recently heard another preacher suggest keeping a database of the sermons you’ve preached; themes, verses, a short summary.

What a great idea!

I decided to follow his advice, and compiled a database of my sermons from the last year and a half. It was eye opening.

First, it helped me to see my pet subjects. It amazed me how often I came back to two themes: trusting in the character of God, and finding meaning and purpose in Christ.

It also helped me to see some of my blind spots. Here are 3 things that I’m determined to address in my next year and a half of preaching… Continue reading


Leave a comment

Should Pastors Change Their Minds?

Alister McGrath has argued that the “dangerous idea” of Protestantism – dangerous to the Catholic church at the time, at least – was that each Christian should be able to interpret the bible for themselves.

As many Protestant churches have become less rooted in history and tradition (such that many who read this sentence will see “Protestant” as an archaic term!) this has meant that finding a common thread or set of beliefs amongst Protestant churches has become more difficult.

In the New Zealand Baptist context, this is even more apparent. Here, Baptists have never been ones for creeds and confessions, unlike some of our Baptist brothers and sisters in other times and places.

All of this means that it’s not uncommon for congregants, and even pastors, to have a much more fluid view of doctrines, beliefs and practices. And, of course, to change their minds over time.

I recently asked a question on Facebook: should pastors have their theology “sorted”, or are you happy for them to be on a journey, and to change their mind about certain things? I asked it to two sets of people: congregants, and pastors.

Continue reading


2 Comments

I Was Wrong

In my early 20’s, I had some pretty strong opinions. As I close in on my 30’s, I’m still holding on to some of them. But with others, I’ve either changed my mind, or at least softened a bit.

If I could hop in a time machine and take my 20 year old self out for coffee, I’d tell him he was wrong about these 5 things (after I told him to join a gym)…

1. Stop looking for silver bullets.

In my early 20’s I was into the emerging church in a big way. If you aren’t familiar with it, it was a movement trying to re-imagine what church could be, driven by a group of authors such as Brian McLaren and Rob Bell. I don’t blame anyone but myself for this, but somehow I got it into my head that this was the future of the church, the new Reformation, and everything else was soon to be obsolete. Except, over time, the emerging church movement sort of faded away, which was a bit embarrassing. This isn’t to say it didn’t have some interesting things to say, or that it didn’t make an impact (I think it did, and continues to, in some ways). But it wasn’t a silver bullet. Now that I’m older I realise that these “waves” often come through the church, every few years. And often they’re helpful and energising. They just aren’t silver bullets. Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 38 other followers