Every Nation

IMG_0064Yet another blog! I know, it’s enough to make the heart sigh, and the eyeballs glaze over. But this one has been brewing for a long time, and has a set purpose, to be limited to a range of related topics in theology and mission. Let me explain what I am trying to do.

Three years ago I embarked on an M.Th. with Edinburgh Theological Seminary, funded by the Mission I work for, Grace Baptist Mission. I submitted my thesis at the end of November, and it has just been accepted. My subject was ‘Every Nation Under Heaven: The Importance of the Biblical Concept of Nations for Contemporary Evangelical Mission Practice.’ This blog will be a means of putting some of that research out there for your consideration. As I have worked, preached and studied my way through the past three years, I’ve noticed how little understanding there is of the biblical understanding of nationhood in the West. Our thinking about ourselves is shaped so extensively by post-Enlightenment individualism. Systematic theologies deal with anthropology at a purely individual level, without discussing marriage, let alone nationhood. It is absent from most confessions of faith. Yet if we are to be serious about the work of mission, understanding nationhood is crucial to the task of working out how to take the gospel into that nation and express it in a way that speaks to that nation and can be owned by that nation.

I want to challenge the secular presuppositions that shape so much of our thinking when it comes to nationhood. I am disturbed to see Christians around me in Britain discussing the Brexit referendum purely in terms of economics and the pragmatics of raw power. The Bible has plenty to say about nations, and yet this is barely entering the debate. The news media bombard us every day with the secular agenda: money, sex, and power; the fear of death and the idolisation of life in terms of the body and its possessions; the obsession with the economy and cutting taxes, while disregarding the catastrophic breakdown of family life and the corruption of society. Everything must be valued in terms of my rights, my money and my choices, an entirely secular way of looking at life. And Christians unwittingly buy into this worldview in so many ways. We allow our faith to be privatised, as though Christians have nothing relevant to say about history, morality, business ethics, social cohesion, the practice of medicine or caring for the vulnerable, the purpose of education or how a language is cherished and enriched. We are so reluctant to point out that culture and the arts have always flourished when they have expressed a Christian worldview. These deeper concerns of history, language and culture define nationhood in Scripture, and have immense bearing on our public life. Public theology is not a small part of an otherwise private faith. All Christian theology should be done in public, and must engage our society in the public square with a radically different worldview and lifestyle.

So this blog will focus on several interconnected areas. Cross-cultural mission and Christian theology will be at the heart of it. I will explore contemporary issues in the theology and practice of mission. There will be observations on different nations and cultures as I visit them from time to time. There will be plenty of analysis of British culture and public life, and some of the joys and woes of church life as I encounter it as an itinerant preacher. I am also interested in the intersection between culture and worship. Worshipping God is the goal of mission, as well as its motivation. I’ve written a few hymns over the years, which will get explained here, and hopefully insights from other cultures will bring some refreshment to British ways of worshipping God, where both trad and trendy seem to become more traditional than ever.

Finally, all views expressed are my own. This blog does not represent the views of Grace Baptist Mission, though I suspect I won’t be getting into trouble with my employers.

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