WHAT I'M READING
BY THE REV'D CANON ART GOING, CANON FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
Last month, in keeping with my stated goal for the year—Hold fast what you have (Rev 3:11)—I wrote that I would be using this entire Reformation 500 year to revisit Luther. I started out where Luther himself did, right after receiving his doctorate in biblical studies—in the Psalms. I’ve been reading Luther’s 1513-15 lectures on the Psalms. What a potent reminder of the unity of Scripture and of the Reformers’ relentless Christ-centered hermeneutic, to see how the young Luther ’s gospel recovery project began in the Hebrew Scriptures, in the prayer book of the Bible. That ought to grab the attention of Anglicans, who tirelessly point to the Prayer Book as the voice of our theology, but too often forget the unanimity of the English Reformers and early divines on the authority of Scripture. In 2017, it’s good to remember that no prominent Anglican teacher would have been embarrassed to call himself a “Protestant,” eager to restore the centrality of the Word. Of course, they would have all been just as eager to show how they had in no way failed to uphold the teaching of the Fathers of the ancient Church—they were in every sense not only Protestants but faithful Catholics!
This month, I’m moving on with Luther, who turned to Romans in 1515, after two plus years in the Psalms. Of course, this is where most people assume Luther started. And his Romans commentary is decisive. Like Augustine before him, and like Wesley after him, it was in Paul (and chiefly in Romans and in Galatians, where I’ll be next month) Luther’s fresh discovery of the gospel and his reawakening to grace alone, through faith alone came via his encounter with Paul.
So, for those of you are tracking with me this year, it’s Romans this month, then Galatians, then on to the theses (the 95 and those written for the Heidelberg Disputation, where we find the “theology of the cross,” and the quintessential Freedom of a Christian.
By the way, for those of you interested in reading more broadly in this Reformation anniversary year, check out “Reading the Reformation in 2017” in Christianity Today: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/january-february/reading-reformation-in-2017.html.
Here’s a quick peek at what else I’ll be reading in the month ahead:
In 2013, the Langham Partnership ran an online campaign to encourage people to grow in Christlikeness. “Langham’s vision is that Christians and churches around the world should grow in depth of spiritual maturity, and not just grow in numbers through evangelism.” The impetus for the campaign was the every-morning prayer of Langham Partnership founder, John Stott “that God the Holy Spirit would cause the fruit of the Spirit to ripen in his own life.” The campaign was called “9-A-Day: Becoming Like Jesus.” Now, Christopher J.H. Wright, international ministries director of the Langham Partnership and the author of the seminal book, The Mission of God, has written a delightful little study, Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit: Growing in Christlikeness. This will be my Lenten book this year, alongside Aaron Damiani’s little guide to the season mentioned last month.
In keeping with our Diocesan focus on renewing Anglican worship [see the Instruction on Liturgy, sent to DCH clergy early in February, I’m reading Brian Gerrish’s classic study, Grace and Gratitude: The Eucharistic Theology of John Calvin. In a recent conversation with Ashely Null, the great Cranmer scholar, I asked what he would recommend we have ordinands read to better understand classic Reformation Anglican teaching on the Eucharist (or, as Cranmer preferred, Holy Communion). Ashley said read Cranmer, Hooker, the Belgic Confession, and Calvin. And, I would add, read Gerrish, so you fully appreciate the rich sacramental theology of Calvin, in contrast to the quasi-Zwinglian reading of Calvin so frequently heard.
Finally, I’m finally getting to a chapter in a recent book I’ve been eager to dig into. Many of you have been blessed by the wonderful book by Craig Bartholomew and Robert Goheen, The Drama of Scripture. Rev'd Alan Hawkins now requires as part Redeemer/Greensboro’s new member course. And we require it of all ordinands in DCH. Bartholomew has written a variety of other important and helpful books (including a little set of lectures, Excellent Preaching, which I’m looking at as we consider ways to help our young clergy grow as preachers). Bartholomew recently co-edited (with Heath Thomas) A Manifesto for Theological Interpretation. This month, I’m reading one chapter in that book, co-authored by our own Aubrey Spears: “The Ecclesia as Primary Context for the Reception of the Bible.” Aubrey and colleague Robby Holt remind us that God “address his people primarily on a corporate basis” also addresses us personally. I’m enjoying this invitation to see the different ways of engaging Scripture, especially the clear focus on the difficulty and importance of listening and on the value of section divina. And, with that, I’ve found my theme for the month. We began with Luther, we end with Spears. And in between we’ve turned to Wright on Paul and Gerrish on Calvin. All four, each in his own way, invite us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”