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Thinking theologically about faith, church & culture

Have we been this way before?

Have we been this way before?

By on Mar 17, 2020 in Blog |

These are confusing times. None of us have encountered anything like this Covid-19 pandemic before. The scope and impact of what is going on is disorientating and confusing. Has the church experienced anything like this before? Has the church been through times that are equally difficult and come out well? This article is written to tell of the church’s response in a time far more apocalyptic than ours. This response during a time of empire-wide crisis played a significant role in the amazing growth and increased impact of early Christianity. In 165AD and in 250AD there were 2 significant plagues across the Roman empire. The nature of these plagues was utterly devasting, estimates are that between a third and a quarter of the Roman empire died, in Rome suggestions are that it was 5000 per day. Whole villages and towns were emptied. They were emptied firstly because many were sick and died, but also because those who were healthy deserted to save getting the plague themselves. Rodney Stark describes this in his book “The Rise of Christianity”. He is not a Christian at the time of writing, but he is seeking to answer the question from a sociological perspective of how this small group of Jesus followers became the dominant force in the Roman empire in just over 300 years. So dominant that it was a possible (even advantageous) move for the Emperor, Constantine, to declare himself, and the empire, Christian. He explains that the Christian response to the plague was part of the growth of the movement. Here is a summary of his 2 key reasons why Christianity grew over the period: Firstly, Christianity had a much better account for why such calamities fall on humanity, and projected hope for the future in the midst of it. The pagan religions blame the gods, the philosophers blame natural law, the science had no cure, none of them had a coherent explanation of how to make sense of the world or what to do in response. Christianity conversely was able to offer hope, a coherent story, comfort and even guidance for action. They offered hope because of providing an eternal perspective to life, hope beyond the grave, hope of a...

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KST is Recruiting! Two Roles: Operations & Academics

By on Feb 10, 2020 in Blog |

Staff changes at KST have opened up new opportunities to get involved. We are recruiting two part-time roles: Part-time Operations role to enable the smooth running of KST in all its aspects. Part-time Academic Management role to oversee the planning and delivery of our theology programme. These are 12 month contracts in the first instance, to cover maternity leave. Do you now someone who would like to be part of the KST team delivering excellent and life transforming theological education to people from across the UK? Below are the job adverts, and a job description is available on request. If you are interested, or know someone who is tell them to get in contact with us! 2020-01 KST Course Administrator and Academic Manager advert Note: There is a Genuine Occupational Requirement for the job holder to be a practicing Christian. A vibrant and active Christian faith is essential for the credibility and performance of this...

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Study Theology? That couldn’t be for me – could it?

By on Jul 4, 2017 in Blog |

Some thoughts from Zoe Barr, KST graduate:   CS Lewis the famous author and theologian is quoted as saying “If you don’t listen to theology, that won’t mean you have no ideas about God, it will mean you have a lot of wrong ones”.  Growing up in a Christian family and being in church my entire life has been a huge blessing to me in my own faith. However, even some years into my faith I have found myself looking for a deeper understanding of God and some tools to tackle some of the more difficult questions that life throws at us. In 2013, I heard about Kings School of Theology (KST), a part time theology course run by the Salt and Light Network which Life Church is a part of. “The courses are aimed at those who want to deepen their Christian faith through study, lead with more depth, think with more clarity, serve with greater purpose, and know more of God. Courses last for three years and combine five teaching weekends per year, local mentoring and personal study facilitated through an online forum. Teaching weekends take place in centres around the Midlands (e.g. Derby, Oxford) and low-cost accommodation can be provided. KST is an affordable option for those who want to grow in their Christian faith through study.” (KST website) When you enrol on KST you are given the option to pick a particular bias to your study and these include Biblical Studies, Transforming Mission or Worship and Spirituality. This means you can tailor your learning to your interests or things you’d like to grow in. I chose the Transforming Mission track and I had the opportunity to learn about how Christians can engage with culture, transform communities, and make disciples. We spent time looking at the challenges of communicating the gospel in our current culture. Following this track helped keep my learning closely linked to a practical application rather than just learning for learning’s sake. Studying theology led me to ask a lot of questions about things I’d often avoided thinking about! Initially this questioning felt uncomfortable, something to be endured, tolerated at best. However, one of the things God has been teaching me is to...

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Introduction to Bibles

By on Jul 2, 2016 in Blog |

Introduction to Bibles Choosing a good study bible is critical, but not necessarily that easy. There are so many translations and study editions on the market today it is easy to get confused as to whether you are making a wise choice, so here are some tips to help you: Choose the translation carefully – ensure that the translation is offering a reliable interpretation of the original texts. Throughout the course, the translation we will be using most often is the New International Version (NIV). A list of other available translations is available here. A summary of potential strengths of the English Standard Version (ESV) is available in this free book by Kevin DeYoung. Look for thorough introductions to each book – this should tell you about the author, when the book was written, where it was written and why. It should also outline any key themes and give you a structure for the book. Look for detailed verse notes – these shouldn’t be focussed on providing inspirational thoughts for your devotional life, rather on helping you to understand the text. Are there key historical events that these verses relates to, cross references to other scriptures, explanation of important words; these will all help you to gain a deeper understanding of the passage. Reference tables & maps – good study bibles will have plenty of additional study aids such as maps of important areas, illustrations of key places (such as the temple, or city of Jerusalem), maps of the geographic area in question. Tables which lay out information to aid your understanding such as weights & measures or which parables feature in which gospels will also help enormously. Concordance & Indices – allowing you to quickly search for key themes or important words will aid your study & interpretation, a good study bible will include a good section for these (probably at the back). The NIV Study Bible certainly ticks these boxes, which is why we are happy to recommend it as a good option for anyone studying at KST. If you are looking to purchase a study Bible, both of the bibles referenced within the course (NIV Study Bible & ESV Study Bible) are available for around £24-£34...

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“Are we there?”

“Are we there?”

By on Sep 9, 2014 in Blog |

Are we nearly there yet? Many journeys this holiday season have been peppered not with the classic, “are we nearly there yet?” but with my 4 year olds favourite, “Are we there?” As we hurtle at speed down the road I like to reply, “Yep, here we are. Everybody out!” In that moment in the seventh minute of a seven hour car journey I’m faced with a choice. I can– like many parents – either dread the next four hundred and thirteen minutes longing to be at our final destination or I can cherish the multiple toilet stops, myriad packets of sweets, innumerable Jacobs cream cracker crumbs scattered throughout the car, dispersion of fruit and banana skins I will later find, countless rounds of iSpy, who am I? and our family favourite ‘ketchup car’ (rules below*). Do we cherish the journey or long only for the destination? Do we wish this life away and long only for the new heaven and new earth? Or conversely do we think only of this life and the race marked out before us without ever glimpsing the prize? Hebrews 12:1-3 calls us to fix our eyes on Jesus and to run with perseverance not growing weary or losing heart. The word perseverance (hypomonē) can be translated as patience, endurance, steadfastness and constancy. Admittedly none of these sound like much fun but they do sound good for me. And there does seem to be a balance – the need to run the race and to know to where we are running. The classic Christian phrase “in the world but not of it” carries the sentiment that we should get out of here as quickly, unscathed, unaffected and as well as we can. It feels like the ‘in the world’ is a melancholy realisation requiring a feat of endurance to make it through, and then one glorious day to leave. In John 17:14-19 we see the opposite. Jesus says that the starting point is ‘we are not of this world’. The truth of being set apart, belonging to a different kingdom is not the ultimate goal, it is the believing disciples now reality. So what does Jesus make of the ‘in the world’ bit? He...

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What is the fire for?

What is the fire for?

By on May 26, 2014 in Blog | 1 comment

Are Charismatics and Cessationists both missing something about the Holy Spirit? I tend to stay clear of public theological controversies in the media, particularly those centred on the other side of the Atlantic, but even I couldn’t avoid reading about the Strange Fire conference hosted by John MacArthur towards the end of last year and its aftermath. MacArthur’s basic thesis is that the rise in charismatic manifestations in certain sections of the church is unbiblical, divisive and at worst, a huge deception. The relative merits of the theological positions have been well rehearsed elsewhere (for example here). As a card-carrying charismatic since the age of seventeen (despite being in a cessation-preaching church at the time), I have had little time for the debate. Ever since reading Jack Deere’s Surprised by the Holy Spirit my experience became married to a robust theology of the gifts of the Spirit in the present age. Sure, as Deere points out, there are charismatic abuses and excesses and some strange stuff at times; I personally find the cultural associations between charismatic worship and individualistic need-fulfilment and prosperity Gospel rather disturbing. However, I am convinced that the cessationist case is more founded in experience, or perhaps lack of it, rather than consistent exegesis of the relevant texts. Mind you, there can be some pretty strange practices in non-charismatic worship as well; people wearing vestments and funny headgear performing elaborate ceremonies at altars has always struck me as looking pretty odd, particularly in the light of the New Testament. It is a legitimate question to ask which is more odd: someone prostrating themselves on the floor under the anointing of the Holy Spirit (with or without accompanying noises), or someone bowing whilst wearing an ornate flame-shaped hat symbolising the anointing of the Holy Spirit? So it is easy to dismiss MacArthur as sincere and well intentioned, with a concern for right doctrine and a care that God’s people are not misled, but nevertheless wrong on the gifts of the Spirit.  It is also easy to dismiss the ballyhoo surrounding Mark Driscoll’s flash-strike on the conference as more to do with North American hubris and publicity for his book, rather than contributing anything meaningful to a theological...

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