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The political use of the Bible in Early Modern Britain
Dr Gai Ferdon, April 2013
"..Why should twenty-first century Christians take the time and effort to learn about how seventeenth-century Protestants thought about politics?..."
from the foreword by John Coffey, Professor of Early Modern History and Cambridge Papers writer. He continues:
"... I can think of three reasons. First, it is a means of resourcement. In the contemporary climate, Christians are strongly tempted to follow secular ideologies and neglect the resources of their tradition. .....And while reflecting on the political thought of previous generations of Christians can be taxing, there is no better way to enlarge our reference group and learn from the wisdom (and folly) of past generations. ..... Ferdon's paper does just that, convening an animated and rather fractious seminar in which we hear some powerful and utterly distinctive voices: Sir Robert Filmer, John Milton, James Harrington, John Lilburne.
A second reason to look to the past is that there are certain perennial issues and tendencies in Christian political thought. We still find ourselves divided over questions of political power - Who holds it? Where does it originate? To whom are the powerful accountable? How can they be removed from power? ..... Understanding the past helps us to make sense of our present.
Finally, this study gets us to wrestle with the problem of biblical hermeneutics. We see how different factions in the English Revolution turned to different parts of Scripture as they sought to answer fundamental issues about power. ..... This study shows that there are no easy answers when it comes to reading the Bible politically, and it ought to make us more self-critical in our own hermeneutics. Yet we also find evidence of deep and serious engagement with the Bible, and see how the reflecting on the Old and New Testaments was once an integral part of European political thinking. Reading the Bible with the dead can be a valuable exercise. It highlights strands of Scripture that we may have neglected, and suggests levels of meaning that we may never have encountered. Past thinkers cannot do our thinking for us. But by reading them, we will learn to think more carefully and more deeply about politics. In the light of current controversies over religion in the public square, this could hardly be more necessary."
Word as talisman - on the utopianism of the Jubilee Centre
James Williams, March 2013
"I have heard several people say, for example, that the work of the Jubilee Centre is 'utopian'."
In this enjoyably well-written paper, James Williams questions why people might use such a word and to what end. He looks at historical and recent views of 'perfect societies' and considers both the writers' motivations and their solutions. Some considered that the answer was to create separate societies by withdrawing (such as the Anabaptists or the more recent Branch Davidians) or by seeking their vision in the New World. Others wished to reform existing but corrupt polities. Was Milton right, he asks, when he criticised such efforts as a distraction from real world social reform?
This paper compares broad political ideas where right criticises left for being utopian and vice versa. James Williams, as he highlights Karl Popper's critique of Marxism, enjoys the irony that Marxism itself was prompted in response to what Marx and Engels described as 'utopian socialism'.
So, is the work of Jubilee Centre 'utopian'? James Williams reviews the practical outcomes of much of Jubilee Centre's work (and that of its associated charities) and also what he calls the more theoretical publication output and observes:
"The reliance of the Jubilee Centre on modern applications of Old Testament Law is central to its whole endeavour...... [T]heir approach to the Law sees it as a paradigm, not a blueprint. This rules out the ('utopian'?) extreme position of theonomists, or Reconstructionists, who wish to implement the Law as statute today. By looking at institutional norms and relationships within Israelite society the Jubilee Centre also avoids the ('utopian'?) sole reliance on 'Kingdom Ethics' (beloved of the Christian Left) as a guide to the activity of unbelievers and secular governments."
"for [Jubilee Centre's] mandate rests on their belief that the Bible does speak to the ordering of societies and that Christians should heed that and work to improve the flawed structures around them and to ameliorate the effects of sin."
The Family and Sexual Ethics: Christian Foundations and Public Values
Sally Bertlin (Editor), February 2013
'The Family and Sexual Ethics: Christian Foundations and Public Values' was an international conference held in Hong Kong in May 2011, organised by the Hong Kong Baptist University and the Jubilee Centre.
In recent years there has been a growing international interest and concern about the pressures of the environment and the consequences of this for the long-term survival of the planet. However, relatively little attention has been paid to the breakdown of the family and its consequences for the ecology of the planet. Family breakdown is being driven partly by divorce and partly by today's sexual ethics, which then impact on rates of family formation and disintegration.
On the strength of Jubilee Centre's sexual ethics work over recent years, we mobilised a team of scholars, including Jonathan Burnside, Jeremy Ive, Dale Kuehne, Jennifer Roback Morse and Michael Schluter, who presented papers together with a group of Chinese academics.
This report is a collection of ten short papers from the conference, each under two pages long to ensure as wide a readership as possible.
Cambridge Papers Open Day Proceedings 2009
Jubilee Centre, May 2009
Summaries of the plenary by Dr Paul Mills, The Economic Crisis: A Biblical Diagnosis and Foundation, and optional seminars at the Cambridge Papers Open Day held on 4 May 2009.
Titles of the seminars were Transhumanism: Enhancing Humans or a New Creation?, Liberation Theology: an Historian's Perspective, A Christian University?, Anti-Christian Law and Christian Citizenship, The Relational Company, Responding to a Post-Modern World, and Twentieth Century Painting: The Window as Closed?
Eight questions of faith about Sundays
Michael Schluter, January 1990
In this short paper, Michael Schluter answers the following eight questions:
1. Why is Sunday different from the Old Testament Sabbath?
2. How did Jesus use His Sabbaths?
3. Did the apostles keep Sunday special?
4. What can we learn from OT Sabbath teaching?
5. Is legalism still a threat today?
6. Does God mind how we use our Sundays?
7. What are some practical tips on how to use our Sundays?
8. Could the Sunday issue be an instrument of revival in Britain?