Ranters of Mow Cop

Ranters of Mow Cop

Monday, 14 December 2020

Just out another book review:

Book Review
Evangelicals: Who They Have Been, Are Now, and Could Be
edited by Mark A. Noll, David W. Bebbington, and George M. Marsden, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2019, 336 pp., US$28.99 (pb), ISBN 978–0–8028–7695–9
Greg Smith
Pages 590-592 | Published online: 14 Dec 2020

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Friday, 4 December 2020

Trans-Atlantic Evangelicalism: Toxic, Fragmented or Redeemable? (2020)

  •  my paper just published today as a Temple Tract.

Trans-Atlantic Evangelicalism: Toxic, Fragmented or Redeemable? (2020)
Greg Smith

In the wake of the 2020 US presidential election, Greg Smith investigates the rapidly changing, and often fraught, nature of evangelical identity in both the US and the UK. Drawing on survey data from the Evangelical Alliance, Smith offers a nuanced picture of evangelical self-understanding in relation to British values, moral questions, contemporary politics and our current culture wars. What, asks Smith, is the future for evangelical identity on both sides of the Atlantic?

also out today a review of Chris Wright's new book
review: https://williamtemplefoundation.org.uk/blog-review-here-are-your-gods/

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Friday, 6 November 2020

My latest Book Review

Review of 'Race, Space and Multiculturalism in Northern England' by Shamim Miah, Pete Sanderson and Paul Thomas

6 Nov 2020 https://williamtemplefoundation.org.uk/blog-review-race-space-multiculturalism/

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Friday, 4 September 2020

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Just appeared: My 21st Century Evangelicals Research programme web page

Academic friends and those with an interest in research on evangelicalism in the UK will be pleased to know that (at last) I have archived and put together in a single web page portal all the findings, publication and resources from the 21st Century Evangelicals Research programme on which I worked from 2011 -2016 with you guys.. Do have a browse and bookmark it if it is helpful.

And to summarize the findings on a lighter note

I am the very model of a modern evangelical.

With Apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan

I am the very model of a modern evangelical .

My beliefs and practices may look pretty fundamental

Our worship band is loud though their praise songs are unsingable

I love the word of God but my reading's just occasional

on a smartphone Bible app that my gran finds too technological

My sense of church belonging's increasingly ecumenical

I tend to charismatic and definitely not denominational

I like small groups and all things that simply are relational

My prayers are JUST – a tiny bit liturgical

Outreach to unbelievers is mostly ALPHAbetical

My doctrine of atonement is becoming controversial

and my social justice action's making me look rather radical

around food banks, refugees and the crisis environmental

though I don't need that with eschatology pre-millenial

but I often get confused now the world is multi-cultural

Our love's a hot potato when society's so sexual

though I hope Love wins and salvation's universal

though I fear that saying that will make me quite heretical

While the global church is growing at a speed that's just unmeasurable

and the minorities are bringing us fresh insights theological

while Americans are becoming idolatrously political

and embarrassing we Brits with their label "evangelical"

giving meanings to the E -word that sound like hypocritical

So maybe it is time to ditch the Bebbington quadrilateral

to seek to reinstate the GOOD news in our gospel. 

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Wednesday, 22 April 2020

The figure of the child in contemporary evangelicalism

My book review on The figure of the child in contemporary evangelicalism by Anna Strhan, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2019, 232 pp., £55 (hardback), ISBN 9780198789611
 is just published...   

Greg Smith (2020) The figure of the child in contemporary evangelicalism,
Journal of Beliefs & Values, 41:2, 242-245,
DOI: 10.1080/13617672.2020.1740461

accessible here https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/UCIZRHBJ92YXAHPWWFX4/full?target=10.1080/13617672.2020.1740461

or from here https://btcloud.bt.com/web/app/share/invite/gZq4rPXPnr

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Friday, 3 April 2020

Existential Risk and the Sabbath of the Land

There has yet to be a pandemic that is an existential risk to the human species. In the worst recorded one, the "Black Death" of the 14thC an estimate that about one-third of Europe's population died in the epidemic may be fairly accurate. The population in England in 1400 was perhaps half what it had been 100 years earlier. Even on the most pessimistic modelling and without effective measures to control the spread of infection, the current Covid-19 pandemic will have only minor effects on demography. With mathematical models predicting anything from 20,000 to 250,000 deaths in the UK directly attributable to the virus it is worth remembering that there are approximately 500,000 deaths a year in normal times from a variety of causes (see here for one analysis treating the outcome as no more than a blip in mortality rates). And here for a piece exploring the difficulty of data interpretation. Of course there is a risk that at some time in the future a more cataclysmic pandemic may sweep the globe; and other apocalyptic risks are available, from being struck by an asteroid, washed away by a tsunami, inundated by slowly rising sea levels or the extinction of pollinating insects and subsequent global famine.

For many of us, especially if we operate in the faith, community or small business sector the idea of "risk assessment" is at best a necessary evil, which we undertake grudgingly to stay within the law. At the other extreme insurance companies and epidemiologists have developed a highly abstract science for calculating and mitigating risk. The academic and public health community were fully aware of the risks associated with a viral pandemic for example in documents such as this freely available on the web. With international public health networks in place, and the unprecedented ease of global information sharing it can be argued that national leaders and policy makers should have been better informed, better prepared and quicker to to take appropriate action. However we are where we are, and one can only hope and pray that unprecedented measures will help the global community get back in control of the epidemic in months rather than years.

As individual human beings the vast majority of us are not very good at risk assessment of understanding probabilities. This often results in irrational behaviour, for example in my own minor terror of air travel, despite knowing no other mode of travel results in fewer casualties per passenger mile, while continuing the really dangerous habit of cycling on urban roads. The rumour mill of social media only exaggerates irrational fear, leading during the current pandemic to panic buying of pasta, hand sanistiser and toilet rolls. Nonetheless the Corona virus does present a real risk to every individual, and to those we love and cherish, which is beyond our personal control. For most of us it is a substantial probability of a miserable week or so of sickness, from which we will recover. Across the population we all have a small risk of really nasty virus, and for those of us who are older or suffering from underlying health conditions, poorer or working in the frontline in hospitals, the risk of dying is much increased. Sadly for some of us it will reduce "healthy life years", though in pure rational actuarial terms this will rarely be by more than the 10 or maybe 20 that any of retired folk like me might expect to survive. In the long term, of course we are all dead, and one thing the virus is doing is to make us aware of our own mortality, and even to consider and talk about the reality of death in ways we have been reluctant to do in ordinary time.

One would hope that Christians, especially as we prepare to celebrate Easter – though not in our familiar settings or practices are in a better place to cope than most. For people of faith are those who have taken a punt on the risk that this life is not the end. As people of hope we may be well place to offer significant and sacrificial compassionate service, we may be challenged to a deeper life of prayer yet as this blog from an Arab Christian points out "it is important to ask ourselves as Christians, "how thick is the veneer of our Christianity?" Can our faith withstand the test of fear, chaos and even the threat of death? " Despite attempts by some to tell the world what God is doing through the pandemic there are no easy theodicies – rather as Tom Wright argues it is mainly a season for lament.

From the point of view of governments the major risks can be summarised as loss of control, (or perhaps of the illusion of being in control), and then being held responsible for catastrophic failure of policy. The breakdown of health care systems at the peak of the epidemic, not simply that there will not be enough ventilators in Intensive care wards, but that medical staff will be laid low and the knock on effects for the regular stream of patients needing treatment for heart attacks, stroke or trauma are a nightmare for healthcare managers. Doubly so in the UK where one of the few "sacreds" shared across society is the NHS. The politicians must dread the risk to political and social stability as evidence of their incompetence might lead to panic behaviour, significant unrest and systemic breakdown of governance structures.

Economically the situation has already gone beyond being a risk; it is already a cataclysmic shock to world and national economies. Recovery, particularly in some sectors such as travel and leisure will take many years, if not decades, and within a capitalist framework further austerity, growing inequality and extreme poverty (with associated deterioration of health outcomes) seems inevitable. The emergency policy interventions of recent weeks, which would have seemed inconceivable at the start of the year, may be welcome and essential, but are largely unassessed risks of great magnitude. There is no wonder people are beginning to debate whether the radical international lock-downs are an over-reaction or "Should older Americans die to save the economy?"

The current pandemic is clearly a Kairos moment, when the whole world will need to draw breath and review our fundamental values. When in the light of widespread emerging self mobilisation of supportive community action Boris Johnson is forced to admit that there is indeed such a thing as society we may find hope of a pendulum swing away from neoliberal individualism, where risk is increasingly privatised, towards a politics of the common good. Luke Bretherton examines some of the ethical issues around this in this piece. Alan Rusbridger may be right to suggest that "amid our fear, we're rediscovering utopian hopes of a connected world". As pollution levels and carbon emissions have fallen drastically environmental benefits are already being observed, though we do not know if they will be sustained into the longer term. Despite punditry and predictions the future remains unclear, though there are almost certainly going to be some long term cultural and social transformations.

In the Hebrew Scriptures (2 Chronicles 36:21 ) the account of the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians concludes So the message of the LORD spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the seventy years were fulfilled, just as the prophet had said.

Could perhaps this pandemic period lead to a similar Sabbath effect through which a greater human flourishing, and a respite from the desolation of God's good earth eventually emerge?

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Monday, 16 March 2020

A new book review

My book review on The figure of the child in contemporary evangelicalism by Anna Strhan, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2019, 232 pp., £55 (hardback), ISBN 9780198789611
 is just published...


If the link does not work for you please get in touch and I'll see what I can do to get it to you.

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Tuesday, 11 February 2020

My Latest Temple Blog

Review of 'Looking beyond Brexit' by Graham Tomlin

In the wake of Brexit, Greg Smith reviews Graham Tomlin's call for a more harmonious future. Whilst he approves of the desire for reconciliation, Smith wonders whether Tomlin's book is really up to the task.

Friday, 17 January 2020

my new book review just published

Rock of Ages: Subcultural Religious Identity and Public Opinion among Young Evangelicals

by Jeremiah J. Castle, Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press 2019, 224 pp., US$104.50 (hb), US$ 34.95 (pb), ISBN 978–1–4399–1721–3 (hb), ISBN 978–1–4399–1722–0 (pb)