Meet the Author: Our Q&A with Jeff Brown

We sat down for a chat with Jeff Brown, author of Corporate Decision-Making in the Church of the New Testament. In addition to discussing his book, Jeff also touched upon his writing process, influences, and future projects.

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1. What inspired you to write Corporate Decision-Making in the Church of the New Testament?

The book is normally listed in the area of New Testament, but I wrote it as a dissertation for my degree in Systematic Theology. I have had an interest in Church Order since my seminary days. The idea that church members should be involved in decision-making, and not just several leaders or simply the hierarchy has always made sense to me. It seemed to me, as well, that the New Testament described this. So I began the project with an idea I thought was likely true, and wanted to see if it would prove out. It is a lot like trying to prove an hypothesis in the realm of the Natural Sciences.

I had a second motivation: if we find out exactly what the New Testament has to say about group decision-making in the church, it will help toward a healthy church order today, regardless of one’s denomination.

 

2. What does your writing typical process consist of?

Of all that I have published, two books have been academic. Usually, what I write is on a non-academic level. But in this case, I will have to answer about academic writing. Standard dissertation form tends to kill everyone’s interest from the start. So I tried to do some rewriting to make my book more interesting. I see the book as an exercise in Systematic Theology. In my first year of seminary, I was fascinated with my theology courses, and learned that all good theology is based on good Scriptural exegesis, and compared with Historical Theology. Secondly, one needs to interact with a range of theological viewpoints to be credible in one’s statements. So that is how I approached my topic. I pursued every lead I could that had a bearing on any of my arguments. I had to be willing to listen to those who contradicted my basic views as well.

As I began my research, I became aware of the need to add the Social World of the New Testament, which was the environment in which the order of churches arose. I think that by the approach I have used: 1) attention to the Social World of the New Testament, 2) consideration of theological concepts associated with the subject, 3) thorough exegesis, 4) comparison with early church history, and 5) interaction with a range of theological viewpoints, one can come up with credible theology.

 

3. In layman’s terms, what are the main ideas that Corporate Decision-Making in the Church of the New Testament explores?

Thanks for framing the question this way. Theologians tend to use jargon and complicated sentences. My book demonstrates that according to the New Testament, entire congregations took part in some church decisions: from choosing leaders to determining church doctrine. At other times, specific groups made decisions by themselves. The reasons for the decisions and who made them are understandable from the various historical events. In my conclusions I recommend that churches today use the same practices.

 

4. Which writers or academics do you think have had the greatest impact on you and why?

I have to begin with my professors in my undergraduate studies in Biology and Chemistry. Their instruction forced me into academic discipline, and I learned the scientific process well. I am sure it guides my writing to this day. Mortimer Adler’s book, How to Read a Book, had a significant impact on my thinking when I was a seminary student. It teaches the reader how to develop critical thinking skills, and what books are vital for intellectual life. I was also influenced by Augustus Hopkins Strong’s Systematic Theology. I was impressed by how he put his theology together using biblical exegesis, theologians from a broad spectrum, church history, philosophy, and even the poets. Of course, it is dated, and I have since used other, newer works more heavily. But his volume was and is an intellectual challenge. People usually blink when I tell them I have read it three times. Calvin’s Institutes have had a significant impact on my theology and my thinking. My copy is well-marked. The truth is, whether people praise Calvin or denounce him, if they are Protestants and preachers, they are all more influenced by Calvin’s Institutes than they could imagine. I should also mention two professors who challenged me during my theology and doctoral studies. Rolland McCune and Kevin Bauder.

 

5. Who do you think the book will appeal most to?

My book is intended, first of all, for those who are interested in the subject of Church Polity. But I hope to interest those who haven’t pursued the subject, because all church leaders need to be knowledgeable in it. It is an academic book, so it will not appeal to the average reader. Still, my brother, who did not study theology and never took a Greek or Hebrew course in his life, was interested and read it all the way through.

 

6. What are the most obscure notions the book explores?

Most people would not be familiar with a phenomenon in the Roman Empire called “Voluntary Societies”. These societies would be comparable today to various private social organizations: cultural, ethnic, academic, athletic, etc. Voluntary Societies mimicked the political structure of the democratic Greek city. They were normally small (rarely more than 200 members), and brought people of different social status, even slaves, together. They were quite widespread in the Empire during the early days of the Church of the New Testament. In the last few decades, scholars have begun to pay attention to the influence of Voluntary Societies on the Church itself.

 

7. Who are your favourite authors (at any stage of life / career)?

That one is hard to limit. I will try: Cicero, Mark Twain, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Martin Luther, John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, W.G.T. Shedd, F.F. Bruce, Helmut Thielicke, Stanley Jaki, Michael Polyani, Daniel Berlinski. I have begun reading the Puritans, and really appreciate them.

 

8. How has your research developed since the publication of Corporate Decision-Making in the Church of the New Testament in 2014 and have there been any recent developments in the subject or in your thoughts and ideas on the subject?

I haven’t really been able to pursue recent developments in this field since my book was published in 2013. I have had to pour nearly all my energies into our church here in Nuremberg and into the Lay Bible Institute we began seven years ago. I have noticed, however, that my book has been used in academic articles and two other books on church polity. Most books on Church Order have not devoted an entire section to the impact of the New Testament world on Christian church polity. I think this has been intriguing to some who have looked at my book.

 

9. Do you have any future books or research projects lined up for the future? Please tell us about these.

Yes, I have written a short commentary on the Book of Acts in the German language. It is with a German publisher, and should be out in the next six months. In addition, another pastor that I mentored and I have come up with a hermeneutics course for the average Bible-reader (without theological training). It includes both an instructor’s and a participant’s handbook. We are talking now with a German publisher for the course. I am also nearly finished with a manuscript in German on the subject of the Kingdom of God. Most works on this theme begin with the Gospels. In Acts 28, you find that the Apostle Paul began the subject with the Pentateuch (Acts 28:23). The Kingdom of God has its own story in Scripture, really. If you pay attention to it, you understand that Christ is intensively at work now: regardless of belief or unbelief. I am trying to follow Paul’s lead. A fourth project I have is the same subject, on a popular level in the English language. It will take a while. I am writing it for my two daughters, but I will of course look for a publisher.

 

10. Alongside having taking a diverse interest in the world of academia, we would be delighted to learn about any additional projects or hobbies!

I enjoy vegetable gardening. I love hiking in the mountains of southern Germany. I used to play basketball, but I stopped a few years ago, since I could not keep up with the 20-year-olds! I enjoy asking religious opinions and talking about my faith in Christ in the pedestrian zone of our city. People are very often willing to talk, and you can learn a great deal about what people really think about God by doing that.

 

Corporate Decision Making 9780227174692

 

Corporate Decision-Making in the Church of the New Testament is available now.

 

The London School of Theology to host book launch for Tim Carter’s ‘The Forgiveness of Sins’

James Clarke & C0 are delighted to announce that on Wednesday 9th November, the London School of Theology will open its doors to The Forgiveness of Sins by Tim Carter, one of the most highly anticipated books this year.

The launch will feature talks from author Tim Carter, alongside Dr. Graham Twelftree of The London School of Theology, William Atkinson Senior Lecturer at the London School of Theology and Adrian Brink, Managing Director of James Clarke & Co./ The Lutterworth Press.

If you are interested in attending the launch of Dr Carter’s book, talks and signings, complete with tea and cakes at LST, please confirm your attendance before 9th November to ruwani@lst.ac.uk.

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In The Forgiveness of Sins, Tim Carter examines the significance of forgiveness in a New Testament context, delving deep into second-century Christian literature on sin and the role of the early church in mitigating it. This crucial spiritual issue is at the core of what it means to be Christian, and Carter’s thorough and erudite examination of this theme is a necessity for any professional or amateur scholar of the early church.

His far-reaching analysis begins with St Luke, who is often accused of weakness on the subject of atonement, but who in fact uses the phrase “forgiveness of sins” more frequently than any other New Testament author. Carter explores patristic writers both heterodox and orthodox, such as Marcion, Justin Martyr and Origen. He also deepens our understanding of Second Temple Judaism and the theological context in which Christian ideas about atonement developed. Useful to both the academic and the pastoral theologian, The Forgiveness of Sins is a painstaking, clear-eyed exploration of what forgiveness meant not only to early Christians such as Tertullian, Irenaeus and Luke, but to Jesus himself, and what it means to Christians today.

Some recent praise for the book includes:

“This is an important book. After all, it deals with a matter that, for any Christian, is of eternal significance. And it does so with great care: it is well researched and persuasively argued. The end product is rich in detail and well worth reading. I commend it.”
William Atkinson, Senior Lecturer, London School of Theology

“This book is a remarkable achievement. Tim Carter has taken a fresh look at a vital issue at the heart of the Christian faith. His work is both thoroughly scholarly, showing great command of the source material, and fully accessible. The key matters are all addressed by drawing on the Hebrew Bible, other Jewish material, the New Testament and the writings of the early church, making appropriate use of some helpful innovative methods. The result is a thorough account of a significant doctrine, one which models an approach to thinking biblically about an important theological and pastoral question; it will be read with great profit by anyone who wants to understand what is meant by the forgiveness of sins and to reflect in greater depth on its implications.”
Stephen Finamore, Principal of Bristol Baptist College

9780227176054_cover Forgiveness.indd
For more information about the author, extracts and reviews, click through here!

“Relevant” Exegesis

A wonderfully positive review from Larry Hurtado of one of our most recent titles: A Relevant Way to Read by Margaret G. Sim.

Larry Hurtado's Blog

In a recent book, Margaret Sim lays out an approach to exegesis of the Greek NT that draws upon the insights of linguistics, especially what is known as “relevance theory”:  A Relevant Way to Read:  A New Approach to Exegesis and Communication (Cambridge:  James Clarke, 2016).

Sim is herself an expert in linguistics and completed her PhD here with a fine work that likewise applied “relevance theory.”  The published form = Marking Thought and Talk in New Testament Greek:  New Light from Linguistics on the Particles ἱνα and  ὁτι (James Clark, 2011).  In her more recent book, Sim widens the scope to address verbal irony (and how to detect it), several “small words” such as those addressed in her earlier book, conditional sentences, and several other matters, one of them being “verbal aspect.”

The first couple of chapters lay out in simple terms what “relevance theory” is in linguistics, and how it offers…

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A Relevant Way to Read

“Margaret Sim shows how one of the leading theories of pragmatics – Relevance Theory – provides a comprehensive and enlightening account of how we communicate, and applies this rigorously to the New Testament. Her exposition shows how focusing on the communicative functions of words sheds light on many exegetical controversies involving issues such as how to identify irony, the flexibility of connectives, and the various uses of conditional sentences. The book is written in a clear and jargon-free manner that will make it accessible to advanced students of biblical studies and established biblical scholars with little or no prior exposure to linguistics and pragmatics.”
Steve Nicolle, Assistant Professor, Canada Institute of Linguistics,
Trinity Western University, Canada

Relevant Way to Read_9780227174425

A Relevant Way to Read: A New Approach to Exegesis and Communication
By Margaret G. Sim
ISBN: 9780227174425

A Relevant Way to Read, is one of our newer titles, a rigourously developed exegesis of the Gospels and Paul’s letters. Margaret G. Sim utlisises her indepth knowledge of New Testament Greek to bring us this inciteful and enlightening book. The book provides a clear and straightforward exploration of Relevance Theory in relation to an exegesis of the New Testament creating an new and deeper interpretation of the text.

For extracts, reviews and to order the book check our website here.

Margaret G. Sim works as a translation consultant for Wycliffe Bible Translators and is a learned academic who has lectured for many years in Biblical Studies and Translation at the Africa International University. She has also written another work, drawing on her extensive knowledge: Marking Thought and Talk in New Testament Greek is a focused linguistics study of the particle 'hina' in New Testament Greek. It is also available on our website here.

 

Review! They Who Give From Evil

They who give from Evil 9780227173985
Click on the image for extracts, more information and how to buy!

They Who Give From Evil

The Response of the Eastern Church to Moneylending in the Early Christian Era

by Brenda Llewellyn Ihssen

ISBN: 9780227173985

“As a work in patristics, Ihssen’s monograph completes necessary spadework about one aspect of the social teaching of two major Eastern church thinkers. As a guide to social response for Christians today, Ihssen makes a further down-payment on a valuable and difficult project—to discover what sort of economy a self-consciously Christian civilization barely free of the era of the New Testament church did adopt or cerate once free of persecution.”
Timothy Patitsas, Journal of Theological Studies, Volume 65, No 2, October 2014

 

Free Chapter Available! history of the catholic church – new testament

Corporate Decision Making 9780227174692Corporate Decision-Making in the Church of the New Testament

 

by Jeff Brown

 

ISBN: 9780227174692

 

A social-historical examination of the decision-making processes within the early church as depicted in the New Testament, emphasising the two-way interaction between the leadership and their congregations.

 

Chapter 1: Historical Background:
Historians have debated the original order of the church for centuries,but none question that it developed significantly during its first six hundredyears. By the time of the division of Christendom into East and West, churchorder was well established, including a separate class of clergy (priests), variousorders of ministry, regional bishops, councils, and (at least in the West)a pope. During the Middle Ages, church order became more complex andsophisticated. The Pseudo-Dionysian writings exercised a pro… A free download of this chapter is available on our website, click here!

Review! The Question of John the Baptist and Jesus’ Indictment of the Religious Leaders

Question of John the Baptist 9780227680117
Click on the image for extracts, more information and how to buy!

The Question of John the Baptist and Jesus’ Indictment of the Religious Leaders

A Critical Analysis of Luke 7:18–35

by Roberto Martínez

ISBN: 9780227680117

“…this study is probably the only monograph about the important text Luke 7:18-35.”

Michael Hölscher, Department of Catholic Theology, University of Graz, in The Expository Times, Vol 125, No 9, June 2014

Review! Reading Revelation: A Thematic Approach

Reading Revelation
Click on the image for extracts, more information and how to buy!

Reading Revelation

A Thematic Approach

by W. Gordon Campbell

ISBN: 9780227173831

“[Reading Revelation] offers fresh understandings of Revelation. Its copious endnotes, rich bibliography, indexes of Revelation passages, other biblical references, ancient Greco-Roman literature, and themes enable the reader to cross-check the meanings of a specific text or a vision or an event. Readers will find this carefully researched work enlightening and rewarding.”

Daniel Jeyaraj, Liverpool Hope University, in Theological Book Review (tbr), Vol. 25, No.1, 2013

Review! The Letters of Paul as Rituals of Worship

Letters of Paul
Click on the image for extracts, more information and how to buy!

The Letters of Paul as Rituals of Worship

by John Paul Heil

ISBN: 9780227680070

“Heil reads through the corpus and looks for such passages and motifs that deal or are connected with aspects of a Christian gathering, above all, such formulas that express Paul’s sense for prayer and worship. […] This is a successful attempt at reading the letters of Paul with an eye on what must have been their first impact – their first reception. And that impact must have been impressive, in any case sufficient to have the communities preserve the letters, have them circulate, and at one point even have them receive non-Pauline copies”.

J. Verheyden, in Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, Vol. 89, No.4, 2013

Review! They Who Give From Evil

They who give from Evil 9780227173985
Click on the image for extracts, more information and how to buy!

They Who Give From Evil

The Response of the Eastern Church to Moneylending in the Early Christian Era

by Brenda Llewellyn Ihssen

ISBN: 9780227173985

“Ihssen is able to shed fascinating insight on Roman life and illustrate the rich social justice theologies of the patristic world.”

Theological Book Review (tbr), Vol 25, No 2, 2013