Southeastern Theological Review

We at Between the Times would like to make you aware of a recent development at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 2010, we launched a new journal, Southeastern Theological Review (STR), which seeks to “facilitate lively and informed conversations on a wide variety of topics of interest to Christians around the globe.” STR is published biannually, and features articles by young and established scholars from inside and outside the United States, including those actively involved in denominational life that extends beyond the Southern Baptist Convention. Further, STR aims to help the church think well and deeply across the theological disciplines: biblical theology, historical theology, systematic theology, philosophical theology, and practical theology. We pray that this approach to theological review will indeed equip the church to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and fulfill the Great Commission. My friend Heath Thomas is the übercompetent editor.

The Winter 2011 volume (vol. 2, no. 2) of STR has now been issued with the theme “Mission, Discipleship, and Hermeneutics.” The contents and contributors are:

“Mission, Discipleship, and Hermeneutics: Introducing the Current Volume” by Heath Thomas, STR Editor (Assistant Professor of Old Testament, SEBTS)

“A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story,” STR Interviews Michael Goheen

“A Review Essay of Michael Goheen, A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story” by Bruce Riley Ashford (Associate Professor of Theology and Culture, SEBTS)

“Theology in Action: Paul, the Poor, and Christian Mission” by Jason B. Hood (Scholar-in-Residence and Director of Christ College residency program)

“How to Do Things with Meaning in Biblical Interpretation” by Richard S. Briggs (Lecturer in OT and Director of Biblical Studies at Cranmer Hall, St. John’s College, Durham)

“Isaiah 6 in Its Context” by Robert L. Cole (Associate Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages, SEBTS)

STR also features several concise, critical book reviews in each issue. Between the Times will keep you updated on the new issues when they come out. But in order to fully appreciate its contents, we invite you to check out the STR website, here, and subscribe to the journal. We think your ministry in and for the church will be encouraged as a result.

Important Announcement from Bruce Ashford

(Administrator’s note: For posterity’s sake, we thought it was a good idea to add a disclaimer that this is an April Fool’s Day joke. We don’t want future readers who may come across this post to conclude otherwise.)

Dear Readers,

Southeastern Seminary has been a key part of my life for about fifteen years. With the exception of a two year stint overseas, I have been a student, professor, and administrator at SEBTS for most of my adult life. It has been a good ride. But like all good things, it must come to an end.

Last week I tendered my resignation to President Akin, effective June 30. Though I love teaching, I have long felt that I am neglecting my primary calling. The Lord has given me a gift, and I can no longer hide it under a bushel. Beginning July 1, I am launching a new ministry called Missional Yodeling. My hope and prayer is that this ministry will help impact one of the unreached and underserved people groups in America-yodelers.

I’ve struggled with this calling for years. For a time I thought about leaving SEBTS to become a gospel mime, but the Holy Spirit simply refused to move through my fingers. It’s all the same; when I met with my pastor, J. D. Greear, he advised me not to go the miming route because “mimes are creepy.” Frankly, I think the advice says more about J. D.’s neuroses than the practice of miming itself, but I usually take my pastor’s advice. I also batted around the idea of asking Alvin Reid if I could travel around with him and play the electric organ in his worship band, but figured he’d tell me that would be too much like a comeback of the 1950s SBC for his tastes.

Most of my Between the Times colleagues have taken the news pretty well. Dr. Akin was disappointed, but he confided that he too has the spiritual gift of yodeling and wrestles with the same calling. (I already suspected this-yodelers can sense the gift in others.) Ed Stetzer asked if I’d coauthor a pair of books with him on Missional Yodeling and Comeback Yodeling. David Nelson told me that yodeling was fine for evangelistic purposes, but I shouldn’t do it in a worship service because it would remind some worshipers of being in the Switzerland section at Epcot Center. Ken Keathley warned me that some would mock my gift, but I shouldn’t shrink back because God has sovereignly willed a world where I would freely choose to become a yodeler. Nathan Finn said he really wasn’t that surprised with my decision, though he did make some crack about lederhosen and Ricola. Then he asked if he could have all my books, since “yodelers are like recreation ministers and don’t need any books.”

I covet your prayers as I transition to this strategic, Great Commission ministry. For those of you who, like my wife and parents, are worried that I will not be able to support my family during this transition, please know that I do have a back-up plan. I have a standing offer from Heidi and the Yodelers to join their crime-fighting team if my ministry falls through.

If any of you would like to have me come and talk about Missional Yodeling at your church, small group, or Kiwanis Club, just leave a comment on this post.

Sincerely,

Bruce Riley Ashford

An Obsession with Power and Control

Mugabe: Power, Plunder, and the Struggle for Zimbabwe

Reviewed By: Bruce Riley Ashford

Martin Meredith’s Mugabe: Power, Plunder, and the Struggle for Zimbabwe is not a book for the faint of heart. It is an account of Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence, the (culturally Christian) Mugabe’s rise to power, and his metamorphosis from responsible revolutionary into brutal dictator willing to slaughter his own people, including friends and associates.

Mugabe was born the son of a village carpenter. He was educated and raised by Jesuits at a mission station in Zvimba, where he was known as a quiet boy who loved books and learning. Eventually, he earned multiple degrees in law and economics. He became a political revolutionary, spent time in prison, and soon took control of the Zanu-PF revolutionary movement and became President of Zimbabwe (formerly known as Rhodesia).

In his first television appearances after winning the election he seemed to be a model of moderation and stability. However, he became increasingly obsessed with power and total control: “Mugabe’s ultimate objective, Meredith writes, “was to destroy all opposition to his regime. Determined to remain in power, he used all the resources of the government to attack his opponents, sanctioning murder, torture, and lawlessness of every kind.” He was surrounded by syncophants and therefore knew few restraints. He attacked not only the whites (who he claimed were causing the downfall of the country) but also his own people and even his lieutenants and former friends.

Examples abound of Mugabe’s brutality. One of the author’s examples is Mugabe’s formation of the “5th Brigade,” a police force trained by the North Koreans and commissioned to bring terror upon his rivals, killing at least 10,000 civilians as well as arresting, detaining, and torturing thousands of others. One of his enforcers, Chiyangwa, was filmed by a television crew giving the following instructions: “If you get hold of MDC supporters, beat them until they are dead. Burn their farms and their workers’ houses, then run away fast and we will blame the burning of the workers’ houses on the white. Report to the police, because they are ours.” Mugabe was so proud of his record that, in 2000, he boasted of having a “degree in violence.” “We will kill those snakes among us, we will smash them completely,” Mugabe declared. “No matter what force you have, this is my territory and that which is mine I cling [to] unto death.

In addition to brutality, Mugabe ushered in an era of unprecedented corruption. Meredith writes, “Whatever good intentions he started out with-plans for improved education and health facilities-soon diminished in importance. For all his talk of striving for socialism, Mugabe never displayed much concern for the welfare of common people. The main beneficiaries of independence, all too clearly, were Zanu-PF’s ruling elite.” In spite of his initial promise of a better life for ordinary citizens, those citizens were much worse off during his reign than in the colonial days that preceeded.

Mugabe’s rule has been marked by a widening gap between the rich (the elite of his ruling party) and the poor, a failure to manage the public sector, and the battering of any opposition. “The cost of this strategy,” writes Meredith, “has been enormous. Zimbabwe has been reduced to a bankrupt and impoverished state, threatened by economic collapse and catastrophic food shortages.

In reflecting on this book and the lessons to be learned from its story, I am reminded once again of the deep and pervasive effects of the Fall. Here is Robert Mugabe, one of God’s image-bearers, who found it acceptable to torture and slaughter countless of his own people, including friends, and accrue all of the benefits of his rule for himself and his lieutenants. Throughout the book, one sees the effects of Mugabe’s idolatry on every aspect of his being (spiritual, moral, relational, rational, creative, etc.) and in every realm of the society over which he ruled.

The story also offers a lesson on citizenship. Meredith’s greatest literary triumph was his ability to show the thread of hope that is woven into Zimbabwe’s otherwise horrific recent history. Time and again, he showed the resilient spirit of the citizens of that country with the implication that we can, and ought to, learn from their example of citizenship. We can learn from the tireless efforts of the various opposition parties, the bravery of individual citizens who risked their lives every time they cast a vote against Mugabe, and the determination of the high court to reprimand Mugabe every time he flouted the rule of law. Such citizenship is part of our calling from God.

Finally, I am struck by how the gospel narrative puts Zimbabwe’s national narrative in perspective. What we are able to add to Meredith’s account is that (1) it should be made clear that although Mugabe was a man immersed in religion, he was never changed by the gospel; (2) even if the people of Zimbabwe never find even a modicum of justice or peace on this earth, the gospel extends an invitation for them to become citizens of another city, where justice and peace abound; and (3) it is the responsibility of God’s people, including the ones reading this blogpost, to take this good news to those in Zimbabwe who have never heard it.

This series of posts deals with the global context in its many dimensions-historical, social, cultural, political, economic, and religious. We will provide book notices, book reviews, and brief essays on these topics. We hope that you will find this series helpful as you live and bear witness in a complex and increasingly hyper-connected world.

Book: Mugabe (2007)

Author: Martin Meredith

Region: Africa (Zimbabwe)

Genre: Current Affairs

Length: 272 pp.

Difficulty: Intermediate