Editor’s Intro to “Death and Resurrection” Issue of Didaskalia

Unfortunately, the upcoming issue of Didaskalia has been held up in production.  However, it sounds like it will soon finally make its appearance.  In anticipation of its appearance, I thought I would share my editor’s introduction to the issue.  We are once again making this issue available at the special rate of $5 for those within Canada and $10 for those in other countries.  See prov.ca/didaskalia for more information.

The publication of the previous volume on the theme of “Worship” marked the relaunch of the re-imagined Didaskalia with the desire to make informed theological reflection upon matters of pressing concern accessible and available to the people of God.  There could hardly be a matter of more pressing concern than the theme of the present issue: “Death and Resurrection.” At the heart of our faith as Christians stands the confession that Jesus “was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate . . . and the third day he rose again.” However, an erosion of this bedrock belief or ignorance of its centrality leaves many Christians unable to speak of death or face the reality of our dying and abandons many pulpits to an anemic proclamation of the resurrection. As post-Christendom culture continues to disintegrate amid clashing partisan ideologies each ensnared in its own way by what Pope John Paul II termed “the culture of death,” the Church must reclaim a robust vocabulary and grammar of death and resurrection. This way of speaking must neither hide or shrink from the stark reality of death, nor may it shy away in temerity from proclaiming the joyously disruptive news of the resurrection.

This issue features four feature-length, peer-reviewed essays which each contribute in their own way, both directly and indirectly, to the recovery of such courageous speech. Christopher Lortie, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Providence University College, in his essay “The Bravest Thing is Always Hope,” presses into the Psalter with the intent of discovering a hopeful and hope-filled answer to the Psalmist’s question of whether the “steadfast love [of the LORD is] declared in the grave” (Ps 88:11 NRSV). In “Revisiting Penal Substitution and Recovering the Passion Prayers of Jesus,” Edmund Neufeld, retired Professor of Biblical Studies at Providence Theological Seminary, takes a fresh look at the passion prayers of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew on the way to developing a biblical theology of Jesus’ suffering and death that offers assurance and comfort to his followers as they face their own trials and afflictions. Douglas Webster, Professor of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School, offers a trenchant diagnosis of the individualism that ails American evangelicalism―an individualism that does not stop at the 49th parallel―in his essay, “From Mere Christianity to Me Christianity.” Such work is crucial, for an accurate diagnosis is essential if the malady that plagues North American Christianity is to be successfully treated. Geoff Butler, a PhD candidate at Wycliffe College, presents a case for evangelicals recovering the insights of Menno Simons. While often overshadowed by the Magisterial Reformers, Butler argues that Menno’s voice is one that evangelicals can no longer afford to ignore.

The “From the Front Lines” section continues to provide a forum for hearing from scholars and practitioners who are reflecting theologically upon how the realities of faith intersect with the issues of the day in their place of Christian vocation.  “M.A.I.D. in Canada” is the fruit of a fascinating round-table conversation that brought together a theologian (David Guretzki) with a medical doctor (Kristin Harris) and a hospital chaplain (Paul Blair) to talk about the pressing issue of medical assistance in dying. In “Death and Resurrection among Us,” Providence alumnus and pastor David Funk shares a poignant reflection upon the struggle to maintain faith in the face of the crushing loss of two children.

In keeping with the theme of the issue, the “From the Pulpit to the Lectern” section features eloquent Good Friday and Easter Sunday homilies from David Widdicombe, the respected and now-retired rector of St. Margaret’s Anglican Church in Winnipeg. These sermons are demanding. But the fact that they could be preached, bears witness to both the often-unrecognized hunger among parishioners for intellectually serious preaching and to how Widdicombe’s commitment to steadfast ministry in one place allowed him over the years to preach a congregation toward the capability of hearing such sermons. Widdicombe’s sermons are followed by one of my own sermons preached on All Saints Day at Niverville Community Fellowship at the conclusion of a multi-week adult education series I was invited to offer on the subject of M.A.I.D.. Joseph Mangina, professor of systematic theology at Wycliffe College, brings the section to a close by using Revelation 1:17-18 as a springboard for reflecting upon the task of preaching in light of the reality of death and the living one who died and is now alive forevermore.

The issue also includes a wide selection of book reviews, many of which directly pertain to the topic of death and resurrection, as well as reviews of works by Providence faculty and others. As always, I am grateful for the community of intellectual pilgrimage represented in, behind, and in front of these pages. Without contributors, peer-reviewers, advisory board members, editors, transcribers, web masters, marketing and publicity personnel, readers, and an institution that understands itself to be called by God to the ministry of teaching (didaskalia) there would be no Didaskalia.


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