Newbold College, the Adventist institution for higher learning in the UK, is facing numerous challenges. It remains a problem to attract students in sufficient numbers and to stay afloat financially. But Newbold has every reason to be proud of its teaching staff in the theology department.  The quality of the DTS (Department of Theological Studies) at least on a par with the best of the theology departments of other Adventists colleges and universities.

One of the most inspiring members of the Newbold staff is dr Laurence Turner. He is popular with his students, and he is also a very talented speaker. I must admit that, when listening to sermons, my thoughts often tend to wonder, but that does not happen when I am among Turner’s audience.

Also as an author Turner is worth following. When, a few years ago, I was editing the Festschrift for dr Jan Paulsen, the previous president of the world church, I also asked Laurence Turner to contribute an essay. He wrote a significant piece that I see regularly quoted: The Costly Lack of Literary Imagination in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Interpretation.[1]

This week I saw a reference to a book by Turner that has, in fact, been in my book case for quite a few years. It has a short and simple title Genesis.[2] It is part of a new commentary series (Readings: A New Biblical Commentary), in which the story, the plot and the relationship to other stories hold the central place. I had read some of this book as a source of inspiration for a sermon and this week I took it from the shelf with the same purpose. As I read a few remarks about God’s covenant with Abraham stayed with me.

In the first few verses of Genesis we read about God’s command to Abraham, to set out on a journey to a destination only known to God. Next we hear of the tremendous blessings God has in store for Abraham: he will become a great nation; all nations will be jealous because of the blessings he and his decedents will receive. But Turner emphasizes another element that we should not forget: Abraham must himself be a blessing. This is not clear from most translations. Turner points out, however, that the original Hebrew has an imperative. Abraham will not only receive Gods’ blessings but is also commanded to be a blessing for others.

It seems to me that this would be a good topic for a new sermon. God blessed Abraham. He also wanted to bless the people of Israel. And today the church (including the Adventist denomination) can count on God’s blessings and can, no doubt, point to many things and experiences that are clear proof of divine blessings. As individual Christians we may ask for God’s blessings, and if we keep our eyes open we will see how God continues to bless us in many ways. But the question is: To what extent does the church heed that command once given to Abraham: Be a blessing! And I must ask myself: Am I indeed a blessing for the people I associate with? Am I not only a receiver of God’s blessings, but also a distributor?  Thanks, Laurence, for reminding me of this.


[1]  Laurence A. Turner, ‘The Costly Lack of Literary Imagination in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Interpretation’, in: Reinder Bruinsma en Borge Schantz, eds., Exploring the Frontiers of Faith: Festschrift in Honour of Dr. Jan Paulsen (Lüneburg, Germany: Advent Verlag, 2009), blz. 261-277.

[2] Laurence A. Turner, Genesis (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000).