“Tolle lege. Tolle lege.” Augustine heard a voice, perhaps of a child nearby, saying, “Take up and read. Take up and read.” He took this as a command from God, and therefore opened his Bible to Romans 13. From that day forward, Augustine would profoundly shape how believers read and understand the Bible. While the turn-to-a-random-passage and read approach is not encouraged, in this case it had incredible ramifications down to the present day.Read More
I started my first church history class with absolutely no understanding of church history. I was still trying to grasp the very basics of Christianity, nevermind the various expressions of Christianity over hundreds and hundreds of years. The only thing I remember from the lectures was finally grasping the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism. When it came time to write my paper, I cried and agonized over it so much that I went to the school counsellor to ask if my frustrations were normal.Read More
Like many parents today, I am fighting what seems to be a losing battle with my kids, trying to keep them from the wonders of technology. Whether it’s on-demand shows or games and apps on the iPad, my kids live in a world where they can take all this technological entertainment for granted. I, on the other hand, clearly remember coding on my Apple II and waiting for cartoons to come on at a certain time of the week. Having experienced the development of technology over the past three decades, I have a much deeper appreciation of current technology, and, I hope, a wiser approach as to how to best use it.
In many ways, Christians today can be no different than my kids. They might be aware of their church’s Statement of Faith. They might even recite the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed in a church service from time to time. But for so many, these truths are something they take for granted, a theological package they’ve been handed, which they no idea where it has come from.
It is in this context that J.N.D. Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrines  is so helpful.Read More
The door to the local baptistery truly became the gates to paradise for members of the Florentine congregation as the hope and promise of eternal life surely did lay on the other side of its waters. As beautiful and haunting as the door’s images, the hopeful minds of parents carrying their children through the gates to be ushered into the Kingdom of God can be just as jarring. No angel with flaming sword guarding this path, Ghiberti’s gates swung wide to receive all who wished to pass on their beliefs to the next generation.Read More
Karl Barth was a complex figure. He’s always had a tenuous relationship with evangelicals. In fact, this site derives its name in part from a simultaneously hostile and humorous conversation between Barth and evangelical theologian Carl F. H. Henry. As recent research has confirmed, Karl Barth was no perfect man.  He harbored sin in his life and attempted to justify it to avoid repentance (as we are all prone to do). But he also made significant contributions to Protestant theology, many of which helped steer a new course away from liberalism and toward a renewed appreciation for Christ and Scripture. If you view theological liberalism and traditional evangelical theology as a road trip from Los Angeles to Atlanta, Barth gets you all the way to about Jackson, Mississippi. His theological program has much to commend and leaves much to be desired.
But this post is not focused on Barth the adult or Barth the theologian. Rather, it will look at Karl Barth the child, “Karli” as his parents called him. As Mark Galli points out in his new book Karl Barth: An Introductory Biography for Evangelicals, young Karl had a mean-streak in him that led to his share of fight fights. But alongside this proclivity to confrontation, Karli was captivated by music. He first heard Mozart at age 5 or 6 and was gripped from then on. But Mozart was not the watershed musician for young Barth; his mother was.Read More
The life of Patrick exemplifies what the Apostle Paul describes in 2 Corinthians, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows” (2 Cor 1:3-5, CSB). The Lord used the sufferings Patrick endured to draw him to faith in Christ, and it was these same sufferings that the Lord used to prepare Patrick to proclaim the glories of his grace.Read More
Lesslie Newbigin was a missionary, theologian, author, and pastor. He was an endearing man with a gregarious personality. Newbigin loved to tell jokes, “Did you hear the one about John Baillie and Karl Barth?” his friend Rev. Dan Beeby recalled. He also had an adventurous spirit. When Newbigin left the mission field, he made his return journey with wife Helen from Madurai to Bromely (through Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey) toting only two suitcases and a rucksack, hitchhiking and bussing their way from south-central India to southeast London. One of Newbigin’s greatest contributions was his Trinitarian perspective on the mission of God.Read More
In highschool, Sundays were my favorite days. If I had to miss school or a hangout with friends, I would be disappointed, but if I had to miss church, I felt off for the whole week. I loved hearing the message, singing our songs, eating a big lunch, and laying around in someone’s living room talking about anything. And when Sunday was over, I couldn’t wait until the next one.
Years later in university, Sundays became my least favorite day. I started taking medication that made me sick from Saturday to Monday, and going to church became the time I had to pretend to be happy when all I felt was depressed. On Saturday nights I dreaded the next morning, and on Sunday nights I fell asleep happy. Of course, I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know how to get back to where I was.Read More
In this struggle, we see our own quest to relay history and theology to students in both classroom and pew. We must not evacuate all deep thoughts and become shallow. To this end, we must value the simple not the simplistic. Further, the most eloquent tidbit of knowledge is nothing if left sitting in the corner of our academic minds. As Anselm’s students knew, his ideas had immense value if they could be taken out, dusted off, and made to see the light of day. In the same way, the most priceless antique is failing to pursue its purpose if left wrapped in the attic. The best ideas must be given eloquent legs that allow them to walk beyond their speaker and indwell the lives of future generations.Read More
John Knox, champion of the Scottish Reformation, fearless preacher, uncompromising prophet… defeated by a church business meeting?
Knox’s legend began early. Converted under the preaching of the early Scottish reformer George Wishart, he became his sword-bearer, carrying a claymore to Wishart’s preaching engagements (29). After Wishart’s martyrdom, Knox became a preacher himself and his plain, fiery preaching with “ruide boldness… unto your faces” (59) won the hearts of both English and Scottish alike. Standing up to the Queen and royal authorities, he constantly called Protestant leaders to resist any compromise, not even when faced with persecution or exile (both which he himself experienced).
Soon after becoming a preacher, Knox was captured by French Catholic forces and enslaved in French galleys for 19 months. One story captures Knox’s spirit:Read More
Augustine, perhaps church history’s most towering figure, didn’t think his work would be remembered. In his widely read and celebrated autobiographical Confessions, he wondered: “But to whom am I telling this story? Not to you my God; rather in your presence I am relating these events to my own kin, the human race, however few of them may chance upon these writings of mine.”Read More
For Jonathan Edwards, good preaching gets at the sin-hardened hearts of people, and works to soften these hearts to love God above all. Good preaching causes a holy zeal in people for the things of God. Good preaching penetrates the will of a person, so that the word of God permeates her volition. Good preaching enlivens the soul of a person, so that he is set to carry out the work of God in his body.Read More
When my husband suggested we watch Smallville, a TV series on Superman, I was not excited. I like true stories about ordinary people, not made up ones about imaginary people. But to my surprise the first few episodes were fairly normal: a teenage boy living in a small town meets a young billionaire and they become best friends. As one would expect, these two (Clark Kent/Superman and Lex Luthor) would become arch-enemies by the end of the series. However, it takes several seasons to get there; it is only over the span of many years that Clark becomes a hero and Lex becomes a villain.
It turns out that there are more true-story aspects to Superman than I thought.Read More
In 1854, when Charles Spurgeon began pastoring at the New Park Street Chapel, he had a handful of deacons assisting him and a membership of 313 (though the actual attendance was much smaller). In just twelve weeks, they outgrew their space and began making plans to enlarge their building. But as soon as that was done, they found themselves immediately once again in need of more space, and so began making plans to build a new building, which would eventually be the Metropolitan Tabernacle. However, more than just a space issue, Spurgeon found himself caring for a congregation that was beyond his capacity to shepherd.Read More
Historical theology is a scalpel: both dangerous and vital. In the right hands, it breathes life into the everyday truths of our beliefs. It stretches human skin onto abstract doctrines and warns of errors long passed. But without the proper filter, the historically-minded theologian waits like a nineteenth century Roman brigand among shadowy ruins flush with their crusty bag of anecdotes. The unsuspecting sermon that does pass by doesn’t stand a chance as the words of God are forced to fit into a clever, human narrative.Read More
As historian Grant Wacker was working toward his 2014 America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation, he had the opportunity to spend time with Graham at his North Carolina estate. Wacker recalls one insightful conversation: “After a few minutes, Mr. Graham’s special assistant, standing nearby, said, ‘Billy, Grant is writing a book about you.’ Obviously puzzled, Mr. Graham responded, ‘Why? Why would you want to do that?’ Taken aback, I finally mumbled, ‘Well, you have done some important things.’”Read More
Something about the celebrations, sentimentality, and resolution-making of Christmas and New Years often leads us to reflect on the general trajectory of our lives. Most of us are aware that those who have recently lost a loved one will have a particularly difficult December, but I think that many of us tend to deal with feelings of sadness and loss during this season, especially about that one life problem that doesn’t seem to go away. We ask questions like, “why can’t I fix this problem when everyone else around me seems to be able to fix the same problem in their lives?” “why do I even have this problem in the first place?” and “how am going to get through another year with this problem?”Read More
The Christmas season of 1887 was a dark one for Charles Spurgeon. Earlier that year, Spurgeon had published two articles on what he called “The Down Grade,” the infiltration of liberal theology into the Baptist Union. Later that summer, he wrote and published three more articles lamenting the decline of orthodox theology among Baptist and other Dissenting churches. He hoped that these articles would spark a conversation at the October meeting of the Baptist Union, but to his disappointment, the leadership refused to address the issue. This culminated in Spurgeon’s withdrawal from the Union on October 28, 1887, setting off a massive public debate. During this period, Spurgeon saw many of his former allies turn on him, including some of the pastors he had trained. And things would only get worse in the New Year.Read More
This may be not only the most unglamorous topic to write about, but perhaps even a bit insensitive at this time of year, when eating and drinking a lot are part of everyone’s weekly plans. Perhaps seeing a Puritan name in the same sentence as the “g” word raises even more hairs on the back of your neck. But just as the stereotype of the Puritans as killjoys is incorrect, so is nervousness surrounding the topic of gluttony. God doesn’t give us instructions about how to live in order to do away with our celebrations, but to help us celebrate in the best way—with concern for others above concern for ourselvesRead More
Questions fill the air at Christmas: What’s on your list? Where is the party? What’s the greatest Christmas movie ever? (It’s a Wonderful Life.) What’s the worst? (A Christmas Story.)
But there’s another question that we should reflect upon during this season:
“Who do you say that I am?”Read More