5 Great Sermons from Church History – #1 Gregory the Theologian on the Grandeur of God

This is the first installment of a five-part series called, “5 Great Sermons from Church History.” This is not meant to indicate that these are the greatest or the best sermons, or even the five most important in the history of the church. However, these sermons were selected based on historical significance, content, accessibility (both good translations and comprehensibility), and each as exemplary of the particular era in which it occurred. Given the scope, the five sermons stretch over the entirety of church history. Extreme redaction is unavoidable with such a project. Each of the entries will take a similar approach, namely: Brief background on speaker and sermon, redacted block quote to capture the heart of sermon, and brief commentary on whole sermon. Continue reading “5 Great Sermons from Church History – #1 Gregory the Theologian on the Grandeur of God”

“The law and glory of Christianity”: Loving All People According to the Puritans

Probably the last thing that comes to mind when someone mentions the Puritans is a loving attitude towards all people. Many imagine the Puritans as obsessed with themselves as God’s people, and obsessed with God’s judgment against humanity at large. Though it is true that they believed in the doctrines of election and hell, they also believed that Christians had a duty to love all people, and this did not contradict the former, nor was it less important. In fact, one might argue that because of the Puritans’ highly developed views of God’s law and love they were able to speak of this command in a deep and meaningful way, rather than a shallow or vague way. Continue reading ““The law and glory of Christianity”: Loving All People According to the Puritans”

The Explosive Effect of the Bible

If there is a single thread running through the whole story of the Reformation, it is the explosive and renovating and often disintegrating effect of the Bible.[1]

It’s this idea that Timothy George unpacks in Reading Scripture with the Reformers.[2] So often, when it comes to our retelling of the events of the Reformation, we focus on the preaching ministry of pastors like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others. And rightly so! After all, the recovery of God’s Word went hand-in-hand with a recovery of the preaching of God’s Word. In large part, this is how God’s Word was opened up for people.

However, we must not forget that once people received the Word, they themselves now were equipped to speak and defend and live out that Word. In Reading Scripture with the Reformers, George provides several vignettes of the transformational effect of the Word, even among some unexpected individuals: Continue reading “The Explosive Effect of the Bible”

D. L. Moody & the Art of Using a Story to Get to THE Story

Methods of using stories in sermons have long been debated. Typically, evaluation is given to their quality, length, and volume. One great example of how this can be done effectively is in a particularly powerful sermon by D. L. Moody (1837-1899) that was so riddled with testimonies of God’s work in the lives of famous theological figures that one could criticize the good evangelist for excess if one dares censure the portly statesmen of the faith. Regardless, from Moody’s example the modern pastor can learn better the craft of weaving in the real-life testimonies of saints past and contemporary without distracting from the narrative of the Gospel in their own sermons.

For this task, we will consider the singular revival sermon entitled “Sowing and Reaping.”[1]In a brilliant set up to his stories that come later in the message, Moody reflects on both Christ’s and Paul’s use of “teaching from analogy.” Moody allows this subtle reference to percolate in the mind of the audience; full of foreshadowing but without any awkward reference to the fact that he would be employing the same didactic method later in his own discourse. Continue reading “D. L. Moody & the Art of Using a Story to Get to THE Story”

From Mediators to Shepherds

The years following the Protestant Reformation were a time of great transition in Christian theology. However, a transition in the practice and role of local church leadership also redefined centuries-old views on the alleged special access the clergy had to God. Church historian Winthrop S. Hudson (1911-2001) wrote that for all the changes in thinking that occurred in this first century after the beginning of the Reformation “nowhere can this [change] be seen more clearly than in the altered view of the clergy.” Continue reading “From Mediators to Shepherds”

Take Up and Read

“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. Continue reading “Take Up and Read”

How to Write a Church History Paper

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.

Continue reading “How to Write a Church History Paper”