“So how can we know what the Bible really says?” my classmate timidly asked at the end of a long lecture about interpretation. She was not playing the devil’s advocate, but was clearly discouraged by the fact that there seem to be many different and discordant ways of interpreting the Bible. Sometimes reading intense scholarly debates that dissect every tiny part of a passage, listening to sermons that use methods we don’t know how to use, or overhearing a friend joke about misapplying passages like Jeremiah 29:11 make us shrink back from Scripture. Continue reading “Encouragement for Bible Reading from Puritan Women”
This is the second installment of a five-part series called, “5 Great Sermons from Church History.” See the first here. 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 the whole sermon. Continue reading “5 Great Sermons from Church History – #2 John Chrysostom’s Easter Sermon”
By guest writer Benjamin Hawkins, Ph.D.
On Easter 1555, the zealous English evangelical[i] William Flower burst into a rage in St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, when he noticed a priest administering the Mass – a rite that Flower saw as the epitome of Roman Catholic idolatry. Immediately, he struck the offending priest with his woodknife, cutting him on the head, arm and hand. Blood from the priest’s wounds, according to the martyrologist John Foxe,[ii]sprinkled onto the consecrated host of the sacrament, which the priest was carrying in a chalice. Immediately, Flower was arrested and, after his trial, was burned at the stake as a heretic.
This intriguing tale of church violence made its first appearance in Foxe’s Acts & Monuments (often called the Book of Martyrs), a colossal tome known best for its heroic tales of some 280 evangelical martyrs who suffered during the brief reign of the Catholic Queen Mary I of England.[iii]As will be seen shortly, Flower’s story takes us to the heart of Foxe’s view of martyrdom. But, for the past four-and-a-half centuries, it has been used by critics to bludgeon Foxe and discredit his reliability as a historian. In keeping with such criticisms, historian Eamon Duffy in his 2009 book, Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor, depicts Flower’s bloody outburst as a “demented suicide-mission.”
In 1663 when Bunyan was cooped up in prison and expecting to be executed, he wrote a little conduct manual called Christian Behaviour. Though Bunyan’s fear of execution was based on a misunderstanding of the law, it was not unreasonable for him to be concerned for his well-being because the conditions in prison were horrible. If you were in the same situation, what would you write about?
This summer I had the privilege of taking Dr. Tom Schwanda’s class on Puritan Spirituality at Regent College. What struck me most about Dr. Schwanda was that it was obvious he really believed and practiced what he taught. Just like I’d never trust a hairdresser with bad hair and always pass by the makeup artists in the Bay with weird makeup, so am I suspicious of those who have a lot to say about the Christian life but don’t really seem like they’re striving to do it.
In 1999, theologian and evangelical statesman Carl F. H. Henry contributed a brief essay to Lessons in Leadership: Fifty Respected Evangelical Leaders Share Their Wisdom on Ministry. It is Henry at his best: warm, insightful, taking his gospel seriously and himself lightly. Young people in general and young ministers in particular will find it to be a helpful and penetrating essay. Further, as it was written when Henry was 86 years old (four years before his death), it also provides a remarkable reflection upon a life well lived for the evangel and for evangelicalism. Continue reading ““Dear Friend””
As humans, we learn to encounter our own grief as a natural part of life. As a pastor, one must also learn to encounter the grief of others as a natural part of the role of caretaker and shepherd. Recently, after officiating a funeral, talking to someone else about their grief, and preparing to attend another funeral within a short period, I was quietly reminded of the timeless nature of our struggle with loss. I am regularly struck by our incapacity to fully immunize ourselves against grief’s contagious efforts to redesign our own life experiences. Many of us know how faith has shaped our own responses in this area, but I believe we are missing out on history as another great teacher if we fail to savor the sorrow together with those who have gone (long) before us. Continue reading “History: Our How-To Guide to Grief”