The Martyr’s Cause: John Foxe and Our Gospel Embassy

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.”

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“Love One Another”: Bunyan on Christian Behaviour in the Home, Workplace, and Community

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?

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The Puritans for Today

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.

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“Dear Friend”

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.[1] 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””

History: Our How-To Guide to Grief

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”

The Pastors’ College: A Vision for Pastoral Training tied to the Local Church

Since the early days of his pastorate, C.H. Spurgeon tutored and trained up gifted young men for the ministry. Over the first seven years of his ministry, Spurgeon would send out seven ministers, and yet more men were approaching him for training. By the spring of 1861, with sixteen men under his care, the financial cost of training these men was becoming too much. So at a special meeting on May 19, 1861, Spurgeon shared with his congregation his vision for pastoral training and took up a special offering to support the work. But the congregation would do more than just give an offering. Continue reading “The Pastors’ College: A Vision for Pastoral Training tied to the Local Church”

Jeremiah Burroughs on Contentment

A couple of years ago at a conference in Vancouver, one of the speakers was asked in a Q&A session, “what are some of the greatest struggles facing North American Christians today?” I usually find these types of questions too broad or vague to be interesting, but because the speaker was my favourite theologian, J. I. Packer, my ears perked up.

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