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”

The Development of Theology: A Review of J.N.D. Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrines

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 [1] is so helpful. Continue reading “The Development of Theology: A Review of J.N.D. Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrines”

Gateway to Paradise: Medieval and Renaissance Views of Baptism

The transition between the Medieval and Renaissance eras was volatile for the disciplines of theology and philosophy with the events of the Protestant Reformation contributing to the debate from a parallel plain as well. On the eve of this season of change, it is not surprising to see Catholic theology and the highest form of art mingling into one – especially in the city of Florence, Italy. It was there that in 1425, sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455) began a 27-year-long endeavor to craft the “Gates of Paradise.” Completed in 1452, the enormous work was created specifically to become the monumental doors of the Florentine Baptistery. While the doors themselves are a magnificent bronze casting containing ten panels that depict various characters and scenes from the Old Testament, the work is widely hailed as a revolution in visual perspective leavng behind the flat, two-dimensional medieval style in favor of robust realism. However, what it did not leave behind was the equally robust doctrine of the supremacy of baptism in the Medieval Era.

Continue reading “Gateway to Paradise: Medieval and Renaissance Views of Baptism”

“Karli” and Kids Music

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.[1] 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. Continue reading ““Karli” and Kids Music”