Here is the recording of my presentation for the Regional Convivium Irenicum, 2021, at The Davenant House. It was a joy to be with those brothers and sisters!
Tag Archives: historical theology
Pastoring In Plagues
Or, how historical theology brings hope.
Pestilence and Pastoral Ministry (at Gentle Reformation)
Plague and Providence: What Huldrych Zwingli Taught Me About Trusting God (TGC) Zwingli’s “Plague Song” helps deal with fear, especially amidst physical uncertainty five hundred years later.
Responding to Pandemics: 4 Lessons from Church History (TGC) This has Dionysius and Cyprian, but the other two are Luther and Spurgeon, who are filled out more completely below. Update: For an even deeper look at Dionysius and Cyprian, see this article “Glorifying God In the Midst of A Pandemic” from CTS.
Spurgeon’s Dangerous Mission (Challies) Not specific to plagues, but nevertheless characterizes several instances of ministry in extreme dangers.
Pandemics And Public Worship Throughout History (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship) Twelve instances of plague from the patristic period to the Ebola outbreak to 2015
Luther: Whether One May Flee From A Deadly Plague (The Davenant Institute) A fourteen page pamphlet Luther composed when the Black Plague hit Wittenburg. A magisterial treatment from the magisterial Reformation.
5 Lessons from Spurgeon’s Ministry in a Cholera Outbreak (TGC) Spurgeon’s life is simply amazing.
Francis Grimke sermon: “Some Reflections Growing Out Of The Recent Epidemic Of Influenza That Afflicted Our City” (IX Marks) When the Spanish Flu hit America in the early twentieth century, African American pastor Grimke penned this sermon.
Spurgeon: “What Is God Doing?” (Bethlehem College & Seminary) A sermon from the Prince of preachers on God’s aims in a plague. (Bonus: “Lessons from Spurgeon on the Coronavirus” from Christian Concern
“Glorifying God In the Midst of A Pandemic” (CTS)
Do you know of other excellent historical theological perspectives on plague and disease? Share them in the comments below.
Milne on the Puritans & Dreams
Careful studies that cut past stereotypes are incredibly useful today, and G.H. Milne’s The Westminster Confession of Faith and Cessation of Special Revelation: The Majority Puritan Viewpoint on Whether Extra-Biblical Prophecy Is Still Possible (Wipf & Stock: Eugene, OR, 2007) is of terrific use on the cessationist issue. As I’m preaching through the Jacob toledot on Joseph and the dreams God gives him, Milne’s points about how the Puritans saw dreams have been very useful. I might be able to post more on this topic in the future, but here is some raw data from the pages of Milne’s monograph for general use. Pick up his book! Tolle lege!
More commonly, as [James] Usher highlighted, God divulged his mind through dreams and visions, such as those granted to Joseph and Daniel, which were instances of “Revelations whereby God signified his will”. Yet, just as with the Urim and Thummim, those divine revelatory dreams which were given to pagans or non-Israelites had a “temporal” salvific significance for the people of God. The dream given to the pagan soldier in the camp of Midian, for example, made Gideon confident of victory, inviting the comment from the Annotations, “Divine dreams are always either clear and evident of themselves, or else opportunity interprised for the benefit of God’s people.” Continue reading
Understanding Baptism From Evangelism
What does the early Church’s experience of evangelism and discipleship have to say to us about baptizing infants?
Michael Green’s Evangelism In The Early Church (Eerdmans, 1970) is a stimulating read that has always rekindled a personal zeal for evangelism. Many churches and ministry contexts can actually work to numb Christians to the pressing need of evangelism. Reading realistic accounts of God’s triumphs in the early church helps stir us to remember Paul’s exhortation to “do the work of an evangelist” (II Timothy 4:5).
In the wake of evangelism, when the Spirit brought regenerating grace, how did the early Church handle baptism of new converts’ children? Green points out that this is not his main point, but his research sheds some light on the topic. Continue reading
Godfrey On the Puritans
I’ve loved this series by one of my favorite historians, Dr. W. Robert Godfrey. He will surely be missed at WSCal! Thanks to Ligonier for having these resources! (Click the image for the video)
Inward apathy toward the Lord masked by outward obedience is a real and constant threat in any church. Keenly aware of this danger, the Puritans zealously proclaimed the importance of heart-felt affection for the Lord. They sought to nourish genuine faith and piety especially through passionate preaching, Bible studies, and conscientious Sabbath observance. Though frequently portrayed as joyless legalists, we will see in this lesson that in reality, Puritans were more frequently characterized by their pursuit of joyful, sincere devotion to the Lord.
During the mid-seventeenth century, England was embroiled in a civil war between the king’s forces and those of parliament. The aftermath of this conflict saw political change and much theological reflection. It was during this time period that the Westminster Assembly met to reform doctrine, church government, and worship. In this lecture, you will study this tumultuous time period, focusing on the connection between the Puritans and politics. You will also come to a better understanding of the climate within which the Westminster Assembly took place. Continue reading
Happy Birthday, John Calvin
But with the immediate (helpful and true) caveat:
In his own words, don’t celebrate the birthday boy unless he helps lead you deeper into a Gospel-soaked piety.
Is Calvin, the man born this day in 1509 in Noyon, France, still relevant? Fortunately, Pope Francis is helping keep Calvin’s ideas current by issuing a new indulgence today:
Pope Francis will grant a plenary indulgence – a remission of all temporal punishment due to sin – to World Youth Day Catholic participants, the Vatican announced July 9…
They will also need to invoke “the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Brazil (with the title Nossa Senhora da Conceicao Aparecida) as well as other patrons and intercessors of the same meeting, that they may encourage the young to reinforce their faith and lead a holy life.”
The granting of indulgences by the Pope comes from Jesus’ response to Peter, the first Pope, when he proclaimed that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” in Matthew 16.
Scott Clark points out that Calvin (like Luther) had quite a bit to say about indulgences:
Now very many persons see the base tricks, deceits, thefts, and greediness with which the indulgence traffickers have heretofore mocked and beguiled us, and yet they do not see the very fountain of the impiety itself. Continue reading
Was Chrysostom Anti-Semitic?
So says the Rev. James Martin, SJ over at HuffPo: “Saint John Chrysostom, patriarch of Constantinople, writing in the fourth century, used Judas as an example of the wickedness of Jews in general.”
In an article gearing up for the Easter season, the Jesuit author reflects on how Judas has been portrayed through the years, noting that a pillar of the church no less than Chrysostom used Judas as an occasion to unfairly portray Jewish people.
Chrysostom (the name means “golden mouth,” a tribute to his skills as a preacher) was one of several saints whose writings were tinged with — and contributed to — the virulent anti-Semitism common at the time. Judas was evil not only because he had betrayed Jesus, but because he was Jewish.
Chrysostom sees the suicide of Judas as foreshadowing the suffering of the Jews, and comments on this approvingly. In his Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, he writes: “This desolation [his fate] was a prelude to that of the Jews, as will appear on looking closely into the facts.” That one of the most influential figures in the patristic era could write so cruelly shows not only the rapid assimilation of anti-Semitism into Christianity, but the hardening of the Christian imagination against Judas.
Martin goes on to deal with other examples – in the Renaissance and later periods – of Judas being used as cannon fodder.
Is this really an accurate way to handle the data, or is there another angle for reading Chrysostom? Continue reading
Theology for Pastors from John Calvin
Dr. Scott Manetsch lectures on Calvin’s Pastoral Theology. This video was taken from the RCA Integrity conference, which we’ve linked to in the past.
There are a wealth of resources there for Midwest ministry, so look for more information from that in the future.
In the meantime, ponder what Calvin’s theology and praxis means for ministry today.
John Calvin’s Birthday
July 10 is the 503rd anniversary of John Calvin’s (1509 – 64) birthday. Many blame Calvin for coming up with a novel and unbiblical theology that centered on predestination. I think that, not only was Calvin’s theology eminently biblical, but it wasn’t novel either. I’ve looked before at similarities between Calvin and Thomas Aquinas. On this his birthday, consider a few quotes comparing Calvin’s so-called “5 Points” with select quotes from the early Church Fathers.
Justin Martyr (A.D. 150): “Mankind by Adam fell under death, and the deception of the serpent; we are born sinners…No good thing dwells in us…For neither by nature, nor by human understanding is it possible for me to acquire the knowledge of things so great and so divine, but by the energy of the Divine Spirit…Of ourselves it is impossible to enter the kingdom of God…He has convicted us of the impossibility of our nature to obtain life…Free will has destroyed us; we who were free are become slaves and for our sin are sold…Being pressed down by our sins, we cannot move upward toward God; we are like birds who have wings, but are unable to fly.”
Origen (A.D. 185): “Our free will…or human nature is not sufficient to seek God in any manner.”
Irenaeus (A.D. 198): “God hath completed the number which He before determined with Himself, all those who are written, or ordained unto eternal life…Being predestined indeed according to the love of the Father that we would belong to Him forever.” Continue reading