Archive for March, 2008

Sam Lamerson’s Blog

March 5th, 2008 Posted in Uncategorized

Finding a new blog of a friend can be like finding that gem of a book you have been looking for. I just found the blog of Sam Lamerson, the Dean of Knox Theological Seminary. There are some real pearls here: read the entry on Dr James Kennedy’s death: On the Death of Dr. Kennedy.

No Gloating, Please!

March 4th, 2008 Posted in 21st Century

I saw The Toronto Star today—its front page, though I rarely look at this particular paper—with its picture of Conrad Black heading to prison and underneath the headline “Lord 18330-424.” Could not help but think of the way the world often gloats over the unhappy circumstances of others.

Oh, you say, this man deserved this. Maybe—maybe not. I honestly do not know and I have not followed the details of the trial. It is not so much in the interest of justice that I am blogging.

Rather, I am concerned about the way in which there is something rotten in the human heart that takes comfort in the misery of others.

You doubt this? Then read Fik Meijer, The Gladiators: History’s Most Deadly Sport, trans. Liz Waters (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2007), pages 1-12—very convicting about the depth of human depravity.

Still unconvinced? Then read the account of Alypius, the friend of Augustine, and the time he went to the Roman Colosseum.

And it should not be this way for the followers of the merciful Jesus who prayed for those who put him to death—he did not gloat that one day they would face a Judge much greater than Pilate—namely himself and inherit the trash-heaps and ashen dumps of hell if they had not repented. Who can gloat when all of us–oh yes, no exceptions here; my universalism–deserve just this?

A Sober Assessment of the Present State of Evangelicalism

March 4th, 2008 Posted in 21st Century, Church Fathers

Talk about Spurgeon redivivus: here is Phil Johnson’s take on the current state of Evangelicalism and he couldn’t be more right! Gospel Lite.

Some people, well-meaning, tell us that we should not be so critical, we need to be kind with all of our words and not cause any divisions, lest the true enemies of the Christian faith, namely, the Muslims, come in and take us over! Well, I for one am glad that Martin Luther, with the Muslims at the gates, did not hesitate to criticize the Pope. Or Augustine, with the barbarians about to sweep over the Roman Empire, was not slow to tell those who recognized Pelagius and his error that they were on the high road to hell because of heresy. Or Paul, facing persecution at the hands of the Jews, was not afraid to tell his readers to have nothing to do with theological error.

To Kill a King

March 4th, 2008 Posted in 17th Century

To Kill A King (2003): I was utterly surprised to find this movie just released on DVD about that most tumultuous era of the British Isles’ history, the era of the 1640s and 1650s, when the world of our Anglophone forebears was “turned upside down” (a phrase actually used in the movie).

It is well done in many ways: costumes and acting—Rupert Everett as King Charles I is excellent, as is Dougray Scott as Lord Thomas Fairfax (1612-1671), and Olivia Williams as Anne Vere, Fairfax’s wife. It was good to see married love—that between Fairfax and his wife—portrayed with sympathy. In fact, from Naseby to Charles II’s public hanging of Cromwell’s corpse, the movie is marked overall by historical accuracy—except in one instance: the character and rule of Oliver Cromwell.

I was sorely disappointed in the portrayal of Oliver Cromwell (acted by Tim Roth). Not by Roth’s acting, but by the portrayal of Cromwell as a morose individual who, according to the movie, eventually exercises a brutal tyranny through the Army. The movie thus perpetuates one of our great historical myths: that Cromwell was cut from the same cloth of such later tyrants like Robespierre and Stalin. As one reviewer put it, Roth’s Cromwell is “assured but troubled, righteous yet ruthless,…the ugly, human face of this riveting drama.”

Those of us who love the memory of Cromwell—in this, the 350th anniversary of his death—await a sensitive, accurate celluloid portrayal of this complex man.

Book Review of Fik Meijer, the Gladiators

March 3rd, 2008 Posted in Ancient Church: 2nd & 3rd Centuries

Fik Meijer, The Gladiators: History’s Most Deadly Sport, trans. Liz Waters (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2007), xviii+267 pages.

I must admit that the gaudy cover of this book was off-putting at first glance. I picked it up at a variety store in an airport terminal and frankly, I thought it looked somewhat hokey. A quick perusal of the book, though, soon convinced me otherwise. And as I read it over the next few days I realized that this 2003 work by Dutch historian Fik Meijer is a gem. The very fact that the topic of gladiators is of perennial interest provides space for Meijer to argue that the modern West is as deeply fascinated by violence as Rome ever was.[1]

He first explains how the bloodiest “sport” in history evolved to become a key aspect of Roman society. Details regarding the lives of the gladiators—everything from the various types of gladiators who fought in the arena to the financial details of the shows—and the building of the Colosseum in Rome (the most spectacular of over 200 such amphitheatres in the Roman world by the third century a.d.) are then given in a lively prose style that is at once informative and fascinating reading.

The chapter “A Day at the Colosseum” brilliantly recreates what it would have been like to have attended one of the shows for a day of bloody and brutal entertainment. Although I have read the accounts of Christian martyrs for a good number of years now, I was completely unaware that their deaths would have taken place during what Meijer terms the lunchtime interval between the morning programme when there would have been animal fights and the afternoon “attraction” of the main gladiatorial fights (p.147-159). Meijer actually draws on the North African theologian Tertullian (fl.190-220) for some of his information, citing the second-century author more than half a dozen times.

Three final chapters deal with sea battles, the burials of slain gladiators and the end of the gladiatorial shows. Although Constantine issued legislation abolishing the shows in 325 a.d., it was not until the fourth decade of the following century that the shows finally ended.

All in all this is an excellent work and helps students of the Ancient Church understand in part why that ecclesial tradition, reacting against the violence of their world, was so solidly committed to non-violence.

[1] See pages 1-12, and his brief reviews of the movies Spartacus (1960) and Gladiator (2000) (p.220-231) as proof.