Archive for April, 2008

On Wolves and Dogs

April 26th, 2008 Posted in 21st Century, Theology

The New Testament authors are frank about false teachers. Just to give a sampling from the Apostle Paul: false teachers are “wolves” (Acts 20:29); men who “by smooth talk and flattery” deceive hearts (Romans 16:18; cp. 2 Cor 11:1-4; Titus 1:10); “false apostles, deceitful workmen” (2 Cor 11:13); “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil 3:18); “dogs” and “evildoers” (Phil3:2); men with seared consciences (1 Tim 4:1-2), who speak “irreverent babble” (1 Tim 6:20); “evil beasts,” “detestable” and unfit for any good work (Titus 1:16).

This is but a sample. It is very strong language. Rightly are we careful in applying such texts to the present day. Moreover, I know that this list of errorists does not refer to the same type of problems.

But…we would be utterly naïve if we thought our generation above all others had managed to avoid this problem entirely, a problem that was clearly not rare even in the Apostolic era.

In this light, read this excellent post by Dr. Russell Moore: Serpent-Sensitive Worship.

Reading Church History: 2. 2nd-Century Greek Christianity

April 23rd, 2008 Posted in Uncategorized

Collections of primary sources

Robert M. Grant, Second-Century Christianity. A Collection of Fragments (2nd ed.; Louisville/London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003).

Steven A. McKinion, ed., Life and Practice in the Early Church. A Documentary Reader (New York/London: New York University Press, 2001).

Herbert Musurillo, ed., The Acts of the Christian Martyrs (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972).

Cyril C. Richardson, Massey Hamilton Shepherd, Edward Rochie Hardy, eds., Early Christian Fathers (Repr. Touchstone, 1995).

Maxwell Staniforth, trans. Early Christian Writings (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd., 1968).

General studies

Henry Chadwick, Early Christian Thought and the Classical Tradition: Studies in Justin, Clement and Origen (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966).

Henry Chadwick, The Early Church. (Rev. ed.; London: Penguin Books, 1993).

Henry Chadwick, The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

F. L Cross and E. A. Livingstone, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).

Philip F. Esler, ed., The Early Christian World (London/New York: Routledge, 2000), 2 vols.

Everett Ferguson, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (2nd ed.; New York/London: Garland Publishing, 1998), 2 vols.

Harry Y. Gamble, Books and Readers in the Early Church: A History of Early Christian Texts (New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1995).

Robert M. Grant, Greek Apologists of the Second Century (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1988).

Geoffrey M. Hahneman, The Muratorian Fragment and the Development of the Canon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992).

Peter Lampe, From Paul to Valentinus: Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries, trans. Michael Steinhauser and ed. Marshall D. Johnson (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003).

Eric Osborn, The Emergence of Christian Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

Colin. H. Roberts and T.C. Skeat. The Birth of the Codex (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983).

Thomas A. Robinson, The Early Church: An Annotated Bibliography of Literature in English (Metuchen: The American Theological Library Association/The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1993).

Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity. A Sociologist Reconsiders History (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1996).

David Trobisch, Paul’s Letter Collection: Tracing the Origins (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994).

D.S. Wallace-Hadrill, Christian Antioch: A Study of Early Christian Thought in the East (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

W. C. Weinrich, Spirit and Martyrdom. A Study of the Work of the Holy Spirit in Contexts of Persecution and Martyrdom in the New Testament and Early Christian Literature (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1981).

Ignatius of Antioch

Charles Thomas Brown, The Gospel and Ignatius of Antioch (New York: Peter Lang, 2000).

Virginia Corwin, St. Ignatius and Christianity in Antioch (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960).

John E. Lawyer, Jr., “Eucharist and Martyrdom in the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch”, Anglican Theological review, 73 (1991).

Daniel N. McNamara, “Ignatius of Antioch On His Death: Discipleship, Sacrifice, Imitation” (Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, McMaster University, 1977).

Issa A. Saliba, “The Bishop of Antioch and the Heretics: A Study of a Primitive Christology”, The Evangelical Quarterly, 54 (1982).

Cullen I. K. Story, “The Christology of Ignatius of Antioch”, The Evangelical Quarterly, 56 (1984).

Christine Trevett, A Study of Ignatius of Antioch in Syria and Asia (Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992).

Christine Trevett, “A Study of Ignatius of Antioch in Syria and Asia”, Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity 29 (1992).

Irenaeus of Lyons

David L. Balas, “The Use and Interpretation of Paul in Irenaeus’ Five Books Adversus Haereses”, The Second Century, 9 (1992).

Denis Minns, Irenaeus (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 1994).

Richard A. Norris, Jr. “Irenaeus’ Use of Paul in His Polemic Against the Gnostics” in William S. Babcock, ed. Paul and the Legacies of Paul (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1990).

Eric Osborn, Ireneaus of Lyons (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

Justin Martyr

Craig D. Allert, Revelation, Truth, Canon and Interpretation: Studies in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho (Boston: E.J. Brill, 2002).

L.W. Barnard, Justin Martyr: His Life and Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967).

Willis A. Shotwell, The Biblical Exegesis of Justin Martyr (London: SPCK, 1965).

The Letter to Diognetus

Bruce Fawcett, “Similar yet Unique: Christians as Described in the Letter to Diognetus 5”, The Baptist Review of Theology, 6, No.1 (Spring, 1996), 23-27.

Joseph T. Lienhard, “The Christology of the Epistle to Diognetus”, Vigiliae Christianae, 24 (1970).

H.G. Meecham, The Epistle to Diognetus (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1949).

W. S. Walford, Epistle to Diognetus (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1908).

Melito of Sardis

Alistair Stewart-Sykes, The Lamb’s High Feast: Melito, Peri Pascha and the Quartodeciman Paschal Liturgy at Sardis (Boston: E.J. Brill, 1998).

Alistair Stewart-Sykes, ed., Melito of Sardis. On Pascha: With Fragments of Melito and Other Material Related to the Quartodecimans (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2001).

The Odes of Solomon

James Hamilton Charlesworth, ed., The Odes of Solomon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973).

Theophilus of Antioch

Robert M. Grant, trans., Theophilus of Antioch: Ad Autolycum (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970).

Rick Rogers, Theophilus of Antioch: The Life and Thought of a Second-Century Bishop (Oxford: Lexington Books, 2000).

T4G & Similar Conferences: Their Importance

April 23rd, 2008 Posted in Pastoral Ministry

I was not able to take in all of T4G last week—only a couple of sessions-unlike two years ago when I was there for all of it (an unforgettable experience). But I was reminded of its importance today in a letter from Martin Holdt [“Out of Africa: Newsletter” (April 2008)], where he states vis-à-vis the UK Banner Conference (but it would apply to T4G or John Piper’s Desiring God conferences, or Dr. MacArthur’s Shepherd Conference or those put on by Ligonier, or the Banner confernece over here, or on a much smaller scale the SGF conference in Southern Ontario):

“A friend and colleague in England once told me that it was once found that in England the men who are most likely to persevere against the usual odds in the ministry are those who regularly attend minister’s conferences. Those most likely to drop out are those who isolate themselves and never get the benefit of such a fraternity.”

Reading Church History: 1. Latin Christianity

April 19th, 2008 Posted in Church Fathers, Church History


Timothy Barnes, Tertullian. A Historical and Literary Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971).

Gerald L. Bray, Holiness and the Will of God: Perspectives on the Theology of Tertullian (Atlanta: John knox/London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1979).

Gerald L. Bray, “Tertullian and Western Theology” in John D. Woodbridge, ed., Great Leaders of the Christian Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988), 49-54.


The Martyrdom of Perpetua, introd. Sara Maitland (Evesham, Worcestershire: Arthur James Ltd., 1996).

Joyce E. Salisbury, Perpetua’s Passion: The Death and Memory of a Young Roman Woman (London/New York: Routledge, 1997).

Joseph J. Walsh, ed., What Would You Die For? Perpetua’s Passion (Baltimore, Maryland: Apprentice House, 2006).

W.C. Weinrich, Spirit and Martyrdom. A Study of the Work of the Holy Spirit in Contexts of Persecution and Martyrdom in the New Testament and Early Christian Literature (Washington, D.C., 1981).


William S. Babcock, “Christian Culture and Christian Tradition in Roman North Africa” in Patrick Henry, ed., Schools of Thought in the Christian Tradition (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 31-48.

J. Patout Burns, “The Holiness of the Churches” in William Caferro and Duncan G. Fisher, eds., The Unbounded Community: Papers in Christian Ecumenism in Honor of Jaroslav Pelikan (New York/London: Garland Publ., Inc., 1996), 3-15.

J. Patout Burns, Cyprian the Bishop (London/New York: Routledge, 2002).

Michael A. Smith, “Cyprian of Carthage and the North African Church” in John D. Woodbridge, ed., Great Leaders of the Christian Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988), 59-62.


Everett Ferguson, “Jerome: Biblical Scholar” in John D. Woodbridge, ed., Great Leaders of the Christian Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988), 77-80.

J.N.D. Kelly, Jerome: His Life, Writings, and Controversies (New York: Harper & Row, Publ., 1975).


Gerald S. Bonner, St. Augustine of Hippo, Life and Controversies (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963).

Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo (Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1967).

Donald X. Burt, Friendship and Society: An Introduction to Augustine’s Practical Philosophy (Grand Rapids/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1999).

Elizabeth A. Clark, St. Augustine on Marriage and Sexuality (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1996).

Robert Dodaro and George Lawless, eds., Augustine and his Critics: Essays in Honour of Gerald Bonner (London/New York: Routledge, 2000).

Thomas A. Hand, Augustine on Prayer (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co.,1986).

Carol Harrison, Augustine: Christian Truth and Fractured Humanity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

N. R. Needham, The Triumph of Grace: Augustine’s writings on Salvation (London: Grace Publications Trust, 2000).

John M. Rist, Augustine: Ancient thought baptized (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

Gary Wills, Saint Augustine (New York: Viking Penguin, 1999).


Máire B. de Paor, Patrick: The Pilgrim Apostle of Ireland (New York: HarperCollins, 1998).

David N. Dumville, Saint Patrick, A.D. 493-1993 (Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 1993).

R.P.C. Hanson, Saint Patrick: His Origins and Career (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968).

R.P.C. Hanson, The Life and Writings of the Historical Saint Patrick (New York: The Seabury Press, 1983).

E.A. Thompson, Who Was Saint Patrick? (Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 1985).

Posting Reading Lists in Church History

April 19th, 2008 Posted in Church History

A number of brothers have enquired about reading lists on various eras in Church history. I have decided to post these in a series. Not sure how many there will be. But I shall number them consecutively so interested readers can keep track. And while I hope to work through the whole of western church history, I will not be posting every day, but as I have time.

And I am sure many of you find will omissions of favourite things. Two things to note in this regard: I would love to hear of possible additions. But remember these are lists that I feel are necessary reading and because I am limited, the lists are also limited. In each of the areas I shall post on the reading could be multiplied many times over.

So here goes. The first reading list, on the Latin Fathers, follows immediately.

Why Are Cats Not Mentioned in Holy Writ?

April 19th, 2008 Posted in Reformation, Theology

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), one of the greatest of Renaissance artists, has a painting entitled Adam and Eve (1504) in which there is the most curious of things: a cat (for the painting, see! The cat, experts in artistic metaphor tell us, represents the choleric temperament in man. In Dürer’s rendition, the cat seems to be sleeping, while very close to it is a mouse, utterly unconcerned for its safety. The scene is pre-fall, and thus the fact that there is no danger for the mouse.

Now, what I find most curious is this: cats are never mentioned in Scripture. How strange in that case to find one at the feet of Dürer’s Adam and Eve. That other prolific western pet, dogs, are mentioned in the Bible, though they rarely come off well. But cats make no showing at all. It is a good reminder that Scripture is not to meant to give us an exhaustive encyclopedia of all human knowledge nor is it designed as a comprehensive guide to every conceivable human decision.

Should I buy a cat? Well, cats are not even mentioned! So, no way. If God had wanted me to have a cat, he would have told me in his Word.

No, this is a misuse of Scripture. There are principles of guidance about buying and selling—which, we must say, are utterly sufficient—but as to the specifics of the question above in relation to cats, no details. This, it seems, has convinced some in the western tradition that cats are evil. Otherwise, why no mention of them? No, cats are not inherently evil—our flame-point Siamese Chai is rambunctious, but hardly evil—they are part of the goodness of God’s creation which our Maker has given us to enjoy.

All of this is a good reminder that we must ask questions of God’s Holy Word it is designed to answer. And the most critical of those is how can a Holy God deal with the sin of us post-fall human beings and yet still love the creation he has made and do it good? This is a weighty question indeed (and we heard some good answers at this year’s T4G this past week).

Where to Start in Reading Patristics

April 13th, 2008 Posted in Ancient Church: 2nd & 3rd Centuries, Ancient Church: 4th & 5th Centuries

I was asked by one reader ( ) about where I would recommend beginning a reading programme in the Fathers. Here is my brief reply. (And thanks, brother, for the great question).

I would start with Robert Louis Wilken, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003). Then: Christopher A. Hall, Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998). Finally, a third book that is a gem, but not easy is Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition. A History of the Development of Doctrine. Vol. 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600) (Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1971).

And do not forget getting into the Fathers directly. Start with Augustine, Confessions, trans. R.S. Pine-Coffin (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1961) [this is the translation I like, but there are others]. Or read through an excellent collection by Steven A. McKinion, ed., Life and Practice in the Early Church. A Documentary Reader (New York/London: New York University Press, 2001). Another favourite of mine is Basil of Ceasarea, On the Holy Spirit, trans. David Anderson (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimirs Press, 1980).

For a good overview of the period, see the relevant pages in Tim Dowley ed., Introduction to the History of Christianity (1990 Rev. ed.; repr. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995) and for the key leaders, see John D. Woodbridge, ed., Great Leaders of the Christian Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988). The latter is regrettably out of print, but second-hand copies can be gotten easily. I have also had published Defence of the Truth: Contending for the truth yesterday and today (Darlington, Co. Durham: Evangelical Press, 2004), which deals with theological challenges faced by the Ancient Church.

I did blog on this back in 2006: see WHAT TO READ OF THE FATHERS?

Wise Words from Wendell Kempton

April 8th, 2008 Posted in 21st Century

In the most recent issue of The Baptist Bulletin (March/April 2008) I noticed a two-page memorial tribute about Wendell Kempton, the President Emeritus of ABWE, who died January 6, 2008. I probably would have paid no attention if I had not received earlier this year an e-mail sent out by Larry Smith, with whom I worked for a couple of years in the 1990s at Heritage Baptist College and Seminary. Until I received Larry’s e-mail I do not believe I knew the name of Dr. Kempton.

I was struck by one paragraph in particular about Dr. Kempton. Larry wrote this about him:

“I was in my office in Santiago, Chile beginning our second term of missionary service when I learned that our new president of ABWE was a man named Wendell Kempton. I did not know him or anything about him. I asked a missionary colleague who he was and he replied, “We call him Wendy—he’s a coach.”

“…As time passed, I was privileged to have Dr. Kempton “coach” me. I remember sitting in the airport in Santiago, Chile and listening intently to him as he coached me with words of wisdom on how to become a better missionary. As I approach retirement, I remember him telling me that “it is more important how you leave an organization than how you entered”.”

Those are wise words indeed.

Why Seek out the Fathers

April 8th, 2008 Posted in Ancient Church: 2nd & 3rd Centuries, Ancient Church: 4th & 5th Centuries

A dear friend, John Clubine, recently passed along to me a couple of pages from The Berean Call, 23, No.3 (March 2008), an article by T.A. McMahon entitled “Ancient-Future Heresies.” There are a number of things in the article with which I would wholeheartedly agree. But at one point the following is stated:

“…it takes very little scrutiny of men like Origen, Ireaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, Justin Martyr, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Jerusalem, Augustine, and others, to see their flaws, let alone their heresies. For example, Origen taught that God would save everyone and that Mary was a perpetual virgin; Irenaeus believed that the bread and wine became the body and blood of Jesus when consecrated, as did John Chrysostom and Cyril of Jerusalem; Athanasius taught salvation through baptism; Tertullian became a supporter of the Montanist heresies, and a promoter of a New Testament clergy class, as did his disciple Cyprian; Augustine was the principal architect of Catholic dogma that included his support of purgatory, baptismal regeneration, and infant baptism, mortal and venial sins, prayers to the dead, penance for sins, absolution from a priest, the sinlessness of Mary, the Apocrypha as Scripture, etc. It’s not that these men got everything wrong; some on certain doctrines, upheld Scripture against the developing unbiblical dogmas of the roman Catholic Church. Nevertheless, overall they are a heretical minefield. So why seek them out?” (p.4).

John Lukacs, a marvelous historian, has recently said that one of the reasons why we need to do history is that there is so much bad history out there. And this paragraph is a case in point! Much of what is said here is out and out erroneous, some of it needs nuancing and parts of it are right. It would take a book to respond adequately, and a blog is probably not the best place in engage in developing an adequate response.

But suffice it to say this: the paragraph ends with a very erroneous statement and a very important question. The deeply erroneous statement: “overall they are a heretical minefield.” Wow! There have been some in the past who argued thus, but they were usually ones who disagreed with the Reformation impulse and felt that the entire history of the church between the Apocalypse of John and the Reformation was an utter wasteland. Best to forget it all and start anew.

This was not the view of the Reformers, who felt that the Fathers of the Church could aid them in the Reformation needed in their day. Not that the Reformers believed everything that the Fathers wrote. They tested all against Holy Scripture. But they did believe that the Fathers more often supported them than they did their Roman Catholic opponents.

The question: “why seek them out?” Because the Reformers like Calvin and Cranmer and Knox believed that the Fathers were important witnesses to biblical truth and they bore witness to the grace of God at work in the Church.

The Error of the Federal Vision

April 8th, 2008 Posted in Theology

In the Ancient Church a Christian was a person who turned from idols and embraced the living God as he had revealed himself definitively in the crucified and risen Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). What made him a Christian? Faith, which was rooted in the electing work of God (see Acts 11:18; 13:48; 15:7-9; 16:31).

None of the early New Testament authors believed that the act of baptism alone saved anyone (thus Mark 16:16). Baptism is the way a person with a good conscience (to see what this is and how one obtains it, read Hebrews 9:14) responds to the saving work of God. Thus 1 Peter 3:21 means that the baptism which saves is that which is “the pledge of a good conscience toward God.”

These convictions must be asserted afresh today for the upholders of the so-called Federal Vision maintain that the baptism of infants makes them Christians—a position that is simply taking us back to the disastrous confusion of the medieval Church. As a Calvinistic Baptist I have deep admiration for many Reformed paedobaptist brothers, though I would disagree with their argument that infant baptism is a covenantal sign that must be affirmed later in life. But such brethren do not argue for trust for salvation in the baptismal rite. There must be conversion.

But this position is quite different from the affirmation that a human rite in itself and by itself saves. The Apostle clearly rejects this latter argument in 1 Corinthians 10:1-5. If participation in the ordinances saved, then surely those who followed Moses out of Egypt would have entered the Promised Land. But they did not—for baptism (and the Lord’s Table) do not save.

God will not give the glory of being the Saviour of his people to another person or thing!