Archive for October, 2010

A western conversion to…Islam

October 25th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

I just watched the testimony of Lauren Booth, Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, about her conversion to Islam, which was sealed in a Shi’ite shrine in Iran (see it here). While there, she said she had a feeling of overwhelming peace and absolute joy, and knew that her life would never be the same again. And she now knows, she said, that Islam is a religion of compassion, love, and joy.

There are two critical components in a genuine encounter with God: truth and the concomitant feelings. The most important is truth. I shall never forget my conversion in 1974. I wrestled with the truth of the gospel for six months before submitting to the Lord Christ, and then for another nine months I went through times of deep profound spiritual warfare. At times, all that kept me was the truth of the resurrection of Christ, not my feelings. I learned a very valuable lesson in those months: the truth of the gospel stands independently of my feelings. To be sure, there were positive feelings of joy at the very outset, but so often there were deep spiritual testings as well.

I do not doubt the feelings Lauren Booth has had. But, if they are not yoked to truth, they speak of another source than the true and living God.

HT: Luis Dizon on Facebook

Both proclaimers of the gospel and moral reformers

October 25th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

Not long after his conversion, William Wilberforce (1759–1833), at the time a member of Parliament, wrote to the evangelical minister John Newton (1725–1807) on December 2, 1785, wanting to visit him for spiritual advice about his career, for Wilberforce was contemplating leaving the realm of politics. For a number of eighteenth-century evangelicals, particularly the Methodist followers of John Wesley (1703–91) and those outside of the Anglican fold like the Baptists, politics was a “worldly” occupation from which the believer was best to separate himself or herself [see, for example, Murray Andrew Pura, Vital Christianity: The Life and Spirituality of William Wilberforce (Fearn by Tain, Ross-Shire: Christian Focus/Toronto: Clements Publishing, 2003), 37–8].

Anglican evangelicals like Newton, however, did not view their Christian discipleship in such a counter-cultural light and Newton wisely encouraged Wilberforce to stay in the world of politics. Some words that Newton wrote to him a couple of years later well capture the essence of his advice to the young convert: “It is hoped and believed that the Lord has raised you up for the good of His church and for the good of the nation.” [cited John Pollock, Wilberforce (1977 ed.; repr. Eastbourne: Kingsway, 2001), 38]. Newton was well aware of the challenge of being a Christian and a politician. As he wrote of Wilberforce to his good friend William Cowper (1731–1800) the year after Wilberforce came to see him: “I hope the Lord will make him a blessing both as a Christian and a statesman. How seldom do these characters coincide!! But they are not incompatible.” [William Hague, William Wilberforce (HarperCollins, 2007), 88].

Nor did Newton simply direct Wilberforce into the calling God had chosen for him, but over the next couple of decades Newton proved to be the ablest and most devoted of spiritual mentors. For example, in 1796, Newton wrote to Wilberforce: “I believe you are the Lord’s servant, and are in the post which He has assigned you; and though it appears to me more arduous, and requiring more self-denial than my own, I know that He who has called you to it can afford you strength according to your day” [cited Hague, William Wilberforce, 88]. Newton also helped Wilberforce by recalling those in Scripture who had served in the political realm: “May the wisdom that influenced Joseph and Moses and Daniel rest upon you. Not only to guide and animate you in the line of political duty—but especially to keep you in the habit of dependence upon God, and your communion with him, in the midst of all the changes and bustle around you.” [John Newton, Letter to William Wilberforce, 18 May [1786] (Bodleian, MS Wilberforce c.49, fol. 9)].

The meeting between Wilberforce and Newton in 1785 would be a true turning point in the religious, social and political history of Great Britain. Thanks be to God Wilberforce did not consult Wesley—though Wesley would encourage him to persevere in the fight against slavery shortly before his death in 1791—or a London Baptist leader, who would have told the young convert to get out of politics. And glad in this sense that he was not living today when he might have visited one of any number of pietistic Evangelical leaders in the Anglophone world, who conceives of the advance of the kingdom to be solely a matter of the recruitment of preachers. To be sure, we need such: the advance of the kingdom of our glorious Captain is tied to his infrangible and indelible Word. But we also need moral reformers with the mettle of Wilberforce.

Martin Bucer on the goal of theology

October 24th, 2010 Posted in 16th Century

A great statement about the goal of theology by the Reformer Martin Bucer: “Vera theologia non theoretica, sed practica est; finis siquidem eius agere est hoc est vitam vivere deiformem.” (ET: “True theology is not theoretical, but practical. The end of it is living, that is to live a godly life.”)

Reflecting on “Cathedral” by Crosby, Stills & Nash

October 23rd, 2010 Posted in 20th Century, Current Affairs

Listening to Crosby, Stills & Nash. Love so much of their stuff. Their “Long time gone” (1969) defined so much about my life in that era when it was written. Of course, as with so much of the music of that era, the tunes and lyrics were both remarkable, almost classic as soon as they were crafted. But the deeply resonant tunes often cloaked philosophical approaches that would prove destructive to occidental cultural structures.

Take “Cathedral,” for example. The drug theme—the mention of “flying” and being high—reminds one of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” (from their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band). But half-way into the song, there is this—words that echo the attitude of so many in the sixties and that shaped so many in the days following that heady era:

“I’m flying in Winchester cathedral.
All religion has to have it’s day
Expressions on the face of the Saviour
Made me say
I can’t stay.”

“Open up the gates of the church and let me out of here!
Too many people have lied in the name of Christ
For anyone to heed the call.
So many people have died in the name of Christ
That I can’t believe it all.”

What seemed patent to so many in the sixties, the seeming bankruptcy of western Christianity with its lies and death-dealing, has faded in the forty years between then and now. Why? Because Jesus Christ is greater than his Church. No doubt Christians have lied and dealt death in the name of the Lord of life. But their failures are not to be ascribed to Jesus. And in the light of the fallout of the sixties and the realization that the heroes of that era—Che and John Lennon, Krishna and Herbert Marcuse, Danny the Red and Eldridge Cleaver, Cher and RFK—were but clay, choosing to follow the pure-hearted Jesus is but wisdom.

When this song was penned I too would have said, “Open up the gates of the church and let me out of here!” But five years later, I came to love Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Expressions on his crucified and risen visage made me say, “Here is where I want to stay and nowhere else.”

The W Conference: A Special Conference for Women

October 21st, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized


For 15% off, use PROMO CODE: SBTS

The W Conference: Simplifying Womanhood in a Complicated World

November 19-20 at Southern Seminary
Worship Leaders: Mary Kassian and Heather Payne

Breakouts on multicultural relationships, girl-girl relationships, girl-boy relationships, balancing, time management, wise spending, spiritual fitness, God’s call, and the P31 wife.

Learn to minister to young women! Bring young women! Learn to be wise in a world gone crazy.

DISCOUNT CODE: SBTS for 15% off!

Register online now: http://events.sbts.edu/wconference

Posted by Steve Weaver, Research and Administrative Assistant to the Director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin.

A Morning with Robert Hall, Jr.: A Free Mini-Conference at SBTS

October 14th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies is sponsoring “A Morning with Robert Hall, Jr.” on Wednesday, October 27th from 9 am to  11:30 am on the 3rd floor of the Legacy Center at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

This event will feature lectures from British pastor Austin Walker and SBTS Ph.D. candidate Cody McNutt.

Robert Hall, Jr. was very influential in the launch of the modern missionary movement in the 18th century.  He was friends with such men as  William Carey and Andrew Fuller.  The first 25 students in attendance will receive a free copy of the new B&H title Andrew Fuller: Model Pastor-Theologian by Paul Brewster.

Posted by Steve Weaver, Research and Administrative Assistant to the Director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin.

God Alone Forms Missionaries

October 14th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

“It is easy to form missions, but the Lord alone can form true missionaries.”

[John Newton (1725–1807), cited Marylynn Rouse, The John Newton Project Background for Prayer (Oct/Nov 2010), p.4].

“Baptists and the Cross” Conference Audio Now Available

October 5th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

The audio for this year’s conference “Baptists and the Cross: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives” is now available online.  Plenary sessions include lectures by Tom Schreiner, Stephen Wellum, David Bebbington, Glendon Thompson, Maurice Dowling, James Fuller, and Danny Akin.  There also twelve parallel sessions an hymn-fest, and a bonus discussion between Drs. Haykin and Bebbington.  View the complete schedule and listen online or download MP3s here.

Posted by Steve Weaver, Research and Administrative Assistant to the Director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin.

Old Babylonian spoken on the internet

October 4th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

Lovers of ancient languages will be thrilled to hear specimens of Old Babylonian, including portions of the Epic of Gligamesh, being read on the internet: hear them here at www.speechisfire.com.

Baptist ministers in the 18th century: a further reflection

October 4th, 2010 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought

Standing at the far left of the picture of the Baptist ministers we have been considering is Samuel Pearce (1766-99), one of my Baptist heroes. Immediately to his right is William Steadman (1764-1837), who played a central role in Baptist renewal in the North of England. Steadman far outlived Pearce, but the two had been close friends during their time together at Bristol Baptist Academy, where they both studied in the late 1780s. Whoever drew this picture must have known of their friendship for their being placed together is not fortuitous. It corresponds to two other groups of friends that we will consider at a later point. Pearce was widely known to be a friend of Andrew Fuller and John Ryland, both sitting in the picture, but the friendship with Steadman was not as widely known, which makes this point quite interesting.