Archive for June, 2011

Linquenda and the lack of reality in contemporary culture

June 30th, 2011 Posted in 21st Century

My wife has been working afternoons at St Joseph’s Hospital this week. And so I have been dropping her off and driving back through an area of Hamilton very familiar to us: the Aberdeen area just under the Mountain brow. From 1976 to 1982, Alison and I lived in a second floor apartment on 149 Markland Avenue.

There are many beautiful homes in the area, each with their own character. But there is one remarkable house I had never forgotten: an old home, much older than the 1890s–1910s homes that form the majority of the homes in the area. It is 28 South Street, is set back from the street and has a whitewashed exterior. What struck me about the house in years gone by was the house’s name—I love the idea of naming homes; if I could name mine, I would call it possibly Pantycelyn (after my Welsh hero W Williams) or maybe Haworth (after my Yorkshire hero Grimshaw) or even Olney (after John Sutcliff) or possibly Kettering (after my mentor)—maybe this is a reason I have not named our home—too many good names to choose from.

Be all this as it may, what struck me about the house when I would walk by it in days gone by was the name of the house, painted in large black letters on the whitewash: Linquenda. It is Latin from the verb linquo, and means “Things left behind.” It is a graphic reminder of the nature of all things in this world: one day they will all be left behind. Well, I thought as I was driving home after dropping Alison on Tuesday, I will drive by the house and see it since it had been probably a decade since I had seen it last. To my surprise, the name was gone and there was simply whitewash. No name and no apparent evidence of the name that had adorned the house for years.

As I thought about this incident later, it struck me: it is not surprising. All that men and women of our culture have is the secular, the temporal, the things of this world. The idea that all will one day be gone or left behind is simply too much reality to bear. So, in this case much easier to remove the horrible reminder and paint over the offensive house name. I could be wrong about the reason for the removal of the house name; it might be much simpler and quite other.

But I am not wrong about the deep malaise of contemporary Western culture: it is hollow, flat, or as Herbert Marcuse said, one-dimensional. One sees it on every hand. Belief in another life and another world, another dimension of reality—I affirm unequivocally the reality of that world in which dwelleth righteousness and the saints and where the Lamb is all the glory—gives a richness and depth to life. In the rejection of God and the divine, our secular culture has taken its cue from science and its faith in the phenomenal—and we are much the poorer. O for the recovery of the noumenal and true spirituality!

The Zambia Baptist Historical Society

June 29th, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized

Please read this post, which, though over a year old, deeply moved me. In it, Pastor Conrad Mbewe details the formation of the Zambia Baptist Historical Society: http://www.conradmbewe.com/2010/04/zambia-baptist-historical-society-has.html . May God give us all such a zeal for our past heritage.

Another Carey question: was he right to think about leaving his wife to go to India?

June 28th, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized

Was William Carey in the right to contemplate leaving his wife to go to India to preach the gospel there? If Carey had been able to ask some of his Puritan forebears like Richard Baxter, they would have encouraged him to do so. Here is Baxter answering the question, “May ministers leave their wives to go abroad to preach the Gospel?” [Note: the question from a Puritan who some suppose to have had missionary interest!]

“If they can neither do God’s work so well at home, nor yet take their wives with them, nor be excused from doing that part of service, by other men’s doing it who have no such impediment; they may and must leave their wives to do it.”

I am not necessarily in agreement with either Baxter or Carey, but it is vital to view Carey in the context of his tradition.

Three marks of a true friend according to Samuel Pearce

June 25th, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized

What is a friend? What constitutes Christian friendship? Here is one answer from a letter from Samuel Pearce:

“In our path thro life, tho we meet with so many travelers, & we hope with many who are going to Zion with their faces thitherward; yet, it is not often that we meet with men, whose openness of mind, steadiness of attachment, & spirituality of temper, invite our friendship with…force & sweetness.”

[Letter to Samuel Etheridge, April 20, 1796 in Timothy Whelan, transcribed and ed., Baptist Autographs in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 1741–1845 (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2009), 83]. I have expanded Pearce’s wh to “with.”

Pearce here helpfully identified three characteristics of a true friend: “openness of mind, steadiness of attachment, & spirituality of temper [i.e. temperament].” The first two would probably be affirmed by Pearce’s Georgian culture. The third is distinctly Christian.

Another question: Did William Carey write hymns?

June 25th, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized

Did William Carey compose hymns? I would have answered no till last night when Jack Chen, the Pastor of the Carey Baptist Church in Kolkata informed me otherwise.

I then came across this statement in a letter Carey wrote to his good friend John Sutcliff on January 16, 1798—Carey is describing the worship service he leads and he states: “we sing Bengali hymns, which I have composed, in the style of Sternhold and Hopkins” [cited Eustace Carey, Memoir of William Carey, D.D. (London: Jackson and Walford, 1836), 323].

Sestercentennial book on Carey

June 24th, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized

I am working with Nathan Finn (of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary), Samuel Masters (the Rector of Seminario Bíblico William Carey,Córdoba, Argentina), Ryan West (one of our PhD students), Kieran Beville (pastor of Lee Valley Bible Church, Ireland), Chisso Wang (studying at Toronto Baptist Seminary and Bible College), and Jack Chen (of Carey Baptist Church, Kolkata) on a new book about William Carey to be published by BorderStone Press later this summer.

It will be entitled Carey our contemporary: reflections on his thought and mission, and will involve an examination of his Enquiry, his preaching in India, his evangelization of Muslims, and the current need of India. We will include his Moulton and Leicester Church Covenants (very hard to find), the Serampore Form of Agreement, and possibly some of his hymns (just found out from Jack Chen about Carey’s hymns in Bengali).

It is being released to celebrate the sestercentennial of Carey’s birth in 1761.

Four questions about missions, the Anabaptists, and William Carey

June 24th, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized

1.      Why did William Carey, in his famous An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, in which he made an historical survey of the history of missions, say nary a word about the Anabaptists?

2.      Why did the Continental Anabaptists not send a mission overseas and why did Calvin send a mission to Brazil?

3.      Where were the Anabaptist missionaries during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries?

4.      Was Carey’s mission a product more of the Reformation or of Pietism?

Andrew Fuller’s significance in the history of Christianity

June 22nd, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized

The Andrew Fulller Center is named after the leading Baptist theologian of the latter half of the long eighteenth century. Why? Well,  Fuller’s importance for the history of Christianity in general lies in five areas (the very fact that there is the term “Fullerism” in English, I think, says something about his importance. But I leave that to one side).

a.       First, in his apologetic work with regard to two key religious options that developed out of the Enlightenment, namely Deism and Socinianism/Unitarianism, Fuller pens the key Baptist eighteenth century defence of the Trinity and deity of Christ. So good, in fact, is his response to Unitarianism that it is highly used by Thomas Chalmers, the leading Scottish Presbyterian theologian of the first half of the nineteenth century. Fuller shows us a key way classical confessional Christianity sought to respond to the challenges of the Enlightenment. His response to Socinianism is of great importance for it heavily draws upon the theology of virtue and thus connects Fuller to centuries of classical pagan and Christian thought with regard to virtue theory.

b.   Second, Fuller is the central conduit in the first half of the nineteenth century in the British Isles for the transmission of the theological heritage of Jonathan Edwards (1703–58), Ewardseanism, especially this heritage’s discussion of the relationship between “sense and sensibility,” that is, reason and the affections. Fuller’s embrace of the Edwardsean emphasis on the affections as the key to Christian conversion and sanctification anticipates the reaction of Romanticism to the ideals of the Enlightenment.

c.   Third, Fuller’s rebuttal of Hyper-Calvinism prepares the way for his theology of preaching to be the mainspring for William Carey, the Baptist mission to India, and the founding of other missionary societies in Britain, and America at the turn of the nineteenth century. Thus, Fuller is a central figure in the springing up of the modern missionary movement and the development of global Christianity. In addition to being a theologian of mission, he was also an ardent practitioner, serving as the Secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society from 1792 till his death in 1815.

d.    He was a mentor to Robert Hall (1764–1831), the leading preaching celebrity of the Regency era, and, while he would not have agreed with all of Hall’s theological nuances, he did have an indirect influence on the sort of theology Hall preached. It is noteworthy that Charles Spurgeon (1834–92), the Victorian preaching celebrity, regarded Fuller as the most important Baptist theologian of his era.

e.   Finally, as an heir of seventeenth-century Reformed orthodoxy, typified by men like John Owen (1616–83) and Herman Witsius (1636–1708), Fuller carries on a tradition of anti-Arminianism, though not without certain modifications.

Being baptized: do what is right!

June 21st, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized

 The following anecdote comes from the Memoir of Eustace Carey.

On a certain occasion, a lady said to William Carey, “Mr. Carey, I see adult baptism to be quite right, and yet I cannot make up my mind to submit to it. I am very unhappy about it sometimes; I suppose you would advise me still to pray about it, sir?” Said Mr. Carey, “I tell you what I advise, madam; go and do what you know to be right, and pray afterwards. Your prayers will then be likely to give you more pleasure.”

[cited “Religious Intelligence”, The Gospel Herald,  35 (Ipswich, 1857) 206].

The Cappadocians and creating culture

June 19th, 2011 Posted in Ancient Church: 4th & 5th Centuries

Recently, my family and I had a tremendous vacation in Sarasota. Among the things I did, this one with my daughter Victoria, was to go downtown Sarasota, where I found in a fabulous bookstore, Parkers, on Main Street, a cloth copy of the gem by Jaroslav Pelikan: Christianity and Classical Culture: The Metamorphosis of Natural Theology in the Christian Encounter with Hellenism (Yale University Press, 1993), in which he powerfully dissects the way the Cappadocians created a Christian culture for their day. I had a paper copy: it was great to get a cloth copy. For this book is a gem—and not simply because I am into the Cappadocians. It is extremely instructive.

Wherever Christians gather over the course of time, they create a culture. This is inevitable since we are culture-creating creatures. And if we are not alert and vigilant, we will adopt the regnant culture of our society. Either we Christians are about transforming culture or it will transform us.

Case in point: the substitution of Mothers Day and Fathers Day for Pentecost and Trinity Sunday à la my recent post.