Archive for July, 2012

Attend Andrew Fuller Conference for Credit

July 30th, 2012 Posted in Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Conferences, Eminent Christians

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is offering a ‎”History of the Baptists” (26100 MD) Hybrid course in conjunction with this year’s Andrew Fuller Center conference. The course, which will be taught by Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin with Steve Weaver, will include registration for the 2012 conference. The class will meet for four hours on Thursday evening before the conference and for two hours on Saturday afternoon after the conference ends. Supplemental video lectures will be watched online via Moodle before and after the class meets on campus Septemer 20-22, 2012. To view the syllabus, click here. SBTS students can sign up for the class on Moodle using course # 26100 MD. For more details about the conference, please visit events.sbts.edu/andrewfuller.

Baptists and knowing the times

July 25th, 2012 Posted in 17th Century, 18th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History

For Baptists, faithfulness to the Gospel in England during the period from 1660 to 1688 meant outright conflict with the Anglican Church and inevitably persecution and imprisonment for Baptist leaders. Not surprisingly, this produced a legacy of animosity between the two bodies of churches: to the Baptists, the Church of England was a false church; to the Anglicans, Baptist congregations were guilty of the sin of schism.

Fifty years after the Act of Toleration, when revival began to come to the Church of England, Baptists understandably viewed things through the prism of their history of dealings with the Anglicans and either acted as if the revival was a “flash in the pan,” as we say, or rejected it out of hand. Far too many Baptists sought to hold the line against the revival, and one of the results was hyper-Calvinism, and Andrew Fuller’s famous quip that the Calvinistic Baptist denomination would have become “a very dunghill in society” (Works [1845], III, 478) if God had not brought renewal into their ranks. Nota bene: this revival of the Baptists did not take place till the 1780s, a full fifty years after the revival began in Anglican ranks.

There is a tremendous lesson in all of this: the form that our loyalty to the Gospel takes can never be divorced from the historical circumstances in which we find ourselves and thus we need to be astute as possible in “knowing the times.”

Christian classics: a list

July 23rd, 2012 Posted in Books, Church History, Reading Church History Lists

This past week I had the privilege of teaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary a course on Christian Classics. I was asked at one point for a list of key works that I consider every Christian should read. Such lists are always eclectic to some degree. The following is no exception: I doubt many others would list Samuel Pearce’s memoirs by Fuller or Ann Griffiths. But here is my current list of Christian classics arranged chronologically. 

  1. The Odes of Solomon
  2. Basil of Caesarea, On the Holy Spirit
  3. Augustine, Confessions
  4. Augustine, On the Trinity
  5. Macarius, Spiritual Homilies
  6. Ailred of Rievaulx, On Spiritual Friendship
  7. Thomas Cranmer, The Book of Common Prayer
  8. John Calvin, The Institutes
  9. John Owen, On the Mortification of Sin in Believers
  10. Jonathan Edwards, On Religious Affections
  11. The Hymns of Charles Wesley
  12. John Newton and William Cowper, The Olney Hymns
  13. The Hymns and Letters of Ann Griffiths
  14. Andrew Fuller, The Memoirs of Samuel Pearce
  15. Adolphe Monod, Les Adieux
  16. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
  17. C. S Lewis, The Weight of Glory
  18. John Piper, Desiring God

Claire Welch’s Ontario

July 19th, 2012 Posted in Uncategorized

A slight emendation of Calixa Lavallée’s words familiar to all Canadians, “my home and native land”—from Canada’s national anthem—came to mind when I began to write this review.* Ontario has been my home since I was twelve, and it is now very much my “native land” by choice. Initially when I came to Ontario in December of 1965 I was none too thrilled: there was no rich history like my native England, few battles, fewer heroes, or so it appeared to a young boy raised on military heroes like Richard the Lionheart, Warwick the Kingmaker, Nelson and so on. But over the past forty-five years I have learned to love this land, which the dust-jacket of this book calls a “magical province.”

No doubt, the main draw of this book is its stunning photographs, many of them places very familiar to me, such as the aerial picture of Niagara Falls (p.99). It is essentially a coffee-table book, to be picked up for a few moments in which one can savor some of the photographs in its pages. Alongside the photographs, though, there is also a textual narrative that sketches the history of the province. It begins with the first peoples, the Algonquians and Iroquoians, their encounter in the seventeenth century with the first European settlers, the French and the British, and goes on to more recent political and economic developments. This text gives a fair overview of the province’s history, but I felt that there was one striking lacuna that I have encountered again and again in recent histories of either Ontario or Canada: there was nearly nothing about the formative role that religion has played in Ontario’s development. I say “nearly nothing,” for there is a photograph of St Sylvester’s Roman Catholic Church in Nipigon (p.114). Beyond that, though, the impression given is that historic Ontario was as secular as the modern landscape. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

The historic strength of the part of Canada that I call home and now native land has been the Christian faith. While that is no longer the case—a fact that cries out for an explanation—we do Ontario’s past a grave injustice if we fail to recall all of its inner and outer architecture.

* Claire Welch, Ontario (Edison, New Jersey: Chartwell Books, Inc., 2008).

(This review first appeared on The Official Blog of the Sola Scriptura Ministries International. See here. Used by permission).

Math and the Future of Religion

July 18th, 2012 Posted in Current Affairs

In a recent piece entitled “Religion in Canada is going extinct as atheists come out of the closet” communications professional Daniela Syrovy argues that it “doesn’t take a scientist to figure out that religion [in Canada] is in decline.” She buttresses this remark with some impressions—church attendance noticeably in decline, church buildings being sold off—and stats from a recent study by three mathematicians (“Mathematicians say religion heading toward extinction”; for the actual piece of research, see Daniel M. Abrams, Haley A. Yaple, and Richard J. Wiener, “A mathematical model of social group competition with application to the growth of religious non-affiliation”) that seem to indicate that religion is headed for extinction in nine western democracies, including Canada.

To a math ignoramus like me (I don’t think that my father, who nearly did a PhD in mathematics, ever got over having such a numskull for a son!), the stats, supported by a host of mathematical formulae, look very impressive. The one big glitch is that we are talking about human behavior. First-century Rome—things looked grim for organized religion. Just around the corner was the fervour of Christianity. As Barry Kosmin, a demographer of religion at Trinity College in Connecticut rightly noted, “Religion relies on human beings. They aren’t rational or predictable according to the laws of physics. Religious fervor waxes and wanes in unpredictable ways.” So true.

Actually, this study by Abrams, Yaple and Wiener is simply a mathematical variant of a model that has been employed and found wanting in historical studies, namely, the secularization thesis. In a nutshell, this thesis argued that as societies became more sophisticated technologically, religion waned and declined. The thesis sounds pretty convincing: as more is explained about the world in which we live, the less we need to rely upon religion and deities. Kind of like that episode of the first Star Trek, where the adventure-loving humans encounter the god Apollo, who sees an opportunity to reassert his control over mankind through superstition and fear. But Capt. Kirk—the quintessential rationalist—tells him that mankind had outgrown their need for such gods and such beliefs.

This view seemed to make sense in the 1960s, when humankind seemed on the verge of great advances and the future seemed so rosy because of science. But fifty years on, western men and women are not so sure, and, as Syrovy admits, “Faith exists and is evident in everyday life” [what she means by “faith” is not at all clear]. Or to put it in more (post-)modern jargon, spirituality is flourishing as never before since the sixties, replete with crystals, Buddhism meditation, vampires, and converts to Islam.

Syrovy notes that “an estimated 12% of the world’s population are atheists and if the mathematicians have it right, over half of Canada is headed in that direction. Today, it feels great to say it loud and proud: religion is going extinct. Thank goodness.” Of course, majorities this way or that are not what this issue is about: rather, it is about truth. If 90% believe one thing and 10% another, and the minority are right, what matters that I am in such plentiful company? And when I look back at the twentieth century with its great social experiments in atheism—Stalinist Russia, Maoist China, the Pol Pot regime—I confess I am not as thrilled at the prospect of nationwide atheism as she is!

New Book Review: The Lady and the Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi

July 17th, 2012 Posted in Books, Current Affairs

Dr. Haykin has recently reviewed The Lady and the Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi by Peter Popham. Find this review and others here on our Book Review page.

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

Hitchens on the Cromwellian Revolution

July 12th, 2012 Posted in 16th Century, Great Quotes, Reformation

Thanks to a tip by Ian Clary, here is a fascinating observation by Christopher Hitchens in his essay, “The Importance of Being Orwell”:

 “The Protestant revolution was partly centered on the long battle to have the Bible made available in the English vernacular and removed from the control of the linguistic priesthood or “Inner Party.” ”

Money according to Marianne Farmingham

July 11th, 2012 Posted in 19th Century, 20th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Great Quotes

“Money…cannot, must not, ought not, to be the greatest thing to a writer” (Marianne Farmingham).

From her A Working Woman’s Life: An Autobiography (London: James Clarke, & Co., 1907), 275. Farmingham (1834–1909), a Baptist authoress, was a household name in many Victorian homes, and CH Spurgeon certainly regarded her as famous.

Le pudeur and sex in the Song of Songs revisited

July 10th, 2012 Posted in 21st Century

A couple of comments on my recent post on “la pudeur” have prompted disbelief: surely I cannot be saying there is no sex in the Song of Songs! Well, let me assure you, I am not. Of course, there is sex there. But what I am strongly suggesting is that the book is not a sex manual, which fascinates our culture’s mentalité where all is devolved into technique.

And as such, I am extremely dubious about attempts to find certain sexual exploits in the book. I am not convinced, for instance, that there is anything in this text about fellatio, contrary to the arguments of certain recent commentators. The verses that were used to buttress this argument were as dubious to me as John Walvoord’s pointing to Revelation 4:1 as a reference to the rapture (if the dispensationalist rapture is true it must stand on better grounds than that!).

Moreover, without necessarily adopting the rampant allegorizing of our fathers in the Faith, surely they were right to argue this book is also about Christ and his church. And to read it as primarily a “holy” sex manual surely misses one of the rich reasons it is in the canon!

Of university and college bookstores

July 10th, 2012 Posted in Books, Current Affairs

“If the college you visit has a bookstore filled with t-shirts rather than books, find another college.” —Al Mohler.

Wise advice indeed! About a year ago, one of the best bookstores in the Greater Hamilton area in Ontario, namely McMaster University’s bookstore, decided to trade in most of its books for McMaster kitsch, including oodles of t-shirts and hoodies with the Mac logo. I was utterly horrified and, as I would say in British English, I was gobsmacked! I could not believe my eyes when I saw the transition taking place. Thankfully, we have Bryan Prince’s bookstore down the road in Westdale. Still it is quite amazing that a first-class University like McMaster has a piddly number of books in their bookstore—or whatever the store should be called now that it has denuded itself of books.

In this regard, I was glad to see the bookstore at the University of British Columbia, where I was last week, it is still the real thing—I hope it stays that way!