‘21st Century’ Category

Introducing the Ministry of Evan D. Burns

March 18th, 2014 Posted in 21st Century, Missions

By Steve Weaver

Evan BurnsThose who read this blog on a regular basis are not strangers to Evan D. Burns. Evan is one of our most faithful contributors to the blog, regularly providing excerpts from the writings of Andrew Fuller, Adoniram Judson, and others. What you may not realize is that, while he is working on a Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Evan and his family are also serving as missionaries in southeast Asia. Evan is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

A few months ago, the Burns put together the video below for their supporters to inform them about their ministry.

Video Description: Evan and Kristie Burns, and their two sons, live in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Evan works with the Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and Training Leaders International, to train Christian leaders from around SE Asia. This video shares about some of the needs in the region and the work that Evan and his family are doing to meet those needs.

To get in touch with Evan about his ministry, just leave a comment below and I will forward it along to him.

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Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children.

Boston Not Jerusalem

April 30th, 2013 Posted in 17th Century, 18th Century, 21st Century, Current Affairs, Puritans

By Ryan Patrick Hoselton

The Boston Marathon bombing represents a society that is worlds apart from the Boston inhabited by the Puritan Increase Mather (1639-1723). Abhorrent evils perpetrated in any city—like the Newtown shooting, 9/11, and the Oklahoma City bombing—raise the very human question: why? Each generation has to wrestle with new and complicated manifestations of wrongdoing. Increase Mather had no category for making sense of how two Chechen brothers could plant explosives at a massive annual foot-race. However, perhaps his response to the calamities of Boston in his day could help us gain perspective on the city’s recent catastrophe.

In many ways, modern-day Boston has failed to live up to Mather’s lofty aspirations for the city. Mather, the former minister of the historic Second Church and President of Harvard from 1685-1702, planned for Boston to become the new Jerusalem—God’s holy society on earth. But even in his day, Boston was far from heaven. The seventeenth-century New Englanders intimately knew suffering. The reason many of them came to New England was to flee religious persecution. If they survived the long voyage, they faced the threat of frequent and devastating plagues.

But it was the attacks from the native New England tribes that evoked one of Mather’s fullest reflections on the evil of his times, An Earnest Exhortation to the Inhabitants of New-England (1676).[1] In this treatise, Mather blamed the tragedies on the sins of Boston’s citizens: “What shall we say when men are seen in the Streets with monstrous and horrid Perriwigs, and women with their Borders and False Locks…whereby the anger of the Lord is kindled against this land (9)!” He’s just getting warmed up. He listed Boston’s iniquities and warned that unless the citizens reform their lives, “New-England hath not seen its worst dayes.” For Mather, Boston’s prosperity and its demise was contingent on its righteousness before God. Thus, his solution for eradicating Boston’s suffering was to recruit its citizens to significant moral reform.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking (or should be thinking if you’re not): so far, Mather is not helping us understand evil today! But briefly give him a little grace. As a result of these events, Mather ministered to many hurting people: “Is it nothing that Widdows and Fatherless have been multiplyed among us?” He wanted to see evil and its effects eliminated just as much as those impacted by the Boston Marathon bombings. However, no earthly city could ever be righteous enough to completely evade adversity—all of mankind is fallen. His solution was geographically misguided.

Mather placed his hope in the right city, but he located it in the wrong place. Revelation 21:2-4 describes how the new Jerusalem will come:

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’

Boston is not the New Jerusalem—it does not exist on earth. The events from last week’s race testify to the sad reality that evil still afflicts the city four-hundred years later. Ever since Babel, mankind has had the tendency to rely on the kingdoms that we can construct. We like our societies because they reflect us rather than God. However, despite our best efforts, we cannot create the righteous kingdom that will bring us peace.

Mather was right that God will entirely eradicate all evil and its consequences in his new Jerusalem. However, this is not a city that mortals can build.  Instead, we must rest our hopes for peace on the King of the new Jerusalem, Jesus Christ, who will lovingly assemble this city for his people.


[1]Increase Mather, An Earnest Exhortation to the Inhabitants of New-England (Boston: John Foster: 1676). You can access the full text here: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/etas/31/

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Ryan Patrick Hoselton is pursuing a ThM at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife Jaclyn, and they are expecting their first child in August.

 

Two new works on Covenant Theology in its Baptist expression

April 8th, 2013 Posted in 17th Century, 18th Century, 19th Century, 20th Century, 21st Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Books, Puritans, Reformation, Theology

By Jeff Robinson

One of the theological questions I have been asked most often during my first 24 months as pastor has been some version of this query: Do Baptists believe Covenant Theology or is that just a Presbyterian thing? My answer (which is consistently “Yes, Baptists have historically believed Covenant Theology that obviously differs a bit from our Presbyterian brethren”) has puzzled some and made others curious enough to launch your own study of my conclusion. But my dear friend Mike Gaydosh at Solid Ground Books in Birmingham, Ala., the city where my family lives, has recently published two books that will provide plenty of grist for that mill and will provide substantive historical and biblical answers to the question of Baptists and their relationship to Covenant Theology.

The first work is titled The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology: A Comparison Between Seventeenth-Century Particular Baptist and Paedobaptist Federalism by Pascal Denault. The point of pressure separating the Baptist and non-Baptist version of Covenant Theology is, of course, the subjects (the who?) of baptism. In the concise span of 140 pages, Denault’s work provides a brilliant historical, biblical and theological defense of believer’s baptism and provides an excellent overview of the consistent, biblical Covenant Theology which the Calvinistic (Particular) Baptists of 17th century England espoused. Denault surveys British Particular Baptists who held to Covenant Theology such as Benjamin Keach and John Gill and also shows biblically how paedobaptists misinterpret the continuity between the promises given to Abraham in the OT and baptism in the NT and arrive at the conclusion that baptism replaces circumcision as the sign of membership in the covenant people of God. The author traces the points at which historic Baptists and their fellow Puritans parted ways on issues of the continuity and discontinuity between the old and new testaments and argues forcibly that Baptists more consistently held to a biblical version of Covenant Theology.

Edited by Earl M. Blackburn, the second work, Covenant Theology: A Baptist Distinctive, is a multi-author work and includes chapters from contributors such as Justin Taylor, Fred Malone and Walter Chantry. Like the Denault book, this work is brief in compass (161 pages, including three appendices) and each of the five well-written chapters examines a separate issue related to the covenants of Scripture, ranging from baptism to the question of the existence of a covenant of works. Blackburn opens with an excellent overview of Covenant Theology and Malone follows with a discussion of biblical hermeneutics and Covenant Theology. This work, like Denault’s book, offers a well-done overview of the Baptist version of Covenant Theology and I heartily recommend them both for your spring or summer reading.

To order, see the Solid Ground Christian Books website at http://www.solid-ground-books.com/index.asp. Phone: (205) 443-0311.

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Jeff Robinson (Ph.D., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Senior Pastor of Philadelphia Baptist Church. Jeff is the author of the forthcoming book, The Great Commission Vision of John Calvin. Jeff is also a fellow of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.

A Family History of Sabbatarianism

April 1st, 2013 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, 21st Century, Andrew Fuller, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes

By Dustin Bruce

Hearing bits of anecdotal family history is one of the most interesting parts of holiday gatherings. When aspects of family history intersect with theological concepts, I find them even more fascinating. Recently I enjoyed learning of the Sabbatarian practices my grandparents experienced as children in the early twentieth-century rural south.

Growing up in a devout Baptist family, my grandfather was not allowed to work or attend any worldly amusements on the Lord’s Day. Slight exceptions were made to allow for some cooking and feeding of animals. Work was not allowed, but the Sabbath was not to be spent frivolously. Fishing and hunting, common pastimes in rural Alabama, were simply out of the question. 

It is interesting to note how quickly the practice of keeping the Lord’s Day has faded from the church culture. Area churches that would have encouraged Sabbath keeping just 70 years ago likely have no current members who give the concept much thought. The shift away from Sabbatarianism has been so swift and decisive that my grandfather’s childhood experience in this area more closely resembles that of Andrew Fuller’s than my own.

In an 1805 letter to a friend, Fuller defends the practice of keeping the Lord’s Day. Responding to doubts as to its observance, Fuller asks, “If the keeping of a Sabbath to God were not in all ages binding, why is it introduced in the moral law, and founded upon God’s resting from his works. If it were merely a Jewish ceremonial, why do we read of time being divided by weeks before the law?”[1]Fuller possessed a theological conviction that compelled him to set apart the Sabbath as a holy day to the Lord. He instructs, “The first day then ought to be kept as the Lord’s own day, and we ought not to think our own thoughts, converse on our own affairs, nor follow our own business on it.

One wonders if Fuller first learned this Sabbatarian practice as a child growing up in the home of Particular Baptist parents. Like my grandfather’s mother, Fuller’s mother may have prevented him from hunting or fishing or attending to other worldly amusements, setting an early example of keeping the Lord’s Day.

Anecdotal family history is interesting, but should also be instructive. Like other types of history, learning of the religious beliefs and practices of those who form my family tree should cause me to reflect on whether I am being more or less faithful in my Christian walk. Feel free to share any interesting examples of your family’s religious history in the comments below.


[1] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 3: Expositions—Miscellaneous, ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 828.

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Dustin Bruce lives in Louisville, KY where he is pursuing a ThM in Church History at Southern Seminary. He is a graduate of Auburn University and Southwestern Seminary. Dustin and his wife, Whitney, originally hail from Alabama.

Diarmaid MacCulloch: All history writing is autobiography

February 25th, 2013 Posted in 21st Century, Books, Church History, Current Affairs, Historians, Reformation

By Ian Hugh Clary

Recently I had the opportunity to hear Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch give a lecture on the history of Christianity and sexuality. MacCulloch is a church historian from Oxford who specializes in the English Reformation. As an evangelical, I find that his interpretation of history squares with my own, so I was perplexed by his talk.

For those who may not know, Prof. MacCulloch is an out-of-the-closet homosexual—just check the acknowledgements section of his masterful biography of Cranmer. He is also an advocate in the Church of England—where he was once an office-bearer—for gay rights. He recently left the church and now considers himself a “friend” of Christianity. As you can imagine, his lecture provoked questions. I believed that I would hear a very careful handling of sources, though admittedly there may be revisionist elements. I was wrong in my assessment.

Before I explain why, I should say that MacCulloch is an exciting lecturer—the hour or so he took in his first talk went by quickly. He addressed the role of sexuality from the Old Testament to the late Middle Ages; it was fast-paced and he covered a lot of ground, but it was never confusing or boring. I could only imagine what it must have been like to take one of his classes.

As the lecture progressed, however, I became troubled. From beginning to end, MacCulloch gave a large polemic against traditional interpretations of scripture and history. I also became more and more incredulous. This was not due to hearing an historian defend gay rights, that doesn’t shock me—it’s commonplace in academia. My upset was due to my hearing one of the world’s leading ecclesiastical historians be so shaped by his personal bias that it allowed him to crudely handle texts and history. As for scripture, MacCulloch used Boswell’s hermeneutic, alluded to gay relationships between figures like David and Jonathan, and drove a wedge between the sexual ethics of Jesus and Paul (saying the latter was the more liberal); all of this has long since been repudiated by scholars like Robert Gagnon. MacCulloch was dishonest to his audience by making his case seem so open and shut, when such is far from the case.

MacCulloch based his historical arguments on Hellenization that he argued infected the early church so that it denigrated the physical world and thus sexuality. He also hammered against the celibacy that has so dominated the western church. While I have sympathies with his views of monastic celibacy, he did not give a rounded view of the early church on the goodness of sex and marriage—the work of David Hunter offers a needed corrective. Though I was not able to attend his second lecture the next day, a friend told me that MacCulloch also did not deal with the Puritans and their views of sex, marriage, and the body—the Puritans, as Leland Ryken and others have shown, had a healthy view of sex, and were not Platonists in their view of the material world.

In the Q & A I shocked myself by raising my hand. Seemingly without control I stood and asked, “If you will allow me to ask a personal question, that is not at all meant to be cheeky, I wondered how you view your reading of history in light of your own personal story and struggles in the church. Could traditional historians not accuse you of allowing your own bias to inappropriately control your historiography, as you have accused Augustine?” He was gracious in his response, and even acknowledged the importance of the question. He replied that “all history writing is autobiography.” I found this so perplexing to hear from a scholar who has been such a model historian to me. For one who could appropriate the findings of Catholic revisionists like Eamon Duffy, yet do so while being true to the English Reformation and vindicating earlier historians like A. G. Dickens, I was disappointed to hear him justify a reading of history that would not square with his earlier historiographic methods.

Professor MacCulloch serves as a reminder to all of us: as historians, now matter how great or prestigious, we must be aware of our personal biases and strive towards objectivity. While pure objectivity is impossible, I do believe that historians can put forth a body of work that can withstand scrutiny from specialists. And while my autobiography may lurk, I cannot allow it to so colour my work that it misleads readers.

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Ian Hugh Clary is finishing doctoral studies under Adriaan Neele at Universiteit van die Vrystaat (Blomfontein), where he is writing a dissertation on the evangelical historiography of Arnold Dallimore. He has co-authored two local church histories with Michael Haykin and contributed articles to numerous scholarly journals. Ian serves as a pastor of BridgeWay Covenant Church in Toronto where he lives with his wife and two children.

Ian Clary on “Church History on the Ground”

November 9th, 2012 Posted in 19th Century, 20th Century, 21st Century, Books, Church History

Rivers of Living Water: Celebrating 125…Dr. Haykin recently collaborated with Ian Clary on a history of the 125-year-old Hughson Street Baptist Church in Hamilton, Ontario, “Rivers of Living Water”: Celebrating 125 Years of Hughson Street Baptist Church, Hamilton, Ontario, 1887-2012. Ian wrote about his experience working on this project and the value of local church histories here. Be sure to check out his suggestions for both beginning and professional historians, along with his plea to churches, seminaries and other Christian institutions to publish histories regularly.

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

 

The seminary and piety: a surrejoinder

August 10th, 2012 Posted in 16th Century, 17th Century, 18th Century, 19th Century, 20th Century, 21st Century, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Current Affairs

If we define a faithful minister of the Word along the lines of Acts 6, a man devoted to the Word and prayer, it seems to me that in the twentieth century faithful orthodox seminaries have done fairly well in training men in one half of this equation: the Word. But what of the other? Well, I think many leaders in former generations expected these things to be caught by osmosis even though Jesus responded positively to the disciples’ request that he teach them how to pray. Spirituality needs to be “taught” and handed on.

And while all professors in a seminary need to approach their specific subjects with an answerable spiritual frame, it is not wrong for some to focus on spirituality. Given the fact that spirituality and spiritual formation are increasingly huge engagements for both our larger cultural “moment” and within the boundaries of the Church, it is not unrealistic to ask certain men to specialize in the praxis of spirituality and the history of biblical spirituality.

As an historian, I feel the latter is very important: during the course of the twentieth century for a variety of reasons many of those who loved the Scriptures as the inerrant Word of God and faithfully upheld biblical orthodoxy failed to pass on the rich piety of their forebears in the Reformation, Puritan, Pietist and early Evangelical traditions. And surely this is one of the reasons why certain communities within the broad stream of twentieth-century English-speaking Evangelicalism became enamoured of the Spirit and talked as if they were the first to discover him since the Pentecost: they looked around and saw a tradition that seemed to have little place for piety, experience, and dare I say it, rapture (no I am not talking about an eschatological item!). Incidentally, here is where a man whom Carl has been writing about in recent days, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, is so helpful: his balance of Word and Spirit is admirable (re other matters Carl has raised about the Doctor, this is not the place to go into those, though I agree with Carl that the recent collection of essays on the Doctor is by and large a welcome addition to the books on that remarkable servant of God).

Maybe, I need to take up Carl’s offer and we can do a book together on this subject of the seminary and piety—and maybe Dr Lucas, if he is so inclined, could also be involved!

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!

La pudeur and our sexualized culture

July 9th, 2012 Posted in 21st Century, Current Affairs

A good sign of the fact that we live in a hyper-sexualized culture is the way the term “sexy”—which used to have a distinct meaning of sexually alluring—has morphed over into a variety of spheres where the adjective has no business being used: course descriptions, cars, and cameras, for example, are all sexy—or not, as the case may be! Personally, I can’t stand this abuse of the adjective, and especially when even Christian authors routinely use it in such ways. But surely the latter simply indicates that even among Christians, the hyper-sexuality of our culture is re-shaping their world as well—witness the adoption of the frankly absurd eisegesis of the Song of Songs that sees in the ancient text all kinds of blatant sexual activities that titillate the modern palate.

Here we need to step back and take a lesson from the French language (my Francophone friends will love this!). The French have a wonderful word to capture the veiling of one’s intimate feelings and doings, pudeur, a “holy bashfulness” (HT Alice von Hidlebrand, the Catholic philosopher). Surely, the time is ripe for such a response to this moment of our cultural sexualization. This is not Victorian prudishness, but—if I read the Puritans aright—a proper biblical approach to sex and the marriage bed.

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!