‘Biblical Spirituality’ Category

Book Review: A Christian Guide to Spirituality: Foundations for Disciples by Stephen W. Hiemstra

September 8th, 2014 Posted in Biblical Spirituality, Books

By Michael A.G. Haykin

Stephen W. Hiemstra,
A Christian Guide to Spirituality: Foundations for Disciples
(Centreville, VA: T2Pneuma Publishers, 2014), xx+206 pages.

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 During Easter 1985, Thomas Howard—a graduate of Wheaton College and a professor of English at Gordon College, both long-standing bastions of Evangelicalism, and himself the product of a staunch Evangelical family, whose sister is Elisabeth Eliot, author and widow of the Evangelical martyr Jim Eliot—became a Roman Catholic. His conversion to Roman Catholicism caused quite a stir at the time in Evangelical circles, and Christianity Today, that quintessential Evangelical publication, ran a nine-page special report on the event. It makes for fascinating reading. When asked why he had decided to make the journey to Rome he cited the “shallowness” of Evangelicalism, “the desperate, barren, parched nature” of its worship, and its “poverty when it comes to the deeper riches of Christian spirituality.”

Howard’s observation that contemporary Evangelical spirituality is poor and shallow, indeed “gossamer-thin,” is something that many others have also apparently recognized, for a growing number of Evangelicals in the past thirty years or so have begun to pay more attention to this vital subject. In fact, in Evangelical circles, “spirituality” has become what American Evangelical historian Richard Lovelace has called “a growth industry.” A helpful contribution to this “industry” is this new book by Stephen Hiemstra, who is described on the website of his publisher as “a slave of Christ, husband, father, aspiring pastor, economist, and writer.” Based mainly on the very familiar texts of the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s prayer, and the ten commandments, the book comprises fifty meditations that flesh out each of the phrases of these texts with rich reflections, prayers and follow-up questions. There are also fifteen other meditations that deal with basic questions about knowing God and various spiritual disciplines (Hiemstra includes music, physical exercise, and marriage among these disciplines). The inclusion of questions at the close of each meditation will enable the work to be used in small groups that want to advance their understanding of what is biblical and reformed spirituality.

Upon an initial read I thought the title inappropriate: the book’s design is clearly that of a devotional, not a systematic study of Christian spirituality. But as I began to read the various meditations, I perceived that though each one is short—usually no more than 190 words or so—together they give the reader a rich overview of Christian spirituality from a reformed perspective.

Michael A.G. Haykin
Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

To download the review as PDF, click here. To see other book reviews, visit here.

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Michael A.G. Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He also serves as Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Haykin and his wife Alison have two grown children, Victoria and Nigel.

 

Spurgeon’s Kind of Revival

September 4th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes, Revivals

By Evan D. Burns

In his day, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) called for Christians to labor in prayer for revival.  He outlined a few facets of genuine revival:  First of all, revival, if is authentic, should be “real and lasting” as opposed to “feverish and transient.”  Second, genuine revival should emphasize “old-fashioned doctrine,” including teaching the infallibility of the Scriptures and doctrines such as “the ruin, redemption and regeneration of mankind.”  Third, true revival would see the rise of “genuine godliness” and men who are “consecrated to the Lord and sanctified by His truth.”  Fourth, real revival should affect “domestic religion” in such a way that families are “trained in the fear of God.”  And fifth, the revival that Spurgeon prayed earnestly for was a revival of “vigorous, consecrated strength” where men of God find power in secret prayer.  Let us heed Spurgeon’s call for genuine revival in our day:

Saints acquire nobility from their constant resort to the place where the Lord meets with them. There they also acquire that power in prayer which we so greatly need. Oh, that we had more men like John Knox, whose prayers were more terrible to Queen Mary than 10,000 men! Oh, that we had more Elijahs by whose faith the windows of heavens should be shut or opened!  This power comes not by a sudden effort; it is the outcome of a life devoted to the God of Israel! If our life is all in public, it will be a frothy, vapoury ineffectual existence; but if we hold high converse with God in secret, we shall be mighty for good. He that is a prince with God will take high rank with men, after the true measure of nobility….  Given a host of men who are steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, the glory of God’s grace will be clearly manifested, not only in them, but in those round about them. The Lord send us a revival of consecrated strength, and heavenly energy![1]


[1]Charles Spurgeon, The Kind of Revival We Need.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) 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.

Spiritual Formation at Andover

August 28th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Biblical Spirituality, Church History

By Evan D. Burns

At the founding of Andover Theological Seminary (1807), the professors actively engaged the students intellectually and spiritually.  Leonard Woods (1774-1854), the Abbot Professor of Christian Theology, recounted the illuminating spiritual ethos shared among the faculty and the students of Andover.[1]  Not more than a few weeks after the seminary was opened, Woods called the faculty and students to a meeting for prayer and religious intercourse, which developed into a regular “Wednesday Evening Conference.”[2]

All the students were expected to attend, and either Woods or [Moses] Stuart met them, and prayed and conversed for an hour in a practical way on the whole range of Christian doctrine.  Professor Stuart late in life expressed the belief that the Wednesday evening conferences were the most valuable contribution that he made to the Seminary.[3]

Woods states, “while we attached high importance to literary acquisitions, we gave a still higher place to spiritual improvement.  We strove to make the impression… that spiritual religion and growth in grace should be their paramount object.”[4]  The faculty addressed the seminarians on matters of “holy religion, both doctrinal, experimental and practical.”[5]  They spoke on different subjects for six to seven years, and purposefully did not repeat the same subject at least for three years.


[1]For a full description of the spiritual life fostered at Andover, see Leonard Woods, History of the Andover Theological Seminary (Boston: J. R. Osgood and Company, 1885), 159-70.

[2]Woods, History of the Andover Theological Seminary, 164.

[3]H. K. Rowe, History of Andover Theological Seminary (Boston: Thomas Todd Company, 1933), 50.

[4]Woods, History of the Andover Theological Seminary, 163.

[5]Woods, History of the Andover Theological Seminary, 164.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) 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.

Degrees in Glory

August 21st, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes, Theology

By Evan D. Burns

Andrew Fuller was a man who loved to think of heaven and future glory awaiting all who love the Lord.  His sermon entitled, “Degrees in Glory Proportioned to Works of Piety, Consistent with Salvation by Grace Alone,”[1] is medicine for the soul.  In relation to the degrees of glory enjoyed in heaven based upon piety and obedience in this life, the fragrance of Jonathan Edwards emanates from Fuller’s pen.  Here is a brief outline of Fuller’s sermon:

  1. First, Heavenly bliss will greatly consist in our being approved of God.
  2. Secondly, Heavenly bliss will consist in the exercise of love, supreme love to God.
  3. Thirdly, Heavenly bliss will consist in ascribing glory to God and the Lamb.
  4. Fourthly, Heavenly bliss will consist in exploring the wonders of the love of God.

And then Fuller goes on to elaborate how heavenly rewards should motivate our piety in this life:

  1.  In the first place, Rewards contain nothing inconsistent with the doctrine of grace, because those very works which it pleased God to honour are the effects of his own operation.
  2. Secondly, All rewards to a guilty creature have respect to the mediation of Christ.
  3. Thirdly, God’s graciously connecting blessings with the obedience of his people serves to show, not only his love to Christ, and to them, but his regard to righteousness.

[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 3: Expositions—Miscellaneous, ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 741-43.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) 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.

Fuller’s Sketch of the Lord’s Prayer

August 8th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Books, Eminent Christians, Prayer

By Evan D. Burns

Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) was a skillful pastor-theologian.  He was also a soul physician who knew how to guide God’s people into a deeper knowledge of Christ.  Below is an example of Fuller’s ability to unfold the principles and meaning of Scripture in a way that is clear, practical, and faithful to the text.  Fuller summarizes the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9-15) with a few simple observations:[1]

If in anything we need Divine instruction, it is in drawing near to God. It does not appear to have been Christ’s design to establish a form of prayer, nor that it was ever so used by the disciples; but merely a brief directory as to the matter and manner of it. Such a directory was adapted not only to instruct, but to encourage Christians in their approaches to God.

  1.  First, The character under which we are allowed to draw near to the Lord of heaven and earth.—“Our Father.”
  2. Secondly, The place of the Divine residence.—“Our Father, who art in heaven.”
  3. Thirdly, The social principle which pervades the prayer.—“Our Father—forgive us,” etc.
  4. Fourthly, The brevity of it.—“Use not vain repetitions, but in this manner pray ye.”
  5. Fifthly, The order of it.—Our attention is first directed to those things which are of the first importance, and which are fundamental to those which follow.

As there are three petitions in respect of God’s name and cause in the world, so there are three which regard our own immediate wants; one of which concerns those which are temporal, and the other two those which are spiritual.

  1.  “Give us this day (or day by day) our daily bread.” Bread comprehends all the necessaries, but none of the superfluities, of life.
  2. “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” As bread in this prayer comprehends all the necessaries of life, so the forgiveness of sin comprehends the substance of all that is necessary for the well-being of our souls.
  3. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” The last petition respected the bestowment of the greatest good; this, deliverance from the worst of evils. Christ teaches us to suspect ourselves.

The concluding doxology, though omitted by Luke, and thought by some not to have been originally included by Matthew, appears to agree with the foregoing petitions, and to furnish encouragement to hope for an answer.


[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 1: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 578-583.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) 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.

“It Is All Right”

July 31st, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Eminent Christians, Missions

By Evan D. Burns

After the death of Ann Hasseltine Judson (1789-1826), Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) wrote to her mother to inform her of Ann’s death.  In his long letter, he weaves together his heavenly-minded piety with his providentialist piety in order to make sense of Ann’s protracted suffering and in order to comfort Ann’s grieving mother.  Here is a small portion of that letter:

Oh, with what meekness, and patience, and magnanimity, and Christian fortitude, she bore those sufferings!  And can I wish they had been less?  Can I sacrilegiously wish to rob her crown of a single gem?  Much she saw and suffered of this evil world; and eminently was she qualified to relish and enjoy the pure and holy rest into which she has entered.  True, she has been taken from a sphere, in which she was singularly qualified, by her natural disposition, her winning manners, her devoted zeal, and her perfect acquaintance with the language, to be extensively serviceable to the cause of Christ; true, she has been torn from her husband’s bleeding heart, and from her darling babe; but infinite wisdom and love have presided, as ever, in this most afflicting dispensation.  Faith decides, that it is all right, and the decision of faith, eternity will soon confirm.[1] 


 [1]Adoniram Judson, “Letter from Rev. Dr. Judson, to Mrs.Hasseltine of Bradford, (Mass.), Amherst, Feb. 4th, 1827,” in The Baptist Missionary Magazine, vol. 7, 89 vols. (Boston: Lincoln & Edmands, 1827), 261–62.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) 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.

“All is Alike Inspired”

July 10th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Biblical Spirituality, Books, Church History, Eminent Christians, Theology

By Evan D. Burns

Seeking to counter those who say the Bible is not inspired because of the varieties of its style and authorship, J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) employed metaphors and analogies that are very helpful for understanding the continuity of Scripture and its overall sufficient inspiration:

It proves nothing against inspiration, as some have asserted, that the writers of the Bible have each a different style. Isaiah does not write like Jeremiah, and Paul does not write like John. This is perfectly true— and yet the works of these men are not a whit less equally inspired. The waters of the sea have many different shades. In one place they look blue, and in another green. And yet the difference is owing to the depth or shallowness of the part we see, or to the nature of the bottom.  The water in every case is the same salt sea. The breath of a man may produce different sounds, according to the character of the instrument on which he plays. The flute, the pipe, and the trumpet, have each their peculiar note. And yet the breath that calls forth the notes, is in each case one and the same. The light of the planets we see in the skies is very various. Mars, and Saturn, and Jupiter, have each a peculiar color. And yet we know that the light of the sun, which each planet reflects, is in each case one and the same. Just in the same way the books of the Old and New Testaments are all inspired truth— and yet the aspect of that truth varies according to the mind through which the Holy Spirit makes it flow. The handwriting and style of the writers differ enough to prove that each had a distinct individual being; but the Divine Guide who dictates and directs the whole, is always one. All is alike inspired. Every chapter, and verse, and word— is from God.[1]


[1]J.C. Ryle, Bible Reading.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) 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.

“Have Mercy Upon Me”

June 26th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes

By Evan D. Burns

In the Burmese catechism she wrote, Ann H. Judson (1789-1826) included her version of “The Sinner’s Prayer.”  It seems a bit different than the typical sinner’s prayer practiced today.  A few simple observations can be made about it:  it is rich with humility and God-centeredness, and it is Trinitarian.

O God our Father, I confess that I have committed many sins against you.
Because of these things, O Father, I deserve to be disowned and sent to suffer in hell, but instead Jesus died for me.
I want to depend on him.  So please have mercy upon me and give me a pure mind and clean heart.  Please forgive me for whatever sins I have done.
Please return me to the right way to be your disciple and help me keep your Word.
Please send down your Holy Spirit upon me, have mercy upon me, care for me and save me from hell after I die.  Take me to the peaceful City of Heaven, O God our Father.
Amen.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) 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.

“The Divine Harmony of Truth”

June 19th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes

By Evan D. Burns

Charles Spurgeon challenged his students to preach the Word—all of it.  To withhold certain doctrines which do not appeal to the minister or which might be disagreeable to the people would be like withholding nutritious food necessary for bodily health.  The doctrines of Scripture are seen as most excellent when they come together in harmony as music in a grand symphonic orchestra.

The glory of God being our chief object, we aim at it by seeking the edification of saints and the salvation of sinners . It is a noble work to instruct the people of God, and to build them up in their most holy faith: we may by no means neglect this duty. To this end we must give clear statements of gospel doctrine, of vital experience, and of Christian duty, and never shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God. In too many cases sublime truths are held in abeyance under the pretence that they are not practical; whereas the very fact that they are revealed proves that the Lord thinks them to be of value, and woe unto us if we pretend to be wiser than He. We may say of any and every doctrine of Scripture—To give it then a tongue is wise in man. If any one note is dropped from the divine harmony of truth the music may be sadly marred. Your people may fall into grave spiritual diseases through the lack of a certain form of spiritual nutriment, which can only be supplied by the doctrines which you withhold. In the food which we eat there are ingredients which do not at first appear to be necessary to life; but experience shows that they are requisite to health and strength. Phosphorus will not make flesh, but it is wanted for bone; many earths and salts come under the same description— they are necessary in due proportion to the human economy. Even thus certain truths which appear to be little adapted for spiritual nutriment are, nevertheless, very beneficial in furnishing believers with backbone and muscle, and in repairing the varied organs of Christian manhood. We must preach “the whole truth,” that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works. [1]


[1]Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 336-337.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) 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.

The Key of Prayer

June 12th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians

By Evan D. Burns

Charles Spurgeon, in his lectures to his students, commended the practice of prayer for the sake of unlocking the door of Scripture in order to find its hidden treasures.  Let us not forget the sacred union of prayer and Bible intake:

Your prayers will be your ablest assistants while your discourses are yet upon the anvil.  While other men, like Esau, are hunting for their portion, you, by the aid of prayer, will find the savoury meat near at home, and may say in truth what Jacob said so falsely, “The Lord brought it to me.” If you can dip your pens into your hearts, appealing in earnestness to the Lord, you will write well; and if you can gather your matter on your knees at the gate of heaven, you will not fail to speak well. Prayer, as a mental exercise, will bring many subjects before the mind, and so help in the selection of a topic, while as a high spiritual engagement it will cleanse your inner eye that you may see truth in the light of God. Texts will often refuse to reveal their treasures till you open them with the key of prayer. How wonderfully were the books opened to Daniel when he was in supplication! How much Peter learned upon the housetop! The closet is the best study. The commentators are good instructors, but the Author Himself is far better, and prayer makes a direct appeal to Him and enlists Him in our cause. It is a great thing to pray one’s self into the spirit and marrow of a text; working into it by sacred feeding thereon, even as the worm bores its way into the kernel of the nut. Prayer supplies a leverage for the uplifting of ponderous truths.[1]


[1]Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 43-44.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) 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.