Historia ecclesiastica
The Weblog of Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin & friends

Review: Valkyrie: The Plot to Kill Hitler

March 14th, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized

Etiam si omnes, ego non! A review of Philipp von Boeselager with Florence and Jérôme Fehrenbach, Valkyrie: The Plot to Kill Hitler, trans. Steven Rendall (London: Phoenix, 2009), xii+176 pages.

The plethora of books about the Second World War, and especially Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime in Germany, is indicative of an ongoing fascination with this subject by both modern readers and authors. Far too many of these books, however, make the facile equation of ‘German=Nazi’. This crisply written memoir of Philipp von Boeselager (1917–2008), published in the year after his death, is a helpful reminder that there were some in Germany who refused to go along with the crowd during the Nazi era and sought to live honorable lives (p. 166). Hence the motto of the group of Germans with which Von Boeselager came to identify himself: etiam si omnes, ego non! “Even if all, not I!”—a motto drawn from Matthew 26:33 in the Vulgate.

Born to Roman Catholic nobility in the Rhineland, Von Boeselager details the way that growing up he was particularly close to his older brother Georg (1915–1944). In fact, in some ways, this book is a panegyric of Georg, whose tremendous bravery as a soldier is variously depicted—for which he was decorated with the Iron Cross with oak leaves—and who possessed a deep sense of loyalty to the soldiers under his command. But Philipp’s own bravery under fire is also quite remarkable: he was wounded five times in battle, once quite seriously that he nearly died and had to endure weeks of convalescence (p. 46–48). And he was quite prepared on occasion to speak his mind publicly about his disagreement with Nazi policies (p. 71–74, 158).

Philipp’s realization of the depth of evil within the Nazi regime began when he had a conversation in June of 1942 with an SS commandant named Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski (1899–1972), whom Von Boeselager does not hesitate to describe as ‘truly a creature of the Devil’ (p. 65). When Bach-Zelewski casually mentioned his killing of five Roma simply because of their ethnicity and then went to stress that ‘Jews and Gypsies are among the Reich’s enemies. We have to liquidate them’ (p. 66–67), Von Boeselager states that this conversation ‘changed my view of the war. I was disgusted and afraid’ (p. 67). This incident made Von Boeselager more than ready to join a circle of conspirators around General Hermann Henning von Tresckow (1901–1944), who were plotting to kill Hitler and stage a coup d’état, a circle that also included his Valkyriebrother George.

After the Allied invasion of France in the summer of 1944, it was obvious to men like Von Boeselager that the war was lost. Nonetheless, as Von Tresckow noted, the attempt to assassinate Hitler had to go ahead, for it was vital to ‘show the whole world and History that the German resistance movement dared to gamble everything, even at the risk of its own life’ (p.142–143). It is noteworthy that Von Tresckow is depicted as a man ‘constantly admiring the work of his Creator’ and a committed Christian (p. 81–82). Von Boeselager also reveals a genuine love for nature and animals (see, for example, his endearing discussion of the horses in his cavalry unit on p. 90–91).

The decision to assassinate Hitler was not taken lightly, but involved lengthy discussions of the legitimacy of the act and ‘the justification for murder—for an assassination, even of a tyrant, remains a murder’ (p. 87). It also meant breaking with a long tradition of total obedience to the government, which was especially prevalent among the Prussians—which was the regional background of Von Tresckow and a number of the conspirators (p. 83). Due to training that Von Boeselager had been given with explosives and his subsequent access to them, he became the ‘conspiracy’s chief explosives expert’ (p. 86). It was thus he who supplied the explosives used in the July 1944 attempt to kill Hitler (p. x). Explosives were eventually deemed necessary since Hitler used to wear a thin bulletproof vest and a cap lined with metal, making assassination with a pistol difficult (p. 100–101).

The only Bible text explicitly cited in the memoir is from the Latin Bible that Von Boeselager regularly carried with him: ‘that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear’ (Luke 1:73). With the failure of the July 1944 plot to kill Hitler, most of the conspirators were arrested and subsequently executed after frightful torture. Despite their being centrally involved, however, the Von Boeselager brothers escaped the notice of the SS. On one occasion, though, in the month after the failed assassination, Philipp was ordered to come to Army headquarters. He expected to be arrested and was understandably quite nervous. As he was boarding the plane to fly him back from the Eastern Front, his Latin Bible fell from a bag he was carrying. Stooping to pick it up, Von Boeselager saw the verse noted above, and seems to have taken it as a sign that God would protect him, as he said to himself, ‘By the grace of God’ (p. 155).

And in some ways, this last phrase can be seen as a theme of Von Boeselager’s entire memoir as he gives elegant witness to those who refused to acquiesce to the diabolical regime of Hitler and stood up for what was just and right.

Michael A.G. Haykin

Professor of Church History

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Comments Off on Review: Valkyrie: The Plot to Kill Hitler

The Kingdom of Christ and Politics: Andrew Fuller and the 2016 Election

March 11th, 2016 Posted in Andrew Fuller

By David E. Prince

Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) consistently comes to my personal rescue as I think through current issues in light of the Gospel electionof Jesus Christ as revealed in the Word of God. In the excerpt printed below from Andrew Fuller, in a few brief paragraphs Fuller helps us avoid the ditches of political idolatry and political apathy. Both approaches dishonor the Lord Jesus Christ and our responsibility to represent His eternal Kingdom as we live in the temporal kingdoms of this world. I have added the headings below, but the rest is directly from Fuller. He beautifully articulates the relationship between our political engagement, yearning for social justice, and our faith in Christ, His gospel, and His Kingdom. I hope you find this short excerpt from Fuller, as helpful to your peace of mind and the gospel equilibrium during this bizarre election cycle as I have.

[Andrew Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Controversial Publications, J. Belcher, Ed., Vol. 2 (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 3-4.]

The struggle between religion and irreligion has existed in the world in all ages; and if there be two opposite interests which divide its inhabitants, the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of God, it is reasonable to expect that the contest will continue till one of them be exterminated. The peaceful nature of Christianity does not require that we should make peace with its adversaries, or cease to repel their attacks, or even that we should act merely on the defensive. On the contrary, we are required to make use of those weapons of the Divine warfare with which we are furnished, for the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Politics, Human Passions, and Spiritual Infidelity

One thing which has contributed to the advantage of infidelity, is the height to which political disputes have arisen, and the degree in which they have interested the passions and prejudices of mankind. Those who favor the sentiments of a set of men in one thing, will be in danger of thinking favorably of them in others; at least, they will not be apt to view them in so ill a light, as if they had been advanced by persons of different sentiments in other things as well as in religion. It is true, there may be nothing more friendly to infidelity in the nature of one political system than another; nothing that can justify professing Christians in accusing one another merely on account of a difference of this kind, of favoring the interest of atheism and irreligion: nevertheless it becomes those who think favorably of the political principles of infidels to take heed, lest they be insensibly drawn away to think lightly of religion. All the nations of the earth, and all the disputes on the best or worst modes of government, compared with this, are less than nothing and vanity.

Politics Are Important, But Never Ultimate

To this it may be added, that the eagerness with which men engage in political disputes, take which side they may, is unfavorable to a zealous adherence to the gospel. Any mere worldly object, if it become the principal thing which occupies our thoughts and affections, will weaken our attachment to religion; and if once we become cool and indifferent to this, we are in the high road to infidelity. There are cases, no doubt, relating to civil government, in which it is our duty to act, and that with firmness; but to make such things the chief object of our attention, or the principal topic of our conversation, is both sinful and injurious. Many a promising character in the religious world has, by these things, been utterly ruined.

The Church of Christ Cannot Be Overthrown, So Be Politically Active

The writer of the following pages is not induced to offer them to the public eye from an apprehension that the Church of Christ is in danger. Neither the downfall of popery, nor the triumph of infidels, as though they had hereby overturned Christianity, have ever been to him the cause of a moment’s uneasiness. If Christianity be of God, as he verily believes it to be, they cannot overthrow it. He must be possessed of but little faith who can tremble, though in a storm, for the safety of the vessel which contains his Lord and Master. There would be one argument less for the divinity of the Scriptures, if the same powers which gave existence to the antichristian dominion had not been employed in taking it away. But though truth has nothing to fear, it does not follow that its friends should be inactive; if we have no apprehensions for the safety of Christianity, we may, nevertheless, feel for the rising generation. The Lord confers an honor upon his servants in condescending to make use of their humble efforts in preserving and promoting his interest in the world. If the present attempt may be thus accepted and honored by Him, to whose name it is sincerely dedicated, the writer will receive a rich reward.

Kettering, October 10, 1799.


David E. Prince is assistant professor of preaching at Southern Seminary and is pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky.

Comments Off on The Kingdom of Christ and Politics: Andrew Fuller and the 2016 Election

The Role of History in Recovering the Evangelical Mind: An Interview with Nathan Finn

March 7th, 2016 Posted in Historians, Reading Church History Lists

I recently interviewed Nathan Finn for The Gospel Coalition. The article is partially reprinted and linked below.

By Jeff Robinson

For many, the very mention of studying or reading history conjures sleep-inducing lists of names, dates, places, and events. Why do relatively few people love to study or even think about the past? Could it be chronological snobbery, as C. S. Lewis suggested? No doubt that’s part of it. Perhaps it’s also because many teachers have approached history with the fervor of an iceberg. 

Nathan Finn believes engaging those who have gone before us is vital, and he teaches and writes about history withimages care and passion. After serving several years as professor of church history at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, Finn was recently elected dean of the School of Theology and Missions at Union University in Tennessee.

I corresponded with Finn to discuss the art of teaching history, the place of providence in the work of the historian, the role of the past in recovering the evangelical mind, and more.

Your new book, History: A Student’s Guide (Crossway, 2016), is part of a series on reclaiming the Christian intellectual tradition. What role does learning history play in recovering the evangelical mind? 

One of the besetting sins of evangelicalism is a mostly ahistorical approach to theology and praxis, often at the popular level, but also among many pastors, scholars, and other ministry leaders. As evangelicals, we appeal to the supreme authority of Scripture, and rightly so. But we don’t read our Bibles in a vacuum. Too often our reading of Scripture is informed more by pragmatic considerations, cultural sensibilities, and personal preferences than by the best of the Christian intellectual tradition. We will be a healthier evangelical movement to the degree we root our faith and practice in the best thinking of those who have gone before us.

Read the entire interview.

Comments Off on The Role of History in Recovering the Evangelical Mind: An Interview with Nathan Finn

Beeson Podcast features “The Baptist Story”

March 3rd, 2016 Posted in Baptist Life & Thought, Books, Church History, Podcast

In the latest Beeson Podcast, Timothy George talks with Anthony Chute, Nathan Finn, and Michael Haykin about their book, The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement.

Comments Off on Beeson Podcast features “The Baptist Story”

Valentine’s Day in History: Comments in Baptist Press from Michael Haykin

February 14th, 2016 Posted in Church History

Dr. Haykin is quoted on the history of Valentine’s Day in the following Baptist Press article: http://www.bpnews.net/46317/valentines-day-vendors-consumerism-evaluated.

The following is an excerpt from the article, which was published Friday.

From the perspective of church history, celebrating romantic love on Valentine’s Day is a relatively recent phenomenon, said Michael Haykin, professor of church history and biblical spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The holiday originated as a Christian feast to honor a third-century martyr known as St. Valentine of Rome.

“Virtually nothing certain is known about St. Valentine of Rome,” Haykin told BP in written comments. “… In fact, St. Valentine may well be the conflation of two martyrs by the same name of Valentine. The association of this martyr with romantic love comes in the Middle Ages. It appears to have been the remarkable author Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1343-1400), the so-called father of English literature, who linked St. Valentine with romance — at least between birds — in his allegory ‘The Parliament of Fowls.’

“By the Victorian era,” Haykin continued, “lovers were in the habit of sending each other hand-made cards on St. Valentine’s Day. Romantic love in Christian thought is primarily rooted, interestingly enough, in the Puritans [believers who sought to purify the Church of England in the 16th-18th centuries]. It was some Puritan authors who first maintained in Christian history that marriage should only be contracted on the basis of love and that parents should not compel children to marry where there was no love.”

Click here for more.

Comments Off on Valentine’s Day in History: Comments in Baptist Press from Michael Haykin

An initial reading plan of Andrew Fuller

February 5th, 2016 Posted in Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Reading Church History Lists

By Michael A.G. Haykin

I was recently asked by a brother who had purchased Andrew Fuller’s Works where and what to begin reading. I suggested first off, his circular letters, especially these:

  1. Causes of Declension in Religion, and Means of Revival (1785)
  2. Why Christians in the present Day possess less Joy than the Primitive Disciples (1795)
  3. The Practical Uses of Christian Baptism (1802)
  4. The Promise of the Spirit the grand Encouragement in promoting the Gospel (1810)

Then his Edwardsean work in which you see Fuller the theologian of love:

  1. Memoirs of Rev. Samuel Pearce (1800)

His ordination sermons are also gems, especially:

  1. The Qualifications and Encouragements of a Faithful Minister, illustrated by the Character and success of Barnabas
  2. Spiritual Knowledge and Holy Love necessary for the Gospel Ministry
  3. On an Intimate and Practical Acquaintance with the Word of God

Finally, the best of his apologetic works, his rebuttal of Sandemanianism:

  1. Strictures on Sandemanianism (1810).

Tolle lege!

Comments Off on An initial reading plan of Andrew Fuller

Book Review: History: A Student’s Guide

January 28th, 2016 Posted in Books, Church History

By Dustin Bruce

Finn, Nathan. History: A Student’s Guide. Wheaton: Crossway, 2016. 111 pp. $11.99.

Nathan Finn, dean of the School of Theology and Missions at Union University and Fellow of the Andrew Fuller Center, has written an excellent primer on the discipline of history and the nature of the historian’s task. This volume forms part of the “Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition” series, published by Crossway under the editorial guidance of David Dockery. In keeping with the aim of the series, Finn examines history from the perspective of a Christian worldview, drawing insights from the Dutch Kuyperian tradition and the Lutheran tradition. Years of experience teaching history, completing an undergraduate and Ph.D. in history, and a thorough analysis of historiographical literature, provides Finn with insights and anecdotes that make for an enjoyable and informative read.

Finn’s audience is primarily the undergraduate student interested in history as a major or minor. As such, it is written to serve as something of a supplementary text that introduces readers “to the discipline of history from the perspective of a Christian worldview that is shaped by the great tradition and is in dialog with other key voices in the field” (18). Not meant as a comprehensive introduction, the volume contains an introduction and four chapters. Though short, at roughly 90 pages of text, the writing is characterized by a “lucid brevity” that leaves the reader feeling satisfied and not underserved. Quality footnotes allow eager students access to further resources.History

In the Introduction, Finn begins a discussion of how a Christian worldview affects history and the historian’s task. “Christians,” he argues, “should be keenly interested in studying the past since the very truth of the Judeo-Christian tradition is dependent upon certain historical events” (19). Furthermore, the great commandments of Matthew 22:34–49 serve as parameters for historical inquiry.

In chapter one, “Understanding History,” Finn lays out basic information, including the different between the “past” and “history.” He defines history as “the task of reconstructing and interpreting the past” (26). Other fundamentals are described, such as the difference between primary and secondary sources. Chapter two includes an overview of different “schools of history,” including an analysis of each school from a Christian perspective. The concept of “historiography” is also covered.

Chapter three, “Faith and the Historian,” picks up the controversial question of how one’s faith should influence one’s work as a historian. Finn rejects both a providentialist and naturalistic approach, arguing for an approach that recognizes the historian’s evidence comes from general revelation, where one cannot know the mind of God with certainty, and yet, must be tempered by the truths revealed in the Biblical storyline (73). Finn draws further insight from the Lutheran concept of vocation, before proposing Christian historians adopt a “bilingual” approach by developing the ability to serve academic and religious audiences. Chapter four, “History: An Invitation,” largely serves as an encouragement for students to pursue the study of history from a Christian perspective. Finn offers examples of how history and history degrees can be used both vocationally and in service to the church.

History: A Student’s Guide will undoubtedly serve students well as an introduction to the field of history and the task of the historian. It is small enough to be assigned as a supplementary text to a course without overburdening students, but comprehensive and compelling enough to warrant a close reading. Finn’s work may very well be used of God to inspire the next generation of Evangelical historians.

Comments Off on Book Review: History: A Student’s Guide

Audio: The Life of Andrew Fuller by Pastor Harry Dowds

January 26th, 2016 Posted in Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Podcast

The Life of Andrew Fuller

by: Pastor Harry Dowds

Presented on Thursday, 19th March 2015 at The Irish Baptist Historical Society (from http://www.irishbaptistcollege.net/?p=ibhsa)

The Life of Andrew Fuller

Comments Off on Audio: The Life of Andrew Fuller by Pastor Harry Dowds

Books At a Glance Interviews the Authors of The Baptist Story

January 5th, 2016 Posted in Baptist Life & Thought, Books, Podcast

Books At a Glance has posted a recent interview with Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, and Michael A. G. Haykin, authors of The Baptist Story. 

Books At a Glance (Fred Zaspel): 
Hi this is Fred Zaspel executive editor here at books at a glance. Today we are talking with three authors Tony Chute, Nathan Finn and Michael Haykin about their new book The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement, a new textbook on Baptist history. We’re glad for the book. Were glad for them to be with us. Welcome you guys. Thanks for coming.

Click here for the full interview.

Comments Off on Books At a Glance Interviews the Authors of The Baptist Story

Book Review: What is the Incarnation?

December 29th, 2015 Posted in Books, Christology


William B. Evans, What is the Incarnation? (Phillipsburg. NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013; 31 pages.

Evans IncarnationI have a long-standing tradition of reading a book relating to Christology around the time of Christmas. This year it was a booklet rather than a book, a part of the series Basics of the Faith, whose general editor is Sean Lucas, namely, What is the Incarnation? by William B. Evans, the Eunice Witherspoon Bell Younts and Willie Camp Younts Professor of Historical Theology at Erskine Theological Seminary in Due West, South Carolina.

Evans covers a tremendous amount of ground in the small compass of this booklet (a mere 26 pages): from the integral links between the person of Christ and his work (p.6–8), in which he draws upon insights from Athanasius and Anselm, to the sinlessness of the humanity assumed by the Son of God (p.24–25). Along the way, he delineates the biblical witness to the person of Christ (p.10–12), rightly pointing out that “the incarnation is a foundational assumption of the New Testament writers” (p.12), discusses the question of images of Christ (p.25–27), and summarizes six major Christological positions that Christian thought and reflection ruled to be heretical—Ebionism (the denial of the deity of Christ), Docetism (the denial of the humanity of Christ), Arianism (the reduction of Christ to a the rank of a “lesser” god, who is in fact a creature), Apollinarianism (which affirmed that the second person of the Godhead took the place of the human mind and soul of Christ), Nestorianism (the failure to maintain the integral unity of deity and humanity in the person of Christ), and Eutychianism (which so identifies the deity and humanity of Christ that Christ’s humanity is all but swallowed up by the deity) (p.13–16).

Evans identifies the creedal statement issued by the Council of Chalcedon (451), “one of the great watersheds in early church history” (p.16) as the Ancient Church’s definitive statement on the incarnation. This statement, which essentially affirmed the reality of the two natures, divine and human, in the one person of Christ—a union “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation”—held sway among Western theologians to the time of the early modern era in the seventeenth century (p.18). It was only then that theologians proposed radically different conceptions of the incarnation like the “kenotic” theory, which employed Philippians 2:7 to argue that Christ gave up all of his divine attributes when he became man.

All in all this is an extremely helpful summary of key details and issues relating to what Paul calls “the mystery of godliness” (1 Tim 3:16), a work that would be ideal for a series in Sunday School or a mid-week Bible study.

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

Comments Off on Book Review: What is the Incarnation?