Irenaeus grew up in Smyrna, one of the greatest cities in Asia Minor. He was the son of Christian parents, who at an early age placed him under the tutelage and discipleship of Polycarp of Smyrna. The influence of this stalwart of the Christian faith upon this young man was remarkable. Polycarp was the disciple of John, the disciple of Christ, and author of three New Testament epistles, the Gospel according to John, and Revelation. Irenaeus' bold mentor was martyred in Smyrna in 166, burned at the stake for refusing to blaspheme Christ.
My spiritual mentor began worshiping with his wife before they were married, and has faithfully continued the practice through the arrival of children and grandchildren for more than fifty years. Sadly, it seems that few men among even the best evangelical churches today could speak of daily family worship in their home. In the minds of some, active church involvement eliminates the need for family worship.
Around 392 AD, 57-year old Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, native of Spain, decided to examine his life. The years had flown by, and he found himself suddenly old. He was, in reality, old according the standards of his time, and his white hair (“the snow on my head”) stood as witness of the many winters that had passed and the many roses that had bloomed. “Have I done anything useful?” he wondered.
Few Medieval Christians would profess to be in disagreement with Augustine of Hippo and his writings about grace. Yet, many praised him and contradicted him at the same time.
Copyists were in part to blame. Given the high price of hand-copied books, many chose to produce collections of quotations instead of full volumes. People then took these collections as authoritative, even if the quotations were taken out of context, often misquoted, and sometimes misattributed (much like what happens with our online quotes).
I’m very thankful for the opportunity to contribute a column at Place for Truth, and I pray the Lord will use my contributions for the furthering of His kingdom.
Given the Alliance’s clear emphasis on the subject (coupled with evangelicalism’s increasing murkiness), I can think of no better theme for my first post than this: “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). Two texts are particularly helpful for understanding what Paul means by this.
As we pass Labor Day and settle into the fall, I want to label a few of the most influential ideas about work in Western thought and invite you, my reader, to see which thoughts might be informing you and supplanting more biblical ideas about work. Without further ado
Most Greeks thought work was a curse. They especially despised manual labor. Leaders tried to foist it on servants or slaves, so they would have time for philosophy and friendship. To this day, many follow the Greeks in thinking of work as an evil to avoid, if possible.
Christians are frequently reminded to “remember the reason for Christmas,” meaning, of course, that we should turn our attention away from the cultural trappings and to the fact that Jesus was born to Mary in Bethlehem. But this Christmas, perhaps we should fix our attention a little more closely, not just on the details of Jesus’ birth, but on the miracle of the incarnation. In so doing, we join a great cloud of Christian witnesses, who have reflected deeply on this glorious mystery.
The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. (WCF 1:6a)
Calvin’s and Beza’s thought was so fertile as to spawn many followers. Summaries of Ponet, Daneau, Hotman, and many others are worth consulting at any Inauguration. Another disciple who particularly refined this theory was the Marian exile, Christopher Goodman, whose ideas will be explored briefly below.
The popular Federalist Papers in many ways reflect the continuation of Calvin’s view of man and the state. Alexander Hamilton began The Federalist Papers by asserting that the people of this country have reserved to themselves the important question of whether “societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government” (Federalist #1). While he admitted that the people must cede to that government certain prerogatives (#2), Ham
The language of ‘covenant’ has a much wider history in the church than merely those churches and congregations that self-identify as ‘covenantal’. Some include it merely as a reflection of the contractual dimension they see in how Christians relate to God in his church. It is more than a casual arrangement; but one that entails conscious, self-sacrificing commitment. In other churches, a similar idea is there; but in a way that picks up more overtly on the Bible’s use of ‘covenant’ and ‘covenant renewal’ in the history of God’s dealings with his people.
Ours is an age of rapidly rising social disintegration. Loneliness and isolation are major issues – not just for the elderly, but for every other age group as well. It would be naïve not to see some connection between these issues and the steady erosion of the classic concept ‘family’ in Western culture for over half a century.
The first Psalm sets the stage for the entire Psalter. Its attention on the covenant God and covenant blessing and cursing, as well as its preoccupation with God’s Word as the source for our understanding, focus the entire Psalter. In fact, as scholars like O. Palmer Robertson have contended, Psalms 1 and 2 serve as the “pillar or gates” to the whole edifice of the Psalter. They are the great building blocks that support the whole.
A Stew Pot
One of the more frequently visited proverbs of my childhood came to me from my mother. “A stew pot never boils,” she would say. I felt what it meant long before I actually understood it. Explanation of the phrase came in its fuller version: “A stew pot never boils when watched.”
The Apostles’ Creed has long been admired, memorized, and confessed in worship due to its simplicity in form, clear statement of factual belief, and its brief summary of vital, core theological points. Christians in all ages have needed those creedal hooks upon which to hang their hats of understanding. “The third day he rose again from the dead” anchors two hooks that really are of utmost importance for Christians to believe: 1.) THAT Jesus rose from the dead, and 2.) WHEN Jesus rose from the dead. Now, as said, ALL of the Apostles’ Creed is vital.
Perhaps the phrase that gets stuck in the throat when reciting the Apostle’s Creed is “He (Christ) descended into hell.” And if it does, it wouldn’t surprise me. It was difficult for John Calvin to utter the phrase despite having used the Apostle’s Creed to formulate his Institutes of the Christian Religion. Nor was he able to leave it without comment. He argued that Christ’s descent into hell happened on the cross prior to His death. Perhaps you explain it in similar fashion.
Five hundred years ago the Protestant Reformation changed the theological and ecclesiastical landscape forever. And yet, was that something that only made sense in their historical context? Is the Reformation over, a quirk of history, only brought up in Church History classes? Perhaps we should we put down our picket signs and end the long forgotten protest? No one cares anymore; the world has moved on to other things. But the more I read Calvin, the more I see the need for reclaiming that forgotten motto of Protestantism, semper reformanda (always reforming).
Let’s be honest: the evangelical and Protestant church has seen better days. We have our own scandals. In a fast-paced world, our faults are replicated through our communities at a much quicker rate than in previous generations. We may not have a pope but we certainly have a celebrity culture of mega-pastors which people rally around in an “I follow Paul,” “I follow Apollos” sort of way. Evangelical and Protestant theology is long passed its highwater mark of intellectual depth, Biblical analysis, and careful articulation.