Posts by Simonetta Carr

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The German astronomer Johannes Kepler is counted among the greatest scientists in history. He is best known for his three laws of planetary motion, which shaped our modern understanding of the solar system. His achievements expanded beyond astronomy to cover optics and mathematics. But his...
Augustine was a difficult teenager, the kind that keeps parents up at night. The restlessness he would later describe in his Confessions was already evident at a young age, especially to his mother Monica. But she never gave up. She upheld him constantly in prayer, followed him with her thoughts,...
Little known today, Pierre du Moulin was one of the main protagonists of the French Reformation and one of the main defenders of the gospel against semi-Pelagian reinterpretations. He was born in 1568 in the Château de Buhy in north-east Normandy, France, in 1568. His father Joachim was a nobleman...
Mary Rowlandson’s account of her experience as prisoner of war became an immediate best-seller. In fact, it was the first best-seller in America, and the first of what became a popular genre: accounts of captivity among Native American tribes.
Whatever Queen Elizabeth I might have expected by inviting Edward Dering to preach a Lenten sermon in her presence, it was certainly not an outspoken rebuke. Edward Dering was a young, promising preacher, with an outstanding reputation as a Greek scholar. Elizabeth had heard him speak six years...
Marcella became a widow after only seven months of marriage. Being a young and pretty noblewoman, she had no shortage of suitors. Even a consul, Neratius Cerealis (in office from 328 to 358 AD) asked insistently for her hand. He was much older than her, but promised her riches and guidance...
In Spain, Martin Luther’s message met the immediate and fierce opposition of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Spanish rulers, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. To repress it, they had already a powerful tool at hand: the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition,...
I have written about Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nazianzus, two of the famous three men from Cappadocia (in today’s Turkey) who stood for the divinity, unity, and distinction of the three Persons of the Trinity. I have also written about Macrina, Basil’s sister, who can justly be called “the...
Princess Elisabeth of the Palatinate (also known as Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia) is remembered as the woman who challenged the French philosopher René Descartes to re-examine his assertions on the separation of mind and body. While she never received a satisfying answer to all of her questions,...
An image of the Hungarian Reformer Matyás Dévay Biró shines through a stained window of Wittenberg’s Schlosskirche (Castle Church). He’s in good company, surrounded as he is by other Protestants of his day, such as Peter Martyr Vermigli, Michael Agricola, and his fellow-Hungarian Leonard Stöckel.
Anne Cooke Bacon made her mark on the Church of England in 1563, when she translated John Jewel’s Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae, which became a statement of faith for the Church of England under Elizabeth I.
It was a difficult time for Puritans like the Bradstreets and Dudleys, who chafed under the religious compromises imposed by Archbishop Laud. In March 1630, Anne, Simon, Thomas, and Dorothy sailed to New England on board of John Winthrop's flagship, the Arbella.
On December 30, 1856, thousands of people followed Hugh Miller’s coffin to the Grange cemetery in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was dearly loved and respected, particularly for his thought-provoking writings on a wide variety of subjects. As an editor of Miller’s memoirs aptly said, “In choosing him,...
In March 1643, Lady Brilliana Harley received a formal demand to surrender her castle to the royalists. Her husband, Sir Robert Harley, was in London. He had been there since the start of the civil war, leaving her to administer Brampton Bryan Castle and all their goods. Their elder sons, Edward...
When Samuel Miller married Sarah Sergeant, he didn’t know the extent of her pain. Emotional anguish and religious skepticism were not a proper topic of discussion. At least, that’s what her mother had taught her. She had told her doubting was normal, and “especially that [Sarah] should avoid making...
In 1576, Archbishop Edmund Grindal joined the company of Puritans who offended Queen Elizabeth I. His most provocative statement was a reminder of her mortality. He was suspended from his duties for the rest of his life.
Charlotte Arbaleste’s life changed drastically when a young man came to town. Native of Paris, she had found refuge in Sedan, in the French Ardennes, after the disastrous St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre. She had been a widow for five years and had no intention of remarrying. To many noblewomen,...
Ralph Erskine (1685-1752) was born ten years after his mother Margaret was pronounced dead. The pronouncement had been mistaken, but she would have indeed been dead if a greedy sexton had not laid his eyes on her precious ring. Under cover of night, the sexton disinterred her body. Finding the ring...
The death of Louis XIV in 1715 revitalized the hopes of the scattered Huguenots (French Protestants). After all, Louis XIV had been responsible for the revocation of the Edict of Nantes – the 1598 law that allowed for the toleration of Huguenots in Roman Catholic France.
Erdmann Neumeister (1671-1756) hated Pietism but his music was full of vigorous piety and lively devotion. The difference was in the premises. He (as Luther had done before him) sang about a triune God who works in history and draws us to him through the objective, external Word and sacraments...
“I thank God,” Cardinal Gasparo Contarini wrote as he prepared to travel to Germany, “… for the colloquium, and for the good beginning that has already been made, and I hope in God that irrelevant considerations will not intrude themselves, and that, as I have many times said to his Holiness, there...
Urban Rhegius (1489-1541) held up the papal bull that threatened Martin Luther with excommunication. As cathedral preacher in Augsburg, he had the duty to read it from the pulpit. It was one of his first official tasks since he had taken office a few months earlier.
The news of the trial of young Arsacius Seehofer circulated quickly through Ingolstadt, Germany. He was a student at the town’s university, accused of following evangelical beliefs. The year was 1523, two years after the Diet of Worms. Martin Luther, still outlawed, had just published a German...
The name George Wishart is generally associated with John Knox, one of his most devout followers, who remembered him fondly in his History of the Reformation. By the time Knox heard Wishart exhorting in Leith, Scotland, on 13 December 1545, the preacher had already gained a fame as one of the most...
Just before Easter 1527, Elisabeth of Brandenburg, who had become Duchess of Braunschweig-Calenberg by marriage, received some shocking news. Her mother Elisabeth of Denmark, Electress of Brandenburg, had stunned her court by taking communion after the Protestant rite: both bread and wine, without...
Vincenzo Paravicino was one of the many Italians who lived in today’s Swiss Canton of Grisons. He was born in 1595 in Traona, in a scenic valley on the Italian side of the Alps, known as Valtellina. After completing his basic studies at Zurich’s Collegium Carolinum, he moved to the University of...
Wibrandis Rosenblatt (1504-1564) is often nicknamed “the Bride of the Reformation,” because she became successively the wife of four men, three of whom were famous Reformers. Her memory is often limited to this oddity, and her voice to a couple of letters. And yet her influence as a courageous...
Jan Hus is often considered a disciple of the English John Wycliffe and imitator of his views. In reality, much of his thought developed independently, along similar lines.
On December 18, 1381, 15-year old Anne crossed the British Channel with her large entourage. It was a wretched time for travel, but she was on her last stretch of her 700-miles journey from Prague. It was the season for storms, but thankfully the winds rose only after her crossing, destroying her...
Anyone who felt perplexed – even outraged – the first time they read Romans 9 may identify with Thomas Bradwardine, a 14th-century Archbishop of Canterbury. His age was, like ours, entrenched in Pelagianism, exalting man’s free will and ability to come to God on his own terms. That’s the philosophy...
On 24 July, 1536, Conrad Cordatus heard a lecture that troubled him deeply. While commenting on the Gospel of John, the Lutheran preacher Caspar Cruciger said, “Christ alone is the meritorious cause; meanwhile, it is true, in a way, that man must be active in a manner; we must be contrite, and must...
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...
Gottschalk had been preaching in the eastern region of the Alps and in today’s Croatia and Bulgaria, using the castle of Count Eberhard of Friuli (815-866) as his base. His emphasis was on God’s sovereignty and on the absolute necessity of God’s grace in salvation.
“I found all the churches filled, in defiance of the precept of Truth, with those sluttish abominations - images. Since everyone was worshiping them, I undertook singlehanded to destroy them.” These were not the words of a Protestant Reformer. Their author was a ninth-century bishop, Claudius of...
Little is known about Ratramnus. He was a Benedictine monk at Corbie Abbey, in Picardy, France, who had gained an excellent reputation as scholar and writer. Besides his work on the Lord’s Supper (On the Body and Blood of the Lord), he wrote several books, including a popular treatise in four books...
At the beginning of the seventh century, the decision of the Council of Chalcedon that Jesus had two natures, human and divine, indivisible but distinct, was still not universally accepted. Even if the Council had specified that the expression “two natures” doesn’t mean that Jesus is “parted or...
Pierre Durand was born in a turbulent France. In 1685, only 15 years before his birth, France’s king Louis XIV (“Le Roi Soleil”), revoked the 1598 Edict of Nantes which had been allowed Protestants freedom of worship.
Philip Melanchthon was a brilliant scholar (one of the greatest Greek interpreters of his day), an insightful theologian, and Martin Luther’s right-hand man. Today, his memory is often limited to his mention in some of Luther’s most famous quotations.
John Knox considered Anne Locke one of his dearest friends and valued her advice and support. He confided in her at some the most difficult times of his life, even in the midst of military battles.
Basil of Caesarea is mostly known for his theological clarity at a time when important Christian doctrines on the Trinity and the nature of Christ were being debated and refined. A few know him for his charitable works on behalf of the poor and ill.
As the news challenge us to think biblically about the place of women in today’s world, it might be useful to remember there was a time when women were discouraged from reading, studying, and thinking independently. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to the translation of Scriptures in...
Many see Jonathan Edwards as a terrifying preacher. Some consider him one of the greatest American theologians. A few know a couple of endearing details of his life, such as his loving relationship with his wife Sarah. Very few know him as a father.
If it’s true, as the ancient Tertullian said, that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church,” much seed has been sown on Turkish soil, from the 2nd-century martyrdom of Polycarp to the massacre of Christian Armenians in 1915 (where 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives). And these are only...
As we watch news of North Korea and pray for that gospel-deprived country, it might be encouraging to remember the rapidity and intensity with which Christianity spread within the still undivided Korea in just a few decades.
I have heard Roman Catholics say that the Council of Trent brought great improvements to the church. If so, the improvements barely touched Italy, where the religious authorities continued to hide criminal acts and the Bible disappeared for centuries from the hands of the laity. In fact, at the...
Facing the opposition of a government that equated religious syncretism with peace, Peter Plancius persisted in pointing out the doctrinal errors of fellow pastor Jacob Arminius. It was not, as some historians think, a needless fastidiousness. Arminius’s teachings implied a different view of the...
In 841, Dhuoda’s world fell apart. William, the son she had nurtured and loved for fourteen years, had just left for Aachen (in today’s Germany), to live at the Frankish court. It had been a sudden decision, made by Dhuoda’s husband Bernard in order to prove his allegiance to the new king, Charles...
In 1618, the situation in Europe was tense. The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) was only a natural consequence of the religious and political conflicts of the previous century. On top of this, the Protestant camp was becoming dangerously divided by what many recognized as a semi-Pelagian tendency at...
The first meeting between Vittoria Colonna and Michelangelo Buonarroti (probably around 1537) was the start of a long and deep friendship. It was also, in some ways, uncommon. As a famed noblewoman, she was used to the company of artists, poets, and writers, but Michelangelo was one of a kind. His...
Ephrem was still a young man when his quick understanding, knowledge of Scriptures, literary skills, and love for the church captured the attention of the local bishop. Jacob had been bishop of the Christian community of Nisibis (a commercial center on the Persian border) since 309, when Ephrem was...