July 2018 “Tabletalk” – The Eighteenth Century of the Church

The July 2018 issue of Tabletalk continues a series Ligonier has been doing for some years now on the centuries of church history. As you will judge from the cover, this one focuses on the eighteenth century (Can you identify the significant man whose image is on the cover?).

If you are like me, you probably do not know a lot about the history of the church in that century. Maybe in part because we so focus on the sixteenth century and the Reformation that we ignore God’s work in His church in subsequent centuries. But we ought not do that. If we believe, as our Heidelberg Catechism teaches us in Q&A 54, that Jesus Christ is at work gathering, defending, and preserving His elect church in every age (from the beginning of the world until the end!), then we may not neglect to study each century of church history. This month’s issue of “TT” will help us overcome both our ignorance and neglect of the eighteenth century.

Burk Parsons introduces the issue with his editorial “To the Ends of the Earth.” Pointing out that this was an era of mission fervor as well as of personal piety, Parsons tells us what we can gain from studying this century:

We study church history not merely to learn from and remember the past but to help us wisely serve and glorify God now and for the future. We look to the great figures of eras gone by in order to learn from their successes and failures. We examine their lives that we might be encouraged to imitate them insofar as they followed Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). For until Christ returns, we must be concerned to see the conversion and discipleship of our neighbors and the nations. As we labor toward this end, we must rest in the glorious truth that God is sovereignly fulfilling His purposes as He sovereignly works in and through us as His instruments. As some have said, history is a story written by the finger of God, and that story is centered around the history of the cross of Christ Jesus, who is coming again at the culmination of His mission, when the Great Commission has been fulfilled and all the elect have been saved from every tribe, tongue, and nation.

The first featured article is an overview of the century, and well worth your reading. “The Eighteenth Century: An Overview” by Dr. Nick Needham is linked below, but we quote from a portion of it here. Needham covers these main topics: “Enlightenment and Religion,” “The Kantian Revolution,” “Moravian Missions,” “The Church in America,” “Rome and the East,” and “Machines and Music.” How’s that for a  variety of significant subjects covering this century? While we could reference any of these sections this evening, I chose the last subject from which to quote. Let that be a good reason to read the rest of Needham’s article linked below.

Machines and Music

One last word on the eighteenth century—another paradox. On the one side, it was the century that witnessed the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution—the birth of the machine age, with all its transforming impact on technology, society, and human thought patterns.

On the other side, the same “century of the machine” witnessed an outpouring of creative musical genius perhaps unsurpassed in history. Composers including Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), George Frideric Handel (1685–1759), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–91), Joseph Haydn (1732–1809), and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) ensured that music would never quite be the same again. Many of their works are explicitly Christian in nature and have provided spiritual as well as aesthetic inspiration to millions. Karl Barth captured this in a beautiful if half-humorous saying: “When the angels play music for God, they play Bach. When they play for themselves, they play Mozart.”

Tolle lege!

Source: The Eighteenth Century

Gottschalk: Medieval Confessor of God’s Absolute Sovereignty

Such was the title of a fascinating presentation on the medieval German monk Gottschalk (c.808 – c868) I and others attended this evening in Georgetown PRC. The presenter was Rev. Angus Stewart, zealous minister of the Word in Covenant PRC in Ballymena, N. Ireland, a sister church of the PRCA.

Rev. Stewart is here for his bi-annual visit to the U.S.A. and is attending the PRC Synod meeting this week. He graciously agreed to give this lecture for our benefit at the request of Trinity PRC’s Council. Pastor Stewart gave this speech over three years ago as a Reformation Day lecture in Ballymena. You may find it here on CPRC’s YouTube channel.

After a brief biographical sketch of Gottschalk (whose name means “God’s servant”), Rev. Stewart took us through the most important doctrinal controversy of the 9th century, which centered, unsurprisingly (because the devil attacks this truth through false teachers in every century of church history), on God’s absolute sovereignty as exhibited especially in double predestination (election and reprobation). Appealing to the church fathers (especially Augustine but others also) and to Scripture, Gottschalk set forth plainly and defended powerfully God’s absolute sovereignty in salvation and in damnation.

Though Gottschalk’s writings were hidden in scattered libraries for centuries – even the Reformers were not aware of his work and never referenced him, they have recently come to light again and are being republished – in Latin – but are also being translated into English for the first time. The PRC’s own Rev. Ron Hanko helped point us to this godly servant and his defense of the truth in a PR Seminary Journal article.

Gottschalk-predestinationOne of the major works recently produced on this controversy, which also includes Gottschalk’s writings on predestination, is Gottschalk & a Medieval Predestination Controversy. (Texts Translated from the Latin. Edited & Translated by Victor Genke & Francis X. Gumerlock), published by Marquette University Press in 2010, a work found in the PRC Seminary library.

Rev. Stewart drew extensively on this work, handing out a sheet with several clear statements on God’s sovereignty in predestination. Here is one such (part of Gottschalk’s comments on 1 Tim.2:4):

[He] says, as the old predestinarians also said, that ‘God does not will all men to be saved’ (1 Tm2:4), but only those who are saved; however, all those are saved whom he willed to save and for this reason whoever is not saved absolutely does not belong to that will that they be saved. Since if all those whom God wills to be saved are not saved, he has not done whatever he willed, and if he wills what he cannot do, he is not omnipotent, but weak. But he is omnipotent who has done whatever he willed, as the scripture says: “The Lord has done whatever he willed in heaven and on earth, in the sea and in all the deeps (Ps 134:6…” [pp.176-77].

If you want another resource on this significant church history figure, look up this previous post on a recent RFPA publication on Gottschalk.

This Day in History: The Death of John Calvin | Crossway Articles

In several online places today it was noted that May 27 marks the anniversary of John Calvin’s death (1509-1564). Crossway was one of those sites with a featured article on it.

Dr. Robert Godfrey wrote a fine, brief summary of Calvin’s life and work from the viewpoint of its end, and it is that article that we reference this Sunday night. One of the sections of the article mentions Calvin’s own life of suffering and how that helped him as a pastor to identify with God’s suffering people. He also wrote about Calvin’s “unshakeable confidence” as he faced the end of his life:

The struggles of his life tested his faith. At the heart of his faith was the confidence that for the sake of Jesus, God was his loving heavenly Father. But that confidence had to surmount the temptations and sins, the frustrations and losses, the weakness and death that made up so much of his life. He knew that his struggles were the very ones that all God’s children faced: “The pious heart, therefore, perceives a division in itself, being partly affected with delight, through a knowledge of God’s goodness, partly distressed with sorrow, through a sense of its own calamity; partly relying on the promise of the gospel; partly trembling at the evidence of its own iniquity; partly exulting at the expectation of life; partly alarmed by the fear of death.” But faith overcomes that division. With great assurance Calvin declared, “For the invariable issue of this contest is that faith at length overcomes those difficulties, from which, while it is encompassed with them, it appears to be in danger.”2

Late in his life, as his health deteriorated and his strength ebbed, his friends pled with him to work less diligently, but he refused. By early 1563 he at times was unable to walk due to gout and arthritis. By early 1564 it was clear that his strength was failing seriously. In early February 1564 he gave his last lectures and sermons. Calvin prayed that his mind would remain clear to the end so that he could work. From his bed he continued to dictate letters and his final commentary, on the book of Joshua. His fellow ministers appealed to him to get more rest. He responded, “What! Would you have the Lord find me idle?”3 He was determined to work hard to the end.

You would do well to read the other parts of Godfrey’s article, including Calvin’s expression of thanks to God in his last will and testament and his farewells to his friends (cf. link below). Godfrey ends by quoting Calvin’s close friend and associate (and successor in Geneva), Theodore Beza, who wrote this about Calvin’s final days:

The interval to his death he spent in almost constant prayer. . . . In his sufferings he often groaned like David, “I was silent, O Lord, because thou didst it.” . . . I have also heard him say, “You, O Lord crush me; but it is abundantly sufficient for me to know that this is from your hand.”7 Calvin may also have remembered the words that he had written long ago in his Catechism: “For death for believers is now nothing but passage to a better life. . . . Hence it follows that death is no longer to be dreaded. We are rather to follow Christ our leader with undaunted mind, who, as he did not perish in death, will not suffer us to perish.”8

Source: This Day in History: The Death of John Calvin | Crossway Articles

Calvin on Psalm 24: Worship, the Presence of God, and the Glory of Christ

Ps24

7.Lift up your heads, O ye gates!

The magnificent and splendid structure of the temple, in which there was more outward majesty than in the tabernacle, not being yet erected, David here speaks of the future building of it. By doing this, he encourages the pious Israelites to employ themselves more willingly, and with greater confidence, in the ceremonial observances of the law. It was no ordinary token of the goodness of God that he condescended to dwell in the midst of them by a visible symbol of his presence, and was willing that his heavenly dwelling-place should be seen upon earth.

This doctrine ought to be of use to us at this day; for it is an instance of the inestimable grace of God, that so far as the infirmity of our flesh will permit, we are lifted up even to God by the exercises of religion. What is the design of the preaching of the word, the sacraments, the holy assemblies, and the whole external government of the church, but that we may be united to God?

8.Who is this King of glory? etc.

…That this was no vain and empty promise, but that God truly dwelt in the midst of the people, is what the faithful experienced who sought him not superstitiously, as if he had been fixed to the temple, but made use of the temple and of the service which was performed in it for elevating their hearts to heaven.

The amount of what is stated is, that whenever the people should call upon God in the temple, it would manifestly appear, from the effect which would follow, that the ark of the covenant was not a vain and an illusory symbol of the presence of God, because he would always stretch forth his omnipotent arm for the defense and protection of his people. The repetition teaches us that true believers cannot be too constant and diligent in meditation on this subject.

The Son of God, clothed with our flesh, has now shown himself to be King of glory and Lord of hosts, and he is not entered into his temple only by shadows and figures, but really and in very deed, that he may dwell in the midst of us. There is, therefore, nothing to hinder us from boasting that we shall be invincible by his power.

Mount Sion, it is true, is not at this day the place appointed for the sanctuary, and the ark of the covenant is no longer the image or representation of God dwelling between the cherubim; but as we have this privilege in common with the fathers, that, by the preaching of the word and the sacraments, we may be united to God, it becomes us to use these helps with reverence; for if we despise them by a detestable pride, God cannot but at length utterly withdraw himself from us.

jcalvin-1Taken from John Calvin’s Commentary on the Book of Psalms. The text of his comments on Psalm 24 quoted above may be found on this website.

The Founding of Frankenmuth (Michigan) | Christian History Institute

Today’s “It Happened Today” feature from the Christian History Institute noted that on this date, May 3, 1891 the founder of the famous little Michigan town of Frankenmuth died.

For those of us who have made the trip to that beautiful little place and enjoyed its Christmas store and decorations (Bronner’s), its Bavarian themes, as well as its delicious chicken dinners (Zehnder’s), we marveled at the industrious German settlers and what they made of this once desolate area.

But maybe you didn’t realize the Lutheran Christian founding of this town. That’s what was featured in today’s church history note. Here’s an important part of the history of that little berg on the east side of Michigan:

Death of Friedrich August Crämer, Founder of Frankenmuth

 

The hardworking minister was a founder of Frankenmuth, MI and Lutheran educator.

WHEN THE LUTHERAN CHURCH in Germany appealed for Lutheran missionaries and ministers to go to the American frontier, Friedrich August Crämer answered the call. Born in Klein-Langheim, Bavaria in 1812, Cramer was arrested while a university student at Erlangen for his involvement in a plot to start a revolution. He went to prison a radical social activist but emerged a Christian, reasoning, “If Christ has redeemed lost and condemned sinners, then He has redeemed me also; because everything in me and in my life is lost…”

Pastor Wilhelm Loehe Loehe recruited German families to form a mission settlement in Michigan and become a “living book,” showing Native Americans what it was like to live with Christ as savior. He selected Crämer, a theology student, as their pastor.

In 1845, the Lutheran immigrants settled in Saginaw Valley, where they battled mosquitoes and broke ground for a town they named “Frankenmuth” (Courage of Franconia). They erected a few log cabins before winter, helped their pastor and his wife construct a place to live, and cleared land for next spring’s planting.

As soon as he could do so, Crämer began teaching Indian children, assisted by Jim Grant, his interpreter, who was half Chippewa. In time, he baptized thirty-one Indians. Although Crämer taught from his own home, he also visited the Chippewa Indians in their villages and ate their food with them. When the local Indians succumbed to western diseases, Crämer extended his work by building three mission stations, one at a distance of seventy miles. He visited each of these every month regardless of weather or his own state of health.

During 1846, close to one hundred additional German immigrants swelled Frankenmuth’s population. Up to this time, the community had been worshipping in the Crämer living room. Now it was apparent a church was needed. The settlers erected St. Lorenz Lutheran Church and dedicated it on Christmas Day. The date of dedication was appropriate, for Christmas would become a major day for Frankenmuth—which much later would call itself the Christmas capital of the world, with Christmas stores, restaurants, and retreats that stayed open year-round.

The Indian mission folded as the Indians migrated westward. Theological difficulties also arose when Lutherans teaching other, less-confessional doctrines arrived. To counter this, Crämer helped found the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and taught in its seminaries. His hearers considered him an excellent teacher. While teaching in St. Louis, he organized a congregation of Irish and German immigrants whom he served without pay as their church grew to over three hundred members. In 1881, he lost three of his grown children and two grandchildren. His wife’s health declined from the shock and in 1884 she died as well.

Unable to support its own growth, the seminary in St. Louis eventually split.  Part of the seminary moved to Illinois, and Crämer led the move despite his age. He continued to work himself relentlessly, and as a result, his health gave way. The Lutheran Witness of May 7, 1891 reported: “It is our sad duty to chronicle the bereavement of our synod and the Springfield Seminary by the demise of Rev. Prof. A. Crämer, late senior professor of our synod and president of our Concordia Seminary, Springfield, Ill. … he had been suffering from a severe attack of the grippe [influenza], and fell asleep in Jesus on the 3rd of May at 3.50 A.M.” Altogether, he had prepared six hundred and thirty five candidates for ministry.

Dan Graves

Source: It Happened Today | Christian History Institute

“The Psalter impregnated the life of early Christianity.” ~ D. Bonhoeffer

Psalms-prayer-book-BonhoefferIn many churches the Psalms are read or sung every Sunday, or even daily, in succession. These churches have preserved a priceless treasure, for only with daily use does one appropriate this divine prayerbook.

…Therefore, wherever we no longer pray the Psalms in our churches, we must take up the Psalter [the book of Psalms] that much more in our daily morning and evening prayers, reading and praying together at least several Psalms every day so that we succeed in reading through this book a number of times each year, getting into it deeper and deeper. We ought also not to select Psalms at our own discretion, thinking that we know better what we ought to pray than does God himself. To do that is to dishonor the prayerbook of the Bible.

In the ancient church it was not unusual to memorize ‘the entire David.’ In one of the eastern churches this was a prerequisite for the pastoral office. The church father St. Jerome says that one heard the Psalms being sung in the fields and gardens in his time. The Psalter impregnated the life of early Christianity. Yet more important than all of this is the fact that Jesus died on the cross with the words of the Psalter on his lips.

It is at this point that the author makes that powerful point I quoted when we began this series on his book: “Whenever the Psalter is abandoned, an incomparable treasure vanishes from the Christian church. With its recovery will come unsuspected power.”

Quoted from Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Augsburg, 1974), a translation of Das Gebetbuch der Bibel (the 8th ed. published in Germany in 1966). These thoughts are found in the fifth section, “Congregational Worship and the Psalms” (pp.25-26).

What’s New for Review? (Books, That Is)

On this Tuesday, let’s take a few minutes to review a few books I have received recently for review – books I, in turn, make available to you – for you to review, if you are willing.

Life-theology-Paul-Waters-2017First, from Reformation Trust I received last week a copy of Guy P. Waters’ new title The Life and Theology of Paul (2017). Dr. Waters is professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS and has also authored The Acts of the Apostles, How Jesus Runs the Church, and Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul, among others.

The publisher gives this description:

Much of what we know about theology—about justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification—comes directly from the writings of the Apostle Paul. If we removed Paul’s writings from Scripture, our understanding of these truths would be greatly impoverished. Paul’s inspired writings and the story of his life continue to be a precious gift to the church. Dr. Guy Prentiss Waters leads us on a doctrinally enriching and spiritually edifying journey from Paul’s life, conversion, and call to key themes in his theology.

At the link above you will also find a video of a class taught by Dr. Waters on this subject. That will give you a taste of the contents of the book.

theology-made-practical-2017Second, I have also received a few new titles from Reformation Heritage Books. One is Theology Made Practical: New Studies on John Calvin and His Legacy, made up of fourteen essays by Joel R. Beeke, David W. Hall, and Michael A.G. Haykin (2017). The publsiher provides this information about the title and its contents:

In Theology Made Practical, Joel R. Beeke, David W. Hall, and Michael A. G. Haykin declare the significance of John Calvin’s life and ideas—particularly his contributions to systematic theology, pastoral theology, and political theology—as well as the influence he had on others through the centuries. With focused studies related to the Trinity, predestination, the Holy Spirit, justification, preaching, missions, principles of government, welfare, and marriage, this book demonstrates how Calvin’s thought has been, and still is, a dynamic wellspring of fruitfulness for numerous areas of the Christian life. More than 450 years since Calvin experienced the beatific vision, his thinking about God and His Word still possesses what our culture passionately longs for—true relevancy.

 

Contents:

Preface

Part 1: Calvin’s Biography

1. The Young Calvin: Preparation for a Life of Ministry—Michael A. G. Haykin

2. Practical Lessons from the Life of Idelette Calvin—Joel R. Beeke

 

Part 2: Calvin’s Systematic Theology

3. “Uttering the Praises of the Father, of the Son, and of the Spirit”: John Calvin on the Divine Triunity —Michael A. G. Haykin

4. Calvin on Similarities and Differences on Election and Reprobation—Joel R. Beeke

5. Calvin on the Holy Spirit—Joel R. Beeke

6. Explicit and Implicit Appendixes to Calvin’s View of Justification by Faith —David W. Hall

 

Part 3: Calvin’s Pastoral and Political Theology

7. Calvin’s Experiential Preaching—Joel R. Beeke

8. John Calvin and the Missionary Endeavor of the Church—Michael A. G. Haykin

9. Calvin on Principles of Government—David W. Hall

10. Calvin on Welfare: Diaconal Ministry in Geneva—David W. Hall

11. Christian Marriage in the Twenty-First Century: Calvin on the Purpose of Marriage—Michael A. G. Haykin

 

Part 4: Calvin’s Legacy

12.  Calvin’s Circle of Friends: Propelling an Enduring Movement—David W. Hall

13. Calvin as a Calvinist—Joel R. Beeke

14. Calvinism and Revival—Michael A. G. Haykin

 

Afterword

covenantal-life-ivill-2018Another title sent me from RHB recently is by Sarah Ivill (wife, mother, author, speaker and member of Christ Presbyterian Church [PCA] in Matthews, NC) and titled The Covenantal Life: Appreciating the Beauty of Theology and Community (2018). The publisher gives us this note about the book and its subjects:

Today, many of us have lost our appreciation of the beauty of covenant theology and covenant community, and this has had dire consequences for us, resulting in misunderstandings of theology and individualism and isolationism in the church. Author Sarah Ivill believes that a key solution to this problem is a robust understanding of covenant theology, which will deepen our knowledge of Scripture and enable us to truly serve our sisters by pointing them to Christ. In The Covenantal Life, the author clearly and concisely sets forth the beauty of covenant theology and covenant community and encourages us to learn sound doctrine so that we can think biblically about the circumstances in our lives—and then help our sisters in Christ to do so as well.

Contents:

Foreword

A Note from Sarah

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Part One: Appreciating the Beauty of Covenant Theology

1. I Can Think Straight

2. The Best Book Ever

3. All of Grace

4. The Heart of the Matter

5. But God

Part Two: Appreciating the Beauty of Covenant Community

6. A Different Kind of Community

7. From Life Taker to Life Giver

8. Speaking the Truth in Love

9. A Mandate and a Mission

10. The City That Is to Come

As I began to browse this new title briefly, I found the author’s definition of covenant interesting and instructive: “A thorough yet concise definition of covenant is God’s sovereign initiation to have a binding relationship with His people, grounded in His grace and promises, and secured by His own blood (p.5).

If any of these books interest you and you are willing to write a short review for the Standard Bearer, the book is yours. Contact me here or by email. Tolle lege – take up and read!

10 Things You Should Know about Charles Spurgeon | Crossway Articles

As part of its “Ten Things You Should Know” series (usually on an aspect of church history or a key figure in her history), Crossway Publishing featured last month an article on the great Calvinist-Baptist preacher Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), known as the “Prince of Preachers.” Many of us are familiar with Spurgeon’s powerful sermons (in a multitude of collections), his rich Treasury of David on the Psalms, and the devotional classic Evening and Morning based on his writings.

For our history feature this week we select a few choice items from this Crossway list of ten (compiled by Michael Reeves), encouraging you to read the rest (cf. link below). You knew Spurgeon was a giant in the pulpit and an incredible worker, but did you also know he had his bouts with melancholy and depression? Read on and learn more about this significant servant of Christ’s church in the 19th century.

3. He was self-consciously a theological and doctrinal preacher.

While Spurgeon is not known as a theologian as such, he was nevertheless a deeply theological thinker and his sermons were rich in doctrine, and dripping with knowledge of historical theology – especially the Puritans.

Some preachers seem to be afraid lest their sermons should be too rich in doctrine, and so injure the spiritual digestions of their hearers. The fear is superfluous. . . . This is not a theological age, and therefore it rails at sound doctrinal teaching, on the principle that ignorance despises wisdom. The glorious giants of the Puritan age fed on something better than the whipped creams and pastries which are now so much in vogue.3

9. He suffered with depression.

Spurgeon was full of life and joy, but also suffered deeply with depression as a result of personal tragedies, illness, and stress. Today he would almost certainly be diagnosed as clinically depressed and treated with medication and therapy. His wife, Susannah, wrote, “My beloved’s anguish was so deep and violent, that reason seemed to totter in her throne, and we sometimes feared that he would never preach again.”10

Spurgeon believed that Christian ministers should expect a special degree of suffering to be given to them as a way of forming them for Christlike, compassionate ministry. Christ himself was made like his weak and tempted brothers in order that he might help those who are tempted (Heb. 2:16–18), and in the same manner, it is weak and suffering people that God has chosen to minister to the weak and suffering.

10. He was emphatically Christ-centered.

Spurgeon saw theology much like astronomy: as the solar system makes sense only when the sun is central, so systems of theological thought are coherent only when Christ is central. Every doctrine must find its place and meaning in its proper relation to Christ. “Be assured that we cannot be right in the rest, unless we think rightly of HIM. . . . Where is Christ in your theological system?”11

Spurgeon’s view of the Bible, his Calvinism, and his view of the Christian life are all deeply Christocentric–and even that astronomical analogy may be too weak to capture quite how Christ-centered Spurgeon was in his thinking.

For him, Christ is not merely one component—however pivotal—in the bigger machinery of the gospel. Christ himself is the truth we know, the object and reward of our faith, and the light that illumines every part of a true theological system. He wrote, ‘He himself is Doctor and Doctrine, Revealer and Revelation, the Illuminator and the Light of Men. He is exalted in every word of truth, because he is its sum and substance. He sits above the gospel, like a prince on his own throne. Doctrine is most precious when we see it distilling from his lips and embodied in his person. Sermons are valuable in proportion as they speak of him and point to him.’12

Source: 10 Things You Should Know about Charles Spurgeon | Crossway Articles

Time for Some Children’s Books

Tonight let’s look at a few children’s books, starting with a new one by Simonetta Carr that I received at the end of last year for review from Reformation Heritage Books.

Irenaeus-SCarr-2017

That title is Irenaeus of Lyon, a book on one of the early orthodox church fathers (c.130-c200) and the latest in the “Christian Biographies for Young Readers” series. We have featured the books in this series before (as, for example on John Calvin, Martin Luther, Augustine, and John Knox) and this one too looks to be a valuable contribution. The publisher gives this description:

Irenaeus is remembered for his work in helping the church to preserve the faith handed on by the apostles and to defend it when it was attacked. In this simply written and beautifully illustrated book, Simonetta Carr shows young readers the difficulties the early church faced and how Irenaeus taught Christians to discern truth from error by listening to the Bible. To Christians, the lessons Irenaeus taught are as important today as they were in his time.

Besides covering the life and work of this church father, Carr includes at the end a timeline of Irenaeus’ life, a “Did You Know” section, and a sampling of his writing. The book is beautifully illustrated by Matt Abraxas.

If you are willing to write a short review of this book for the Standard Bearer or for Perspectives in Covenant Education, this title is yours.

*UPDATE: This book has been spoken for.

The second thing I mention in connection with children’s books is that I have been collecting Newbery Medal and Newbery Honor Books. I look mainly in the area thrift stores, and I buy mainly to give to my grandchildren. Some of the older ones I remember and know that they are “good reads.” But there are others that I am not familiar with and instead of trying to read them myself or giving them to my grandchildren without review, I would like to enlist your help – and that of your own children or grandchildren.

20180124_221845.jpg

I give you this picture collage of the books I recently picked up and ask if you can give me a thumbs up or thumbs down on any of these. I want to make sure not only that these are good stories worth reading but also that they pass the “Christian discernment” test. I want to be careful that I don’t give my grandchildren books that are not wholesome and not in harmony with Christian principles even if the story itself is not Christian.

What can you tell me (us!) about any of these? Yes, by all means ask your children!

Published in: on January 24, 2018 at 11:04 PM  Comments (3)  

What Do You Know About Athanasius? M. Haykin/Crossway

At the beginning of this week (January 7, 2018) Crossway publishers had a post by author Michael Haykin on the great church father Athanasius (c.296-298 to 373).

Athanasius-statueBy Giovanni Dall’Orto – Own work, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4639224

Haykin has written a book published by Crossway titled Rediscovering the Church Fathers and his online article “10 Things You Should Know About Athanasius” is based on his chapter on this important church father.

Rediscovering the Church Fathers

So, what do you know about Athanasius? Do you remember the oft-used expression “Athanasius contra mundum” for his stand against the Arians and for the full deity of Jesus Christ? If you need a reminder of how important this early father is, then Haykin’s post will help.

Here are the last 5 things Haykin gives about him (find the other five at the link above):

6. He was exiled five times.
This was the first of five exiles, four of which were for his defense of the deity of Christ against Arianism. The two longest, from 339–346 and 356–361, were in Rome and the Egyptian desert respectively. It was because of these exiles that the saying “Athanasius contra mundum” (Athanasius against the world) was coined

7. He chose his words carefully.
It is noteworthy that Athanasius did not frequently use the term “of one being” (homoousios)—found in the Nicene Creed to set forth the deity of Christ, specifically in him being of “one being with the Father”—until the 350s. Up until then, Athanasius had used other statements and images drawn from Scripture in his defense of the divinity of Jesus.

8. He wrote the first treatise defending the full deity of the Holy Spirit in 358–359.
His close friend Serapion of Thmuis, a town in the Nile Delta, told him about the Binitarianism of certain individuals in his church who confessed Christ as fully God but argued that the Holy Spirit was to be included among the angelic beings. Athanasius’s three letters to Serapion were the first of a number of important defenses of the Spirit’s deity written over the next thirty-five years or so.

9. He wrote a best-selling biography.
Athanasius’s biography of the Egyptian monk Antony, written not long after the monk’s death in 356, was a “bestseller” in Christian antiquity and played a key role in the conversion of Augustine of Hippo in 386. Among the things that Athanasius related about Antony was his phenomenal memorization of the entire Bible. It is most likely the case that Athanasius had also memorized most of the Scriptures.

10. One of his letters contains the earliest complete list of New Testament books we’ve ever found.
Athanasius’s Easter Letter of 367 contains the first known list of the books of the New Testament that corresponds exactly to the modern listing of the New Testament canon. Along with the Old Testament, Athanasius declared such books to be the “fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness.”