Humanism and the 15th Century Church: Erasmus and the Greek NT – R.Reeves

Setting the Stage by Ryan Reeves | Reformed Theology Articles at

Before taking leave of the July issue of Tabletalk, we will spend one more post looking at the history of the church during the 15th century – the theme of this month’s issue.

Dr. Ryan Reeves has the final featured article on the subject and he gives us another “big picture” glance at this important century of church history.

ErasmusHis entire article is worth your time and effort – lots of new things to learn or be reminded of as far as major events during this time; but I will give you the end of his article because of the special significance of a certain Dutchman whom God used to set the stage for the Reformation in a special way, and whom a certain great Reformer would engage theologically and biblically on the doctrine of free will (Remember the great Reformation work The Bondage of the Will?!).

Sensing the opportunity to expand learning and literacy, the humanists unleashed a torrent of writing on theology, Bible, classical studies, and history. Of all the humanists, Erasmus of Rotterdam was their prince. Born in 1466 as the illegitimate son of a priest, Erasmus demonstrated skill with languages and textual criticism that propelled him onto the stage as a leading light of the new intellectual movement of the Renaissance. In the course of his life, Erasmus gave the world complete editions of the works of the church fathers as well as numerous tracts on theological subjects.

By far his most impactful work was the Greek New Testament—a work he admitted was gathered in a slapdash manner from twelfth-century Byzantine texts, with some passages wrongly added to the Bible and six verses of the book of Revelation missing entirely. The Greek New Testament was something like a modern interlinear Bible. In one column was the Greek text; next to it was a fresh Latin translation by Erasmus. Not only did this provide readers with the original Greek, but it also provided a road map for students to help determine how to render the Greek into their language. It is no surprise, then, that Luther used this text as the basis of his German New Testament, which he translated after his trial at the Diet of Worms.

Through destruction and exploration, the fifteenth century did more than bridge the gap between the medieval age and the modern world; it set the stage for the Reformation.


“Tabletalk” Interview with Reformed Pastor, President, Professor W. Robert Godfrey

Reformed Pastor, President, Professor by W. Robert Godfrey | Reformed Theology Articles at

One of the first articles I read in this month’s Tabletalk magazine was the interview feature, in part because I always find these to be interesting, but mostly because the March interview is with well-known “Reformed pastor [United Reformed Church], president [Westminster West Seminary], and professor [of church history], Dr. Robert Godfrey.

Yesterday, because I was finished with all the other articles, I re-read this interview, and remembered that if I had the time and space, I would post a few parts of it here. You may find the entire interview at the Ligonier link above, but I found these sections of Godfrey’s comments on Seminary training to be interesting and edifying.

I find much of his comment and counsel relevant to our own Seminary setting as well, and trust that you will too.

TT: Why is seminary education necessary today, especially when the Internet makes so many resources readily available?

RG: As you cannot learn surgery on the Internet, as you cannot have a church on the Internet, so you cannot get a good pastoral education on the Internet. The Internet is valuable for various kinds of information, but it cannot provide the kind of personal interaction and mentoring necessary for seminary education. The community of faculty and students and the community of students interacting with fellow students are both crucial for learning academic and interpersonal skills.

TT: Is seminary only for men seeking ordination as pastors? Who else should consider attending seminary, and why?

RG: While our seminary is focused vocationally on the education of future pastors, it also o—ffers education in the Bible, theology, and church history to men and women who are interested in learning. They then can use that learning for their own personal edification, to teach in the local church, or to serve churches around the world.

TT: What are two ways that churches can better prepare young men for the pastorate?

RG: First, seminaries need the support of churches to do their work. Prayer and financial support from the churches are vitally necessary for the seminaries to do their work of pastoral preparation. We work for the future of the church, and we need the help of the churches to flourish. Second, churches need to take on seminarians as interns to give them experience and encouragement. Seminary can teach many things, but the actual experience of serving and working in a church can only happen in the church.

TT: What is the main challenge that U.S. Seminaries face today? How is Westminster California working to meet that challenge?

RG: A great challenge that seminaries face today is the increasingly poor preparation that many students receive in their undergraduate education. Too many are not prepared to read analytically, to write research papers, or to study a foreign language. Many also are far less familiar with the English Bible than was the case in earlier generations. So our seminary has introduced a series of entrance exams that determine whether a student needs to take specific remedial courses. We invest a great deal of time in the careful teaching of Greek and Hebrew because they are so foundational to everything else we do. We are excited by the emergence of a college like Reformation Bible College, which we hope will send us much better prepared students.

New & Noteworthy Books in 2015 – Reformation21

New & Noteworthy Books in 2015 – Reformation21.

Even though this was posted by Mark McDowell in December at “Reformation21”, it is certainly worth our notice because it pertains to books to be published in this year 2015.

I always appreciate lists of books to come such as this, as it helps me plan on what to order for the Seminary library  as well as perhaps add to my own personal library.

And though most of these books are geared toward the theologians among us (but then, as R.C.Sproul is fond of saying, “Everyone’s a theologian.”), there is a variety of titles here to benefit us all – including a new children’s title!

Here are two that McDowell has selected and that I highlight in this post:


Carl Trueman, Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom (Crossway, February)
Crossway’s series, Theologians on the Christian Life, has not disappointed. Matching some of the Church’s most beloved saints with some of today’s best evangelical writers, the series puts forth books that both edify and inform. 2015 promises John Bolt on Bavinck, Bray on Augustine, Haykin and Matthew Barrett on Owen, and Trueman on Luther. It’s difficult to pick just one of them, and while I’m giving Trueman on Luther the nod, all four books have to be added to the library. Here’s what Trueman says about his own volume and it’s hard not to get a little bit excited about what’s in store:
‘This is the book I have always wanted to write: a study of Martin Luther’s theology which is connected directly to his life as a Christian and his calling as a pastor. Personally, I owe as much to Luther as to any historical Christian figure. Further, I have become increasingly irritated in recent years with the way his name is bandied about by people who clearly do not know who or what they are talking about. So much of the pop-evangelical Luther is based on the selective reading of a few texts which actually presents a picture of the Reformed which I do not think Dr Martin himself would recognise. Thus, I wanted to correct some of the caricatures of him in evangelical circles and offer him as a model of pastoral ministry and of Christian discipleship to the current generation. Was he perfect and should we follow him in every detail? Absolutely not. His errors, when he made them, were often egregious. But his focus on Word and sacrament is a real antidote to the mega-conference, Top Men and brand-dominated culture which has unfortunately swept across conservative evangelicalism in the last decade’.


Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark, The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings us Back to the Garden (Crossway, August)
Christian children’s books are legion but good children’s books that captivate as well as educate are rare. Getting a pastor-theologian to take up the challenge is encouraging and I’m eager to see what DeYoung and Clark have in store for us. This is a book that promises a biblical-theological approach, connecting the dots throughout Scripture and showing our young ones the wonderful tapestry of the Bible.
DeYoung tells Ref21: ‘I know authors are always excited for their books to come out, but I’m especially eager for this one to release. The Biggest Story tells the big gospel story of salvation from the Garden of Eden to the final garden in revelation. I tried to tell the familiar story in a way that was theologically rich, but still fun and interesting for kids. It’s longer than board book for small children, but much shorter than a kids Bible. I couldn’t be more pleased with the illustrations. Don Clark has done an amazing job with the pictures–colorful, unique, interesting, and thoughtful. I can’t wait for this book to come out so I can show and tell it to my kids’.

– See more at:

December “Tabletalk”: Christology in Context – S.Nichols

TT - Dec 2014As we noted here last Monday, the December issue of Tabletalk (Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional) is fittingly (for the season) centered on the doctrine of Christ. The theme is “Who Do You Say That I Am?: The Person and Work of Christ.”

Yesterday I read the second feature article on this subject, “Christology in Context”, by Dr.Stephen J. Nichols, president of Reformation Bible College and a Ligonier teaching fellow.

He takes us on a brief journey through the first four centuries of church history to show the ecclesiastical setting in which the Christological controversies took place. Revealing the errors of Docetism and Arianism (among others), Nichols reminds us of the great care the church took under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures to set forth the truth concerning the Person and natures of Christ at Nicea (325) and Chalcedon (451).

If you have forgotten this part of your church history, this is a great article to review it and be reminded again of the importance of careful definition in theology. As in the vital importance of one vowel – “i” – in the Greek! Find out why by reading the article linked above. For now, here is a brief excerpt from it:

The bishops at Nicea concluded that homoousios alone measured up to the standard of biblical teaching. The Nicene Creed declares that Jesus is “very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father.”

This creed is not uncovering new ground. Rather, it summarizes the massive swath of biblical material regarding the person of Christ. The author of Hebrews begins by declaring, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). Paul says rather directly that in Jesus “dwells the whole fullness of deity bodily” (Col. 2:9).

The Nicene Creed is a prime example of systematic theology at its best. Systematic theology seeks to organize and summarize, not add or detract from, the biblical teaching. Systematic theologians then teach this doctrine to the church. These bishops in the early churches were systematic theologians. The creed the bishops constructed at Nicea was their gift to the church.

At the center of church life is worship. And at the center of our worship is Christ. Every Christian should be asking, Whom do I worship? Who is this Christ at the center of my worship? The Nicene Creed gives us a biblically rich and true answer.

RFPA Annual Meeting TONIGHT – The Importance of Reading Church History

Reformed Free Publishing Association — THIS WEEK! – RFPA Annual Meeting: The Importance of Reading Church His.

Just a reminder that the RFPA’s annual meeting is TONIGHT in Grandville PRC. Those in the Grand Rapids area – and beyond – are encouraged to attend, whether you are an association member or not. You may always join tonight!

RFPA 2014 Meeting

Certainly part of the interest in the meeting is the inspirational speech. Following up on last year’s great speech on the importance of reading, Rev.C.Spronk (Peace PRC, Lansing, IL) will give a talk on “The Importance of Reading Church History”.

Below is part of the notice of the meeting found on the RFPA website. Visit the link above for more information. But know too, that the meeting will be live-streamed from Grandville PRC via their website.

In the Nicene Creed the church confesses that there is only “one holy catholic and apostolic church.” This means that the Christian faith and life of the true church of Jesus Christ as she is manifested today in various denominations and congregations is rooted in the church of the past. Times may have changed but the church today shares with the church of the past the same Lord, the same faith, the same battle, the same hope, and the same purpose—to bring glory to name of our great God. The church must be conscious of her past history in order to be sure that she is continuing on the right path. In other words the study of church history is important.

The study of church history is all the more important because of the constant attack of enemies who seek to knock her off of the “old paths.” Satan desires that the members of the church be ignorant of their history. Lack of interest in church history plays into the evil one’s hands. Church history can then be distorted and used to spread false doctrine and support wicked behavior, as is often attempted today. The study of church history is an important part of the battle of faith she must wage to remain faithful to God.

Hope to see you there!

Word Wednesday – Patristics

Yes, I know it is Thursday. But I didn’t get to any blog posts yesterday and really wanted to get in a “new” word this week. A word I came across last week while cataloging some more books for the Seminary library. A word that ties in nicely with some of the courses taught here at the PRC Seminary.

St.AugustineThat word is “patristics”, or as it is also sometimes called “patrology”. The word is derived from the Latin word for “father” (pater), and refers to the study of the persons, writings, and theology of the early fathers of the church. If you visit the link to Wikipedia here, you will find a helpful listing of these church fathers, with links to web pages with information on each one. Some of these will be familiar names to you (Athanasius, Augustine, Tertullian), while others may not be. But they should be, which is why I wanted to call attention to this special word and field of study. You might also find this section on Monergism’s website to be of interest and use.

You see, while we have a series of church history courses taught here at Seminary (early, medieval and modern – and, I might add, the history of dogma!), with the first one covering what is traditionally known as patristics, all of church history (even our modern age) covers the history of the church’s fathers. For God raises up such godly, courageous and faithful servants in every age of His church, to lead her deeper into the truth of Scripture, to defend her against the wily wolves who seek to devour her, and to call her to steady commitment to Christ her Head.

I hope you are interested in the fathers of the church. In every age – early, medieval and modern. And I encourage you, then, to make patristics a part of your reading diet. The Seminary library has plenty of books for you to use! Come and find out! 🙂

Koinonia Quiz: Test Your Church History

Koinonia: Quiz: Test Your Church History.

This blog, hosted by Zondervan Academic (publishing) and Friends, recently posted this brief church history quiz based on a new book they published. Go ahead and take it and see how you do. And make the reading of church history a part of your regular reading plan! Here’s a part of the post, which also promotes the recent church history book published. You can find the quiz either at the link above or the one below.

If you can’t see it above, view the quiz here.

To compare your answers to those of your peers, click the “See Previous Responses” link at the end of the quiz.

Learn more about church history from Frank A. James III and John Woodbridge in their new book Church History, Volume 2: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day.


Church History, Volume 2

Church History, Volume 2

by John D. Woodbridge and Frank A. James III

Buy it Today:

Barnes & Noble
Find More Retailers

– See more at:

You’ll discover that story — plus a few more surprises — when you take this brief quiz on church history, created by Frank A. James III (co-author of Church History, Volume 2) and Emily Varner ( – See more at:

Quiz: Test Your Church History

How did this famous reformer meet his unfortunate end?


You’ll discover that story — plus a few more surprises — when you take this brief quiz on church history, created by Frank A. James III (co-author of Church History, Volume 2) and Emily Varner (

– See more at:

Quiz: Test Your Church History

How did this famous reformer meet his unfortunate end?


You’ll discover that story — plus a few more surprises — when you take this brief quiz on church history, created by Frank A. James III (co-author of Church History, Volume 2) and Emily Varner (

– See more at:

What Are You Reading for Reformation Day 2013?

Calvin PreachingWith our remembrance and celebration of the great Reformation of the 16th century taking place this month, we may well ask ourselves, “What are you reading for Reformation Day 2013”? As Protestant children of the Reformation, we ought to be interested in the history and theology of this work of God in His church. We ought to know this part of our church history well – broadly (including what took place in other countries and what other figures God used to reform His church) and narrowly (our own Reformed branch of the Reformation).

If you are looking for ideas, may I suggest you visit a few good Christian book sites and browse through their Reformation history/theology sections. Here are a few to get you started:

May I also remind you that the Protestant Reformed Seminary library has a very strong Reformation history/theology section, which you too are free to make use of. We are constantly adding to this part of our library, and I like to believe we have one of the best around. We are particularly strong in Luther and the German Reformation and Calvin and the Swiss and French Reformation. But we also have plenty on Knox and the Reformation in Scotland, Wycliffe and Cranmer and the Reformation in England, etc.  I encourage you to make a visit and pick something out. And if you need help selecting something, I am available!

MotherofReformation-KrokerMay I also inform the ladies that we have some very good books on the ladies of the Reformation too. Just recently we added a new biography on Luther’s wife and her influence on the Reformation and another title of Roland Bainton on the women of the Reformation. You may see mostly men around the Seminary, but we welcome female readers and researchers too 🙂

The Church of the 13th Century – September “Tabletalk”

The Disappearance of Heresy by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at

TT-Sept2013The latest issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ devotional magazine is out (September, 2013), and this issue continues a study of the history of the church, focusing on the church of the 13th century. This history belongs, of course, to the period of the Middle Ages, an age not known as very thrilling and interesting. It was a time marked by the continued development of the Roman Catholic Church in the West. The 13th century was the age of Thomas Aquinas, a church father not known very well by us Protestants.

But every age of the church is the story of what Christ is doing, both in His body and in the world that surrounds that body. In every age Christ is at work gathering, defending, and preserving unto Himself His elect church, and at work forming and re-forming His glorious body. And so we must, as members of that body, be interested in that work of Christ. The 13th century is no exception.

Once again editor Burk Parsons introduces this issue, with the article linked above. There are three main feature articles:

  • “The 13th Century” by Nicholas R. Needham
  • “The Significance of Thomas Aquinas” by Ryan Reeves
  • “The New Mendicant Orders” by David S. Hogg

And the usual rubrics look to have interesting articles as well, some of which I will be calling attention to as we go through this month. The daily devotionals continue on the OT prophets, starting with Obadiah this month.

Here then is the final paragraph of Parsons’ introductory article on this issue of Tabletalk. I hope that by reading this you will be spurred to make the 13th century of church history part of your interest and study.

Currently in the church, we are facing much the same thing that Machen and his colleagues faced, only with more subtlety—lip-service to confessional orthodoxy but complacency in preaching and defending it. Today, the only thing not tolerated is intolerance of doctrinal tolerance, the only evil is calling out evil, and the only heresy is calling anything heresy. And although we cannot by any means condone any of the unbiblical tactics of the thirteenth-century church in her wrong-headed attempts to root out and kill heretics, particularly the crusade against the Waldensians and Albigensians and the Inquisition, we must nevertheless appreciate and recapture the church’s zealous fight to guard doctrinal truth against all error and heresy. With all of its ecclesiastical problems and abuses, the thirteenth-century church gave us Thomas Aquinas’ robust systematic theology Summa Theologica, scholasticism, and a developing reformation that, in centuries to come and in God’s sovereign timing, gave us heroes of the orthodox biblical faith once delivered to the saints.

5 Minutes in Church History: Stephen Nichols

5 Minutes in Church History: A New Weekly Christian Podcast with Stephen Nichols by Nathan W. Bingham | Ligonier Ministries Blog.

St.AugustineLigonier Ministries has started a new weekly church history feature, introduced below. The first one is on the early church father Augustine and his Confessions. I believe our readers will be interested in this and will profit from it. Visit the link above or below to get started with your five-minute church history lesson!

5 Minutes in Church History, hosted by Dr. Stephen Nichols, is a new weekly Christian podcast that provides an informal and informative look at church history.

Join us each week as we take a brief break from the present to go exploring the past. Travel back in time as we look at the people, events, and even the places that have shaped the story of Christianity.

Each podcast offers an easily digestible glimpse of how the eternal, unchangeable God has worked in the church over prior generations, and how this can encourage us today. This is our story—our family history.