Archive for the ‘Church History’ Category

Hughes Old on the preaching of John MacArthur

The latest volume in Hughes Oliphant Old’s series The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures has been released as volume 7: Our Own Time. Probably of interest to our readers, Phil Johnson has published the section on “The Preaching of John MacArthur” (read the entire passage here). I have greatly enjoyed Old’s magisterial history of preaching even if his Barthian perspective shows itself at times. There is, quite frankly, nothing else like it. It is light years beyond E. C. Dargan’s history (also John Broadus and T. Harwood Pattison’s works are smaller, less detailed). O. C. Edwards is too brief and his narrow focus reveals that he has a neo-orthodox axe to grind.

Old is not entirely committed to the same theological persuasion as MacArthur yet makes an interesting observation:

What is more than clear to me after listening to these sermons is that those who can take the text the way it is seem to make a lot more sense of it than those who are always trying to second-guess it. Surely one of the greatest strengths of MacArthur’s preaching ministry is his complete confidence in the text . . . .

Also this:

Why do so many people listen to MacArthur, this product of all the wrong schools? How can he pack out a church on Sunday morning in an age in which church attendance has seriously lagged? Here is a preacher who has nothing in the way of a winning personality, good looks, or charm. Here is a preacher who offers us nothing in the way of sophisticated homiletical packaging. No one would suggest that he is a master of the art of oratory. What he seems to have is a witness to true authority. He recognizes in Scripture the Word of God, and when he preaches, it is Scripture that one hears. It is not that the words of John MacArthur are so interesting as it is that the Word of God is of surpassing interest. That is why one listens.

A mere repeater of scriptural teaching

Thanks to my “across the pond” friend Doug McMasters who passed on the following quote from Charles Spurgeon:

I am content to live and die as the mere repeater of scriptural teaching, as a person who has thought out nothing and invented nothing, as one who never thought invention to be any part of his calling, but who concluded that he was simply to be a mouth for God to the people, mourning that anything of his own should come between.

(MTP vol. 51. sermon 2916 A Memorable Milestone. The sermon is a later publishing of a message he preached on Thursday evening, March 25, 1886 as a part of the 25th anniversary of his first sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle)

Church Growth Gone Wild

I came across this blog post written by a local pastor in town.  I have never witnessed a pastor encouraging this type of “church growth” strategy before.  The names have been removed in this post to protect the innocent. :)  This pastor and I did correspond back and forth a few times but we graciously agreed to disagree on various points.  Here is his blog post below:

“As you heard during my presentation, XXX is now entering an exciting stage in it’s early ministry—where the stakes are high! In this stage, we must all start seeing ourselves as “missionaries to Freeport—recruiting other missionaries to Freeport.” Large churches like XXX can survive for quite some time based on size, budget, different-ness, and momentum. XXX can survive based on size, multiple staff and a broad, mainstream evangelical culture, and migration from broad evangelical churches.

We’ve deliberately chosen not to replicate XXX or XXX, because they have their own philosophy of ministry that fits a niche, but would simply render XXX the smaller, “step-sister” of these other churches (even if we wanted) to imitate them. I mention this because we offer something unique to Freeport. I believe we can reach broadly and disciple deeply a new generation. But getting to that point will require “all prayers up, and all hands on deck”. It will truly take the entire XXX family praying and working together!

I ask during the upcoming year each of you join our family in…
1) Asking our sovereign God to glorify Himself by bringing to XXX people who would 1) Benefit greatly from XXX AND who would 2) Contribute greatly to XXX (as missionaries with us). To be honest, XXX needs both types of people.

2) Making a list of both types of people that you personally know. Please do NOT rule anyone out because they have gone to “church x” for 15 years. Missionaries are always people sent from an established church, to start a new church. No churches would exist today if no one left their churches to birth ‘daughter’ churches. There’s nothing immoral about asking people to be missionaries. It’s been done for 2000 years!

**Making these friend lists should be fun. After all, this is a chance for you to sit back and ask, “who would I love to see a part of XXX?” Who would be a privilege to serve alongside?” “who would add warmth, servant-heartedness and gifts to a new church?”

Praying for you!
~ Pastor XXX XXX”

Chri$tian Publi$hing and the Reformation: What have we learned?

Printers played an unsung role in these early years of the reform movement, though it it not always easy to determine their motives. Many acted from deep religious convictions and risked all to produce evangelical literature for their countrymen. For others, religious sentiments combined easily with profit margins. The market for popular Reformation authors was great, and there was money to be made. Mostly the printers formed smallish circles of friends and acquaintances, yet with their extensive web of foreign contacts they were able to ensure a constant flow of literature into France which passed under the radar of censors [Bruce Gordon, Calvin (Yale University Press: 2009), 17].

The circus leading up to the Reformation

“The fifteenth century was the great age of preachers who moved through cities and towns, not only encouraging the people to reform their lives but also providing a good deal of entertainment” [Bruce Gordon, Calvin (Yale University Press: 2009), 11].

On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons

John Broadus, one of the founding professors of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY), famously penned the classic homiletics textbook On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons. The original was excellent but the “revised” copies you find around today . . . not so much. The following is one of the amazing stories behind the book.

Broadus’s homiletics class began the year [1865] with two students, but one dropped out midseason, and the remaining student was blind. Broadus could not use his accustomed assigned reading and recitation method, so he developed lectures that gave the student the complete course. Several years later Broadus revised and published these lectures under the title On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons. Broadus had to borrow more than $1,000 to publish the book. The royalties quickly extinguished the debt. Reviewers praised the book, which was widely used as a textbook in American theological education even decades after his death.

From Gregory A. Wills, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1859-2009 (Oxford University Press, 2009), 64-65.

I do not think it means what you think it means

In a post at Euangelion, Michael Bird responds to R. Scott Clark who responds to John Piper who responds to N. T. Wright who responds to the Apostle Paul but none of that is important right now. What is important is Bird’s correction of Clark’s usage of the word “Reformed.” It wasn’t long ago that no one would get anywhere near the word but now in the year where folks are throwing birthday parties for Calvin there are some like R. Scott Clark who want to guard it like it’s their “precious.”

Probably like you I run into this all the time. Folks ask me, “Say aren’t you guys reformed?” or I venture off the reservation in a sermon and they say something like, “what a minute that’s not ‘reformed’ theology, how can you be ‘reformed’?” I don’t think all the confessional recitations and birthday celebrations this side of Geneva will ever settle such an issue but I do think Bird offers a few helpful thoughts here:

On “Reformed”, Clark objects to this description being applied to those outside the Presbyterian and Confessional churches. This is why Clark writes: “Are there as many definitions of ‘Reformed’ as there are definers or is there is fixed, stable, public, ecclesiastical definition of the adjective? I say the latter is the case.” Now every time Clark writes the word “Reformed” I feel like quoting the movie the Princess Bride – “You keep using that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means!” Now far be it for me to lecture a historical theologian on adjectives of the Reformation, but surely, just from usage alone, we can observe that “Reformed” is a polysemous term. From my fallible experience and limited readings, I think that “Reformed” has three primary usages: (1) it can be used historically to signify those Christian groups that emerged during or from the Reformation (Lutheran, Anabaptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, etc.), (2) it can be used theologically to describe those who hold to a Calvinistic and Covenantal theology (though we could ask which part of Calvin is essential and whose covenant theology – e.g. Kline or Murray – is pristine?); and (3) it can be used ecclesiologically to describe those churches that stand in the Continental/Scottish Presbyterian tradition. To say that Piper is “Reformed” it is to mean it in the sense of (2) not (3). I suspect that many do not like applying the term “Reformed” to Calvinistic and Confessional Baptists because it lowers the currency of the term “Reformed,” which they feel should be reserved exclusively for themselves (I have to confess that this entire discussion reminds me of Paul’s debate in Romans 2 about who is a true “Jew” and Philippians 3 about who is the true “circumcision”). I can resonate against making the term nebulous, but I doubt that Clark’s own idea of “Reformed” matches the historical and public reality of how the adjective is used.

Jonathan Edwards is My Hero

In June of 1850, Jonathan Edwards’ congregation in Northampton voted whether or not to retain him as their pastor. Only 23 of 230 voted in favor of Edwards—a mere 10 percent—and he was therefore terminated from the pastorate he held for 23 years. Leading up to his farewell sermon on July 1, 1750, Edwards’ demeanor was said to be remarkably calm, as noted at the time by Reverend David Hall in his diary:

I never saw the least symptoms of displeasure in his countenance the whole week, but he appeared like a man of God, whose happiness was out of the reach of his enemies, and whose treasure was not only a future but a present good, overbalancing all imaginable ills of life, even to the astonishment of many, who could not be at rest without his dismission.

“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7).

Here We Go Again

In a recent interview in Christianity Today, Charles Colson makes the claim that Pope Benedict affirms a biblical understanding of the doctrine of justification, pointing as evidence to a homily delivered by the Roman pontiff on November 19, 2008, in St. Peter’s Square. Toward the end of that homily, Pope Benedict says this:

 

Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love. Faith is looking at Christ, entrusting oneself to Christ, being united to Christ, conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence to believe is to conform to Christ and to enter into his love. So it is that in the Letter to the Galatians in which he primarily developed his teaching on justification St. Paul speaks of faith that works through love (cf. Gal 5:14).

 

In other words, according to the pope, Luther’s phrase “faith alone” is true as long as “faith” is defined in such a way that it includes being conformed to the life of Christ, which is love.

 

So my question is this: Do people like Colson just not understand what it means to be justified through faith in Christ? Or do they simply pretend that the pope has it right even though they know he doesn’t?

How young was Calvin’s music leader(s)?

In his extremely helpful book, The Writings of John Calvin, Wulfert de Greef makes a passing reference to the articles that John Calvin used for the regulation of worship after he became a minister in Geneva (January 16, 1537). This document was entitled the Articles concerning the Organization of the Church and of Worship in Geneva. I found the following to be an interesting note regarding congregational singing in Calvin’s church:

The ministers expect the singing of psalms to have a positive influence on the prayers and on the glorification of the name of God. A number of qualified children are to be selected to lead the congregation in the singing of the psalms (pg. 111).

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