Category Archives: Tidbits to Share

A Revolution in Christian Teaching and Life

Here is a quote from B.B. Warfield, from his essay “Augustine”, which can be found in the book, Calvin and Augustine. It is a beautiful declaration of God’s grace. To Warfield, Augustine’s big contribution to the church is the recovery of the doctrine of God’s grace.

It would be altogether a mistake to suppose that Augustine consciously discriminated between the theology of grace, which was his personal contribution to Christian thought, and the traditional Catholicism, which he gave his life to defend and propagate. In his own consciousness, the two were one: in his theology of grace he was in his own apprehension only giving voice to the Catholic faith in its purity. Nevertheless, however unconsciously, he worked with it a revolution both in Christian teaching and in Christian life, second in its depth and its far-reaching results to no revolution which has been wrought in Christian feeling and thought in the whole course of its history. A new Christian piety dates from him, in which, in place of the alternations of hope and fear which vex the lives of those who, in whatever degree, hang their hopes on their own merits, a mood of assured trust in the mercy of a gracious God is substituted as the spring of Christian life. And a new theology corresponding to this new type of piety dates from him; a theology which, recalling man from all dependence on his own powers or merits, casts him decisively on the grace of God alone for his salvation. Of course, this doctrine was not new in the sense that it was Augustine’s invention; it was the doctrine of Paul, for example, before it was the doctrine of Augustine, and was only recovered for the Church by Augustine.

grace

Freeze Frame, in Marble

A bit more on the Revolutionary War Battle of Princeton. A few pictures of the giant, and busy monument to the battle near the center of Princeton. The Monument sits directly astride what was once the main road in Princeton, that went right past Morven, the historic home of the governors of New Jersey till a few decades ago. It’s hard to make out the details of the monument, even standing right in front of it, but there’s George and his horse, huddled in the cold. The battle did take place on January 3, 1777. It was cold.




On Princeton Battlefield

Here are some pictures from the Princeton Batttlefield. While not a large battle, it was a pivotal one of the Revolutionary War. It was the first time the Americans beat the Bristish in a full on, face-to-face battle. This and the battle of Trenton is said to have convinced the Americans that they could actually win, even though they were both small battles.

Washington looms large in the battle. The troops were already engaged, yet faltering when Washington arrived and he gallantly rallied the troops and renewed the attack leading them to within 30 yards of the British. This was the moment that sculptor Clark Mills captured in his statue of George Washington and his horse in Washington, D.C., dedicated in 1860.
  
The arch in the pictures above leads to the marker indicating that soldiers who fought the battle are buried nearby. The arch was originally part of a house in Philadelphia, built by the same architect who built the U.S. Capitol building. The arch was moved to Princeton and was part of a mansion on the east side of the battlefield. When that burned down in the 1950’s the arch was moved to this spot.

 Above is the Stony Brook Meetinghouse, built in 1724. It is just on the edge of the battlefield. During the war it was used as an infirmary for both sides.

 
Finally, this is the Thomas Clarke house, built by Thomas in 1772. It was used as a hospital during and after the battle. General Hugh Mercer died here.

We Really Do Need the Same Old Thing

Without knowing our own history as Christians, we are, not unlike when we stop reading the Bible, cut off from the past, doomed to reinvent it as we pursue the new.

While reformation is always possible and is the reason to change anything in the church (“reformed and always reforming”, is the Presbyterian slogan), often the new is 1) something that the Church used to do that we forgot about and were unaware of, or 2) something that Christians tried before and found wanting.

As Lisa Robinson says here, “it is really the old that we need–what God did through his Son, how the church has been established, what God has already spoken.” And, I would add, what Christians before us have already learned about this thing called ministry. Great cartoon too!

Lisa Robinson

I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. But it does seem to me as I observe the evangelical landscape today, that what is tried and trust and true gets overlooked for the ‘new’. So many in the church today are captivated by newness – new trends, new ideas, new innovations, new buildings, new predictions, new words from God, new movements, etc that the old seems irrelevant. But really its the old that we need – what God did through his Son, how the church has been established, what God has already spoken. This is how we are refreshed, by gathering according to what has already been established, by remembering what God has already said and what he has already done to gather a body of people to himself through the work of the Son. But somehow that gets too boring and we get antsy for something new. Why?

It…

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The Whole of Church History in Four Words (From Twenty-One Centuries.com)

I just started following a new blog, Twenty-One Centuries, by Chris Ross. One of the few specific Church History blogs I have found.

I thought I’d share an interesting post from his blog, Learn the History of the Church in Four Words. I know we are supposed to be wary of pressing history into convenient schemes, but I like what he suggests here. Simplistic? Absolutely. But helpful? Yes.

Chris says,
In teaching church history I have sometimes used the following four-word sequence to summarize the last 2,000 years:

DEFENSE – DEVELOPMENT – DECADENCE – DIVERSITY

Each word describes one of four 500-year divisions.

See his full post for what falls under each heading:
http://twenty-onecenturies.com/2014/08/15/learn-the-history-of-the-church-in-4-words/

Because My Wife Says I Should Share Some Personal Stuff…

I thought I’d share some random things today.

Every year my family and my sister’s family get together for a summer birthday bash. Instead of worrying about getting together 10 times through the year to celebrate birthdays we do it all at once. It’s kind of an All Saints Day type celebration, lumping us altogether at one time. Pretty genius I must say. This year we turned 290! We mangle the cake because everyone wants to eat their own name…except me. Mine was in the vanilla side this year. Boring!

On the Church history front, I’ve been diving into the tradition of Christian Saints for an upcoming series of posts, reading a great book on the subject: The Cult of the Saints, by Peter Brown. Good stuff. I learning some fascinating details about how death was seen by pagans and Christians in the first few centuries of the church. You will hear more on this.

A big reason I started this blog was to help me in a focused study of Church history. Just like teaching, there I nothing like committing to a blog to get you learning. And if someone else learns something too, more the better. I thought I’d share some of what I am reading these days. I read widely, reading several books at one time, a habit I learned from my father. It takes a while to get through a book, but I learn more about more things this way.

Readthefathers.org is a website that provides a 7-year reading plan through Schaff’s famous series, the Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, 37 volumes of early Christian Writings. It is in year two right now. I’ve been following it for a little over a month now. The plan is in the New Testament Apocrypha. By the way, the entire set of books is available as a $3 ebook on amazon. It’s great for reading through the series, as I am doing, but not so great as a reference collection. It is so big, at 84MB, that it takes forever to search. Is easier to read than ccel.org though. If you don’t know ccel.org, you need to. Incredible resource.

Every week I read from some other books on Church history too:

Historiography – I am really enjoying Carl Trueman’s Histories and Fallacies. Short, to the point, written with precision and wit. I’ve had the opportunity to audit a class of his at Westminster Seminary. He is a great teacher.

General Church History Survey – Finally got started on Justo Gonzalez’ much loved Story of Christianity. I read Kenneth Latourette’s survey in seminary. This is a bit brisker and more a survey.

Classic Historian – Reading Herodotus’ History. It is much more engaging than I expected. Or I am more of a history nerd than I realized. Both may be true.

In my quest to read through biographies of all the US Presidents, I am up to James Garfield. I am reading The Destiny of the Republic, by Candice Millard, which is fantastic. I started reading a different biography, the Garfied volume of the American Presidents series, but found it to be pretty lousy and switched up. I have been blogging about what I have learned about ministry from these biographies. I am a bit behind. I am in the midst of the obscure presidents, though: Rutherford B. Hayes, Garfield, etc. I owe you one on Grant, though.

After reading The Whole Five Feet, by Christopher Beha, the author’s story of spending a year reading through the whole 51 volumes of the turn of the 20th century series, The Harvard Classics, I couldn’t resist, but had to do it myself. It will take me a long time however. I started in late June, and started volume 2 last week. So maybe 51 months, instead of weeks, for me.

Finally, I picked up The Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman. Seems like a good year to read this history of the beginning of WW1. It is a detailed book, but I am enjoying what I have read so far.

Well, time for some leftover birthday cake. Have a great weekend, whatever you are doing. And you preachers out there, may you be blessed and be a blessing, by God’s grace.

One of the Greatest Female Leaders, a Christian Ceasar


This is from Christian History Institute’s “On This Day” Blog, from, obviously, July 4th:

On this day, 4 July 414, the senate proclaimed fifteen-year-old Pulcheria the Augusta (empress). As famous historian Edward Gibbon remarked, “She alone, among all the descendents of the great Theodosius, appears to have inherited any share of his manly spirit and abilities.” She was also thoroughly Christian in both outlook and training. 

https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/7/4/

And she was no stand in. She was one of the late empire’s strongest leaders. And a Christian one at that. She was “instrumental in bringing about the Council of Chalcedon”, and when she died she “she left all her private goods and estates to the poor.”

Link

Last month Christan Century’s Then & Now blog had an interesting post on the effect Reagan’s victory and Carter’s defeat in the 1980 election had on the resurgence of the “Religous Right” and the decline of “Progressive Evangelicalism.”

The 1980 presidential election represented a turning point in U.S. political history. The Reagan landslide heralded not only the Republican capture of the White House and a Republican Senate, but Carter’s defeat also signaled the eclipse of progressive evangelicalism in favor of a political agenda virtually indistinguishable from the Republican Party itself. 

This has had, of course, a pretty profound effect on Evangelicalism from that point on, with significant political and cultural effects as well.

I remember Carter (I was 7 when he was elected), but never heard of this other dimension of what was at stake in 1980.

Here is the link:   Jimmy Carter and the demise of progressive evangelicalism

Article: “Maya Angelou and the Art of the Outcast”

“To fully celebrate the life and legacy of Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928–May 28, 2014), we must contextualize her 86 years of living within the black religious traditions that influenced her and birthed her deep spirituality.” So begins an interesting article on the blog Then & Now, by Yolanda Pierce in Christian Century, an article that adds the religious dimension to the remembrances of the great poet.

Angelou’s Christian faith underlay much of her work and the values she infused into it. Through her own struggles, which were many she learned what was “perhaps the spiritual virtue Angelou held most dear…a powerful celebration of knowing and loving the self.”

The post also asks what voices are we failing to hear because, like Angelou’s, they are the voices of those we marginalized and ignore.

Her life story provokes a question: what powerful art, poetry, music, literature, and political activism are we missing when we ignore the discarded and the outcast? Angelou the former sex worker, teen mother, and stripper is the same Angelou who dined with presidents, taught at the nation’s most prestigious schools, and received this country’s highest honors and accolades. We do not have to sanitize her story because it is one of strength, honor, and dignity. We honor Angelou’s legacy by listening to and loving those we far too often ignore and silence.