Monday, February 19, 2007


This post is to make known the fact that I have switched the entriety of this blog Historia ecclesiastica over to Wordpress here: Please update links and feeds accordingly. I shall also be consolidating my entire Website, Fontes, into that web address. I am deeply indebted to Darrin Brooker for help with this.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


In all of the activities of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers and in the life of the Church is there one thing above all other things he is seeking to do? Is there, in other words, a centre to his work and ministry in the lives of Christians?
An answer to these questions can be readily found in John 16:13-14, verses which record important words that Jesus spoke to his disciples on the night of his betrayal.
"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you."
In the surrounding context Jesus is assuring his disciples that they will not be left alone when he returns to the Father after the cross and resurrection. Jesus will still be present with them, but not now via his Incarnate presence but rather by means of his Holy Spirit. He is thus helping them understand something of the ministry of the Holy Spirit after what we call Pentecost.
Now, in the words “He will bring glory to me,” we have set forth for us what J. I. Packer has rightly called the “Holy Spirit’s distinctive new covenant role,” namely, “directing all attention away from himself to Christ and drawing folk into the faith, hope, love, obedience, adoration, and dedication, which constitute communion with Christ.” This ministry of the Spirit in relation to Christ is what Packer goes on to call “a floodlight ministry.” [Keep In Step With The Spirit (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1984), 64, 65. A slightly revised edition has just been released by Zondervan (2005).]
Since 1985 I have had the privilege nearly every year of teaching at Séminaire Baptiste Évangélique du Québec, in Montreal, Canada (SEMBEQ), the French Fellowship Baptist seminary in the west end of Montreal, located on Gouin boulevard. The building that houses the seminary used to be a school and is located in a very prestigious area of the West Island of Montreal. I recall vividly one summer night after I had taught all day. I had decided to go for a walk in the neighbourhood. I noticed that a good number of the owners of the wealthy homes in the area had strategically placed floodlights around their homes so that passers-by like myself might ooh and aah about their achievements in stone and brick.
Now, if instead of focusing on the homes which were lit by the floodlights I had instead concentrated my attention on the floodlight themselves—“Oh, that’s an interesting-looking floodlight; I wonder where they bought it” or “what a lovely light that floodlight is giving; I wonder how powerful it is”—I would have missed the whole meaning and purpose of the floodlights. The owners of the homes had put the floodlights out in front so that I should look at their homes, not at the floodlights, the source of illumination.
So it is with the Spirit’s ministry. He has been sent by God the Father to focus our attention to Christ, to kindle in our hearts an unquenchable love for Christ and for his purposes, and to enable us to reflect faithfully his person and character. The Spirit has not come to primarily speak about himself. He has not been given to us so that we should focus primarily on him and his work. He has come to inhabit these mortal frames so that we should love Christ and adore him, and that we should seek to live each day in obedience to Jesus. The work and ministry of the Holy Spirit has this one indispensable genuine mark then: it is Christ-centred—it is designed to exalt him and glorify him in the minds and hearts of men and women, and boys and girls. As the great nineteenth-century Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) once put it:
"If we do not make the Lord Jesus glorious; if we do not lift him high in the esteem of men, if we do not labour to make him King of kings, and Lord of lords; we shall not have the Holy Spirit with us. Vain will be rhetoric, music, architecture, energy, and social status: if our one design be not to magnify the Lord Jesus, we shall work alone and work in vain." [The Greatest Fight in the World (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1891), 64].

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


I just heard of the death of Bruce Metzger, pre-eminent New Testament textual critic (brief account here:,0,2607775.story?coll=ny-region-apnewjersey).
I heard Dr Metzger at McMaster Divinity College back in the 1970s and was deeply impressed by both his learning and his Christian demeanour. Over the years I have used a number of his books with great profit, especially those dealing with New Testament textual criticism and his superb work on the New Testament canon.
Praise the Lord for the gift of such a scholar.


My wife, daughter and I watched the new movie about the story of Esther, One Night with the King, last night. Overall it was excellent. The costumes and sets sumptuous as one might expect of the Perisan Empire at its height. The acting was very good as well, though I found the Persian King a little stiff. And justice was done to the overall biblical text which was faithfully reproduced in the script. Scenes of prayer were especially done well.
Esther is, of course, a great story, easily adaptable to the media of film. Over the years it has helped me understand God's sovereignty in history. This is very interesting since the name of God is not explicitly mentioned in the book. But the whole story is redolent with God's providential workings on the stage of time and space.
It was interesting to see Omar Sharif and Peter O'Toole together in the same film, reminsicent of that great blockbuster Lawrence of Arabia. Sharif plays Memucan and O'Toole the prophet Samuel. The latter is involved since a link is made between Haman the Agagite and the Amalekite king Agag (1 Samuel 15), whom Samuel told Saul to destroy along with all of his people. This link is something of conjecture.
Another piece of filler had Haman linking the Jews with the democratic-loving Greeks. Bring a lover of Greece—and rooting for their victory over Persia in the Persian Wars when I read those accounts as a young boy—and, since my conversion to Christ, a lover of ancient Israel as well, I found quite this link interesting. I didn't feel this additional stuff about the Greeks, rooted in scholarly opinion that the feast that Ahasuerus throws at the beginning of Esther 1 was preparatory to his campaign to subdue the Greeks, detracted from the movie, which was superb and well worth one’s time.
And it was a love story to boot--very appropriate on the eve of St.Valentine's Day

Sunday, February 11, 2007


I am always thrilled when someone recommends the riches of our Christian past. A new book from Tyndale House, entitled 20 Things You Should Read (2006) and co-authored by four writers—David Edwards, Margaret Feinberg, Janella Griggs and Matthew Paul Turner, each of whom takes turns introducing the various works—is a good way to dip into some of the riches of our heritage. The authors/compilers rightly emphasize that these works of the past reveal how our Christian forebears struggled with many of the questions we wrestle with and how their beautifully-framed answers still convey hope and inspiration (
The Christian writers chosen are quite eclectic, ranging from Augustine to Madame Guyon, Julian of Norwich to Karl Barth. Some readers, myself included, would question the wisdom of such a wide range of authors, but I was glad to see the two key Reformers Luther and Calvin included as well as Bunyan, Charles Wesley (interesting that John is not included), Whitefield and Spurgeon. All of the writings are taken from documents available on the net, but it is great to have them in one compass like this.
The omission of John Owen and Jonathan Edwards—both masters of spirituality—is curious. But any such collection is bound to omit favourite authors of other Christians.
I also felt that at times the introductory comments were not helpful in doing justice to the historical context of the various authors. To say, for example, that Augustine “partied like a rock star before his conversion” and that up until that event, which took place when he was thirty-one, he had led “a promiscuous, unruly lifestyle” (p.1) simply is not true. After a year or so of such living when he first went to university in Carthage, Augustine actually settled down to a fairly prosaic life, seeking truth in the cult of Manichaenism and the Platonic philosophy.
But the intended audience of the book is obviously young men and women who have not been interested in the riches of Christian authors of the past. And in recommending these riches to such, the book succeeds admirably.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Bristle and whisker,
If they be not shorn,
Shall grow into such a bearded lattice and mat
That a thousand roughnesses
Could there be hid with ease.

Some claim ‘tis only nature’s way
For others, the fashion of the day;
But, for me, once plainly seen in mirrored glass,
The die is cast: shave off it all
And have done with sin.

© Michael A.G. Haykin, 2007.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


What meaning for Java’s life
When sight for those lustrous eyes has gone,
Sensations ceased and his purring voice been stilled?

And what the import for me
Of those hugs and tickles, and love bestowed
In silly words like lovers speak?

And what for God of his gentle life—
Lived out in peace’s ambience? Had he but known
He could have shed his fears like fur.

Beyond, Brilliance shines
And lambent answers.

© Michael A.G. Haykin, 2007

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Last fall in The Globe and Mail (Monday, October 23, 2006, p.A19), Michael Higgins made a very astute comment regarding the public role of intellectuals. Writing in a piece entitled “Lament for our public intellectuals,” he emphasized that the specialization of scholarship in our culture requires all the more for there to be public intellectuals who communicate their ideas to the world outside of academia.

There is, he rightly pointed out,  a “the concomitant moral responsibility of intellectuals to communicate lucidly with the larger community, eschewing in the process the sometimes parasensical jargon” of the Academy.

This is also true of the world of theological academia. One of the great negatives of the current ecclesial scene is the separation of church and academy that has afflicted us in North America in various ways and to various degrees since the late nineteenth century. If God has called a person to a life of theological scholarship, such a person has a responsibility before God to “communicate lucidly” with the church. And also to recognize that he is responsible to the church for his doctrine and thought.