Thursday, November 30, 2006


Oliver Cromwell has been much misjudged. In my opinion, after nearly ten years of reading him, I esteem him as one of the most remarkable Christians of his day.

Here, for example, is advice he gave but two years before his death to his son Harry Cromwell: “with singleness of heart make the glory of the Lord your aim. Take heed of professing religion without the power…” (Letter, April 21, 1656).    

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


“To see Him, the King, in his beauty, is a ravishing sight, and which fills [the soul] with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Sounds like Jonathan Edwards, right? Or another one of the divines from his affective stream of piety?

No. It is from the much-maligned John Gill (d.1771). See his Body of Divinity, p.777.

There is much more in Gill than dry-as-dust theology—there is life and power and joy in Christ. While I do not deny there are some theological problems with his Calvinism, at its heart it was drawn from the same well as Edwards’.

Someone needs to compare the theology of Edwards and Gill. I am amazed that no one ever has.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


One of the great privileges of being Principal of Toronto Baptist Seminary is having colleagues like this brother and his passion for teaching: Pray for These Boys... While you’re praying for them, please remember Toronto Baptist Seminary as whole in your prayers.


For an interesting link between Andrew Fuller and Basil Manly, Jr., see my post AN ANNOTATION OF BASIL MANLY, SR. in the blog The Elephant of Kettering: Andrew Fuller.


This year’s annual Bethlehem Conference for Pastors is on “The Holiness of God”,  is to be held February 5-7, 2007, and has R.C. Sproul, Thabiti Anyabwile, and William Mckenzie as speakers. John Piper, the host and Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, will give his biographical address—which he does every year to the delight of historically-minded believers—on Andrew Fuller on February 6, 2007, @ 1:45 pm.

It is to be entitled: “Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Vision: Andrew Fuller’s Broadsides Against Sandemanianism, Hyper-Calvinism, and Global Unbelief.” Sounds fabulous, as well as the rest of the conference.

HT: Justin Taylor. Justin has links to learn more about the speakers and read  John Piper’s invitation.    

Friday, November 24, 2006


Gilbert Laws’ biography of Andrew Fuller [Andrew Fuller: Pastor, Theologian, Ropeholder (London: Carey Press, 1942)] is a rarity, possibly because it was published during the war years when paper was scarce. But due to the fact that it is an important document, here is his rendition of the entirety of C.H. Spurgeon’s letter to Andrew Gunton Fuller upon the former’s receiving the latter’s life of his father (on page 127):    

Venerable Friend,
I thank you for sending me your Andrew Fuller. If you had lived for a long time for nothing else but to produce this volume, you have lived to good purpose.  
I have long considered your father to be the greatest theologian of the century, and I do not know that your pages have made me think more highly of him as a divine than I had thought before. But I now see him within doors far more accurately, and see about the Christian man a soft radiance of tender love which had never been revealed to me either by former biographies or by his writings.  
You have added moss to the rose, and removed some of the thorns in the process.                                    
Yours most respectfully,                                                  
C.H. Spurgeon.    


Most of Lewis’ colleagues at Oxford University found his zealous defence of the Christian faith irritating, if not embarrassing [Lyle W. Dorsett, “C.S. Lewis: An Introduction” in his ed., The Essential C.S. Lewis (New York: Macmillan Publ. Co., 1988), 3]. Magdalen College, where Lewis taught, was during the 1930s-1950s “leftish, atheist, cynical.” According to Clyde Kilby, “One report went out that no one at Magdalen wanted to sit next to Lewis at the table because he would immediately turn and ask, “are you a Christian?” Both by nature and dictates of good taste, Lewis was utterly opposed to putting anyone in a corner. Yet this was the sort of gossip that, along with his output of books on Christianity, finally prevented Lewis’s being awarded a professorship…”

“For some twenty-five years Lewis knew what it was to be sneered at, to be called “saint” cynically, but still he was friendly with all his colleagues.” [Clyde S. Kilby, “Holiness in the Life of C.S. Lewis”, Discipleship Journal, 22 (July 1, 1984), 15]. Especially after the publication of his Narnia books in the 1950s, a sizeable body of the Oxford faculty shunned him. Some criticized him to his face, while others did it behind his back.


Found this great quote on friendship from C.S. Lewis on the blog of Jayme Thompson:

“Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life. If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I should say, “Sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends.” I know I am very fortunate in that respect.” [The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (29 December 1935)].    


My dear friend Stéphane Gagné has an excellent little post on the Huguenot Pierre du Moulin. I have long appreciated the work of Du Moulin. I am so glad he is being rediscovered by our French brethren: La prédication selon Pierre Du Moulin (1568-1658).

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Have been reading “The ‘Fresh Perspective’ on Paul: A Theology of Anti-Americanism” by Denny Burk and deeply appreciate his take on NT Wright and the New Perspective. It strikes me as deeply ironic that Wright, who is so anti-Empire and critical of Constantinianism, is, by virtue of his position as an Anglican Bishop in the Church of England, deeply enmeshed in a Constantinian structure! If he were to think through the ramifications of his critique he should exit the Church of England pronto and become—say it not in Gath—a Dissenter or Nonconformist!    

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Like so many others I can remember exactly what I was doing for a portion of the day exactly 43 years ago this very day. I was munching on a cheese roll—that is, one of those big Kaisers with cheese in it; I still love the things—and a news flash interrupted the television show I was watching—Ponderosa!—to inform the watching public that the President of the United States, JFK, had been assassinated. I was in England at the time and I can still visualize the room in which I was lying at Knoll Court, Coventry.

Later, in my teens, as an avid fan of sci-fi—I almost never read the stuff today, but have shifted in my fiction loves to mystery!—I read the works of another who died that day—Aldous Huxley.

Years later, when I was converted and beginning to read Christian literature, I learned of yet another who had died that day, C.S. Lewis (1898-1963). Lewis was very instrumental, along with Francis Schaeffer, in informing and shaping my early Christian mind. Since then I have gone through a love-like relationship with his writings. There have been times when I have loved his stuff, and others when that love has been replaced by mere liking.  Some of his stuff is really not so good—the space trilogy for example. J.I. Packer was undoubtedly right when he said, for example, that Lewis’ The Hideous Strength is really hideous!

But there are other works that are really remarkable and will surely stand the test of time: The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce and the small collection of essays, The Weight of Glory—the latter of which I have read numerous times, in particular, the title essay, “The Inner Ring” and “Membership.”

In recent years, there has been a great debate over whether Lewis was actually a believer. That he held some aberrant ideas is clear. For example, he was an inclusivist and murky on the destiny of those who are sincere in their worship of other gods and have never heard the name of Christ (see the ending of The Last Battle). (He did believe in the reality of hell, though, for those adamant in their rejection of Christ). And his remarks on the atonement in Mere Christianity are not really helpful.

Personally, though I think he was the genuine thing. For instance, any study of his witness at his college at Oxford in the face of vicious slander and shunning by some of his colleagues—including the Marxist historian Christopher Hill—reveals a man prepared to suffer for his Christian profession. So, despite his theological flaws, I thank God for every remembrance of C.S. Lewis.    

Saturday, November 11, 2006


One of the glories of my Calvinistic Baptist heritage are the various causes tucked away here and there in the UK countryside that speak of a love for the Scriptures, a love of our heritage of Baptist piety, and above a love for the Lord Jesus. The Highland Host at Free St. George’s pointed me to one such in his post, I am Preaching this Lord’s Day.

He is preaching at Wattisham Strict Baptist Chapel this coming Sunday—may the Lord powerfully bless His Word to both preacher and congregation—and highlights this report about the church (as he points out, remember the writer is a Roman Catholic): The church has its roots in the stirring days of the late eighteenth century.

Seeing the pictures and reading the report gave me a longing to be in the UK and visiting such a Bethel! I was actually supposed to fly over this weekend for about ten days, but the month of October exhausted me, and I regrettably had to cancel a couple of important engagements.

May the Lord richly own this congregation in Suffolk and exalt Christ, the only Saviour, through its verbal witness and lived-out testimony.


I found this absolute gem on the Free St. Georges blog: Index alphabétique des temples protestants de France. Wow! If you love French Calvinist history, this is a must. Thanks Highland Host! Now, someone needs to do this online for Dissenting congregations in the UK.

Friday, November 10, 2006


A few years ago Doreen Moore wrote a gem of a book entitled Good Christians, Good Husbands? It deals with three marriages: one ugly, one so-so and one great. The ugly one was that of John Wesley and Molly Vazeille—a terrible marriage, much of it Wesley’s fault. The so-so was the marriage of George Whitefield and his wife Elizabeth James—he really married to have a housekeeper! Then there was the sparkling “uncommon union” of Jonathan Edwards and Sarah Pierpont. Wow what a marriage!

Thought of this as I read the following “Friday rambling” of Tim Challies:

“I read a biography of David Livingstone this week and drew out a couple of quotes. The first is taken from a letter he wrote to a friend in which he described his fiancee (soon to be his wife). He described her as “not a romantic. Mine is a matter of fact lady, a little thick black haired girl, sturdy and all I want.” I guess it’s a good thing she was not a romantic for clearly Livingstone was not either!” (Friday Ramblings).

Of course, some might say it was a good thing for Livingstone’s intended that she was not a romantic, since he thought of nothing of prolonged peregrinations in Africa without her. Personally, I think such men should not get married—they only bring disrepute on the holy institution. There must be fire and passion, or why get married?


Dr. Russell Moore illustrates how Christians must live under their government with integrity and grace: Nancy Pelosi Is My Prayer Partner.


This is good stuff—thrilled to see the way Edwards’ holy life is still having an impact. Thanks for posting this, Paul: Resolved: Jonathan Edwards and the Men of GFC.



When Gregory of Nazianzus came to Constantinople in 379 he found the orthodox community in the city both fragmented and extremely tiny, not only because Arianism had long dominated the city, but also because other parties, inimical to orthodoxy, had established themselves within the city, e.g., the Eunomians, the Apollinarians, the Novatians, and the Pneumatomachi. Consequently, upon his arrival at Constantinople, Nazianzen commenced the re-organization of the small orthodox community and to this end, he dedicated a private home to be used as their church.

From this small church, which Nazianzen called Anastasia, the theologian, combining his rhetorical education and innate love of words with a deep desire to proclaim the truth, expounded the Nicene faith to “enraptured audiences.” Central in his exposition of orthodoxy and attack on “the new theology” of the Eunomian and the Pneumatomachi, were the Theological Orations, delivered between July and November of 380.

Prior to Theodosius’ triumphant entry into Constantinople on 24 November 380, Nazianzen’s position had not been official. But upon the Emperor’s arrival, the Arian bishop Demophilus was expelled and Nazianzen installed as bishop in the Church of the Apostles. Theodosius was determined to establish the eastern Church on the bedrock of Nicaea. To this end he convened a council in Constantinople in the spring of 381. This council re-affirmed the Nicene Creed (in a confession of faith no longer extant), and added clauses directed against various heretics, including Eunomius, the Pneumatomachi and Apollinaris. Furthermore, the Council recognized Nazianzen as the rightful bishop of Constantinople.

But Nazianzen’s episcopacy was to be very brief, cut short by the ecclesiastical squabbles and intrigue that attended this council. The first president of the council was Meletius of Antioch, a major protagonist in a schism that had divided the Nicene community of Antioch for a number of years. When he died, shortly after the opening of the council, Nazianzen was made president, and, in an attempt to placate the two Antiochene parties, he proposed that Paulinus, Meletius’ rival claimant to the see, be recognised as Meletius’ successor.

This proposal brought a storm of criticism, in which Nazianzen’s own position as bishop of Constantinople was called into question. Timothy of Alexandria declared that Nazianzen, by transferring his see from Sasima to Constantinople, had technically violated the Nicene canon that prohibited the transference of sees. Nazianzen, wearied and disgusted by the endless intrigue and dissension, decided to quit the eastern capital and retire to his family estates at Arianzus. Now, his sole desire was to spend the remainder of his life in quiet seclusion. But the days of his pastoral ministry were not yet at an end.

Responding to Apollinaris and final days

Upon his return to Cappadocia, he had to administer the still-vacant see of Nazianzus (vacant since his departure for Seleucia in 374). This brief period of pastoral administration witnessed Nazianzen’s growing concern with the spread of the teachiong of Apollinaris—who had fought for Nicence orthodoxy alongside Athanasius, but whos understanding of the Incarnation was deeply flawed. At least two of the three Theological Letters belong to this period. Nazianzen’s great longing for permanent retirement was finally realised when Theodore, archbishop of Tyana, appointed a successor to Nazianzen, his cousin Eulalius.

On his family estates in Arianzus, Nazianzen spent the last years of his life in spiritual contemplation, in writing poetry and in an extensive correspondence with his friends. He died in 390.


For some scholars the motif of “flight from and return to the world” best characterises Nazianzen’s life. Yet, this motif is but the external form of Nazianzen’s attempt to synthesize both his longing for the contemplative life and his desire to be of practical use to the Church.

The failure to attain this synthesis is all too evident in, e.g., Nazianzen’s flights from pastoral ministry in 362 and 372, and then again in his decision to leave Constantinople in 381. On the other hand, the success of the synthesis is best seen in the classic statement on the ministry (Oration 2), in the Theological Orations and the Theological Letters, in the spiritual counsel evident in the letters of his final retirement and in his doctrinal poems. These writings show that Nazianzen, concerned for the nurture of the Church of his day, drew upon a deep well of spirituality, the source of which lay in contemplative solitude.

Denis Meehan has described Nazianzen as a man “almost abnormal in his capacity for being hurt.” It was this characteristic which was largely instrumental in provoking the argument with Basil over the bishopric of Sasima, and which, later, hastened his departure from Constantinople.

The other side of this characteristic must not, however, be overlooked, i.e., his great capacity for “filial, fraternal and friendly love.” Far from being a drawback, this characteristic enabled Nazianzen to achieve a large measure of success in his endeavour to synthesize the active and contemplative modes of life. On the one hand, his hypersensitivity prevented him from becoming enmeshed in the ecclesiastical politics of his day. On the other hand, his great need for friendship would not allow him to withdraw permanently into seclusion but gave him the desire to benefit the church with his theological learning.


The Andrew Fuller Works Project is pleased to announce a conference on “Andrew Fuller the Reader” to be held at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, August 27-28, 2007.

Speakers include Dr. Russell Moore, Dr. Tom Nettles, Dr. Carl Trueman, Dr. Michael McMullen, Dr. Jeff Jue and Dr. Michael Haykin.

Topics include “The contemporary significance of Andrew Fuller” (Dr. Moore);  “Andrew Fuller: heir of the Reformation” (Dr. Jue); “John Owen’s influence on Andrew Fuller” (Dr. Trueman); and “Jonathan Edwards—theological mentor to Andrew Fuller” (Dr. Nettles).

Full details as to schedule, full description of topics, and cost to follow.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Early life

Gregory Nazianzen (c.329-390), was the eldest son and namesake of a member of the Cappadocian curial class. After he had completed his early education in the didaskaleia of Cappadocia, Nazianzen went on to study philosophy and rhetoric at the university of Athens. He had been there but a short time, when a former acquaintance, Basil of Caesarea (c.329-379), arrived. Although opposites in temperament, these two Cappadocians shared a common view about the ideal Christian life, and they became fast friends.

After his return to Cappadocia (c.356-357), Nazianzen joined Basil at the latter’s retreat at Annesoi in Pontus, where Nazianzen devoted himself, on and off for a couple of years, to the practice of coenobitic asceticism. Eventually, the literary fruit of the two friends’ endeavour was to be the Philocalia, a selection of choice passages from the works of the third-century exegete Origen. However, Nazianzen’s contemplative way of life was rudely interrupted when his father, now aged and desirous of aid in carrying out his pastoral duties, had his son forcibly ordained presbyter, c.361-362. Grieved by what Nazianzen later called “this act of tyranny” [De Vita Sua, 1ines 545-549 (PG 37.1067)], Nazianzen fled to the solitude of Basil’s Pontic retreat. He returned to his father’s diocese before Easter 362 to assume his presbyter duties and gave a lengthy sermon explaining the reasons for his flight and return, which became a classic study of the ministry.

Later forcibly compelled by his friend Basil of Caesarea to accept the see of Sasima. Nazianzen again fled this time to the solitude of a nearby mountain range. Refusing to accept the see, he returned to Nazianzus, where he remained as auxiliary bishop until his father’s death in 374. When his mother died shortly thereafter, Nazianzen, still an earnest seeker after the contemplative life, decided to retire to the monastery of St. Thecla at Seleucia in Sauria.

Called to defend the Trinity

However, eventually Nazianzen left retirement to go to Constantinople and into the eye of the theological storm that was raging regarding the doctrine of the Trinity, the great theological debate of the fourth century. Why?

In his De Vita Sua, he gives the following reasons:

“The grace of the Spirit sent us
For many bishops and sheep were calling us
To be a helper of the people and assistant of the Word…”
[De Vita Sua, lines 595-598 (PG 37.1070)].

On the one hand, he was called by the orthodox community of Constantinople, and on the other, by the “bishops.” Some scholars understand the latter to be not only the bishops of the district surrounding Constantinople, but also Basil and Meletius of Antioch. Pierre Batiffol builds on this, when he writes: “It is not improbable that he (Nazianzen) was the envoy of Meletius, the bishop of Antioch, or else that of Basil in his final days.”

X. Hürth has further asserted that Nazianzen arrived in Constantinople even before Basil’s death on January 1, 379. Both Paul Gallay and Christoph Jungck have, nevertheless, decisively shown that Nazianzen went to Constantinople only after the death of Basil, although it is probable that Basil in his final days advised him to go.

But why did the orthodox believers of Constantinople and the bishops call Nazianzen to be the pastor of the Nicene community in that city? A couple of reasons are clearly discernible. First of all, there was the death of the Emperor Valens, the protector of the Arians, in the disastrous rout near Hadrianopolis in Thrace (August 9, 378), and the succession to the purple by the orthodox Spaniard, Theodosius. The orthodox communities of the east once more began to re-assert their strength, so that by the year 379 nearly every important ecclesiastical centre, except Constantinople, was in the hands of orthodox bishops.

Second, although the Arians in Constantinople, under their bishop Demophilus, possessed authentic popular support, the orthodox community had received fresh hope with the accession of Theodosius; they lacked only a leader. Basil or Meletius of Antioch, the foremost leaders of the Nicene party in the east, would have been ideal choices, but both were attached to their respective sees, and by 379 Basil was dead. But Nazianzen, a friend of both Basil and Meletius, was as good as either of these men, and furthermore, he was not formally attached to any see.

Consequently, Nazianzen was invited, and after initial refusals, he accepted. It may be asked what was the major reason behind Nazianzen’s acceptance, for the forceful insistence of the delegation from Constantinople was certainly not the sole, nor prime, reason for Nazianzen’s acquiescence. It has been suggested that the thought of doing good was a sufficient reason for him to go. At the deeper level it is possible that after Basil’s death Nazianzen saw himself as the heir of Basil’s labours in the defence of the truth about the Trinity, and that this was the decisive factor which led him to leave his cell to go to Constantinople.


I was recently at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, teaching a course on the theology of Jonathan Edwards. We did twelve hours of lectures on Edwards—on his theology of revival, on prayer and family piety, on his doctrine of the Trinity—but we could have used twelve more. I love going down to Grand Rapids and being involved in this great work. May the Lord continue to bless this school richly.


Reformation Heritage Books ( is launching a new series by the end of the year entitled Profiles in Reformed Spirituality. Its editors will be Dr. Joel R. Beeke—President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and Editorial Director of Reformation Heritage Books—and myself. I am thrilled to be able to work with Dr. Beeke on this series. The first book will be on Alexander Whyte and along with an introduction to his piety, it will include selections from his works. What follows is the general introduction to the series.

Charles Dickens’ famous line in A Tale of Two Cities—“it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”—seems well suited to western Evangelicalism since the 1960s. On the one hand, these decades have seen much for which to praise God and to rejoice. In His goodness and grace, for instance, Reformed truth is no longer a house under siege. Growing numbers identify themselves theologically with what we hold to be biblical truth, namely, Reformed theology and piety. And yet, as an increasing number of Reformed authors have noted, there are many sectors of the surrounding western Evangelicalism that are characterized by great shallowness and a trivialization of the weighty things of God. So much of Evangelical worship seems barren. And when it comes to spirituality, there is little evidence of the riches of our heritage as Reformed Evangelicals.

As it was at the time of the Reformation, when the watchword was ad fontes—“back to the sources”—so it is now: the way forward is backward. We need to go back to the spiritual heritage of Reformed Evangelicalism to find the pathway forward. We cannot live in the past; to attempt to do so would be antiquarianism. But our Reformed forebears in the faith can teach us much about Christianity, its doctrines, its passions, and its fruit.

And they can serve as our role models. As R. C. Sproul has noted of such giants as Augustine and Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards: “These men all were conquered, overwhelmed, and spiritually intoxicated by their vision of the holiness of God. Their minds and imaginations were captured by the majesty of God the Father. Each of them possessed a profound affection for the sweetness and excellence of Christ. There was in each of them a singular and unswerving loyalty to Christ that spoke of a citizenship in heaven that was always more precious to them than the applause of men.” [“An Invaluable Heritage,” Tabletalk, 23, No.10 (October 1999), 5-6].
To be sure, we would not dream of placing these men and their writings alongside the Word of God. John Jewel (1522-1571), the Anglican apologist, once stated: “What say we of the fathers, Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, Cyprian? …They were learned men, and learned fathers; the instruments of the mercy of God, and vessels full of grace. We despise them not, we read them, we reverence them, and give thanks unto God for them. Yet …we may not make them the foundation and warrant of our conscience: we may not put our trust in them. Our trust is in the name of the Lord.” [Cited in Barrington R. White, “Why Bother with History?” Baptist History and Heritage, 4, No.2 (July 1969), 85].

Seeking then both to honor the past and yet not idolize it, we are issuing these books in the series Profiles in Reformed Spirituality. The design is to introduce the spirituality and piety of the Reformed tradition by presenting descriptions of the lives of notable Christians with select passages from their works. This combination of biographical sketches and collected portions from primary sources gives a taste of the subjects’ contributions to our spiritual heritage and some direction as to how the reader can find further edification through their works. It is the hope of the publishers that this series will provide riches for those areas where we are poor and light of day where we are stumbling in the deepening twilight.

Other books in the series that are planned include ones on Jonathan Edwards, Horatius Bonar, Thomas Goodwin, John Owen and Hercules Collins.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


The new “Jars of Clay” CD—Good Monsters (2006) is out. It is excellent. No doubt of that. I must confess that I regularly look forward to this group’s rich—and Augustinian—musical output.

Take “All my tears” for instance.

When I go, don’t cry for me
In my Father’s arms I’ll be
The wounds this world left on my soul
Will all be healed and I’ll be whole
Sun and moon will be replaced
With the light of Jesus’ face
And I will not be ashamed
For my Savior knows my name.

A clear note of biblical truth!