The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Archive for the category “Church History”

On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius

by Adam McIntosh

It didn’t hurt that at the time of writing Pope Francis and Redeemed Atheists I had been reading through On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius. Naturally, my thoughts have been focused on the incarnation and the resurrection of the dead for the last several weeks. I decided it would be fitting to post a review of the book.

Athanasius begins by setting forth the deity and pre-existence of Christ. Jesus is the Word of the Father and it was through the Word that all things were made. This is important to incarnational theology because it means that the creator of humanity is the same one who re-creates humanity. Athanasius eloquently explains:

The renewal of creation has been wrought by the self-same Word who made it in the beginning. There is thus no inconsistency between creation and salvation for the one Father has employed the same agent for both works, effecting the salvation of the world through the same Word who made it in the beginning.”

But why does man need saving? Athanasius summarizes man’s nature in the Garden of Eden as being subject to corruption, but shielded from corruption because of their union with the incorruptible God. When Adam and Eve sinned, however, their union with God was broken and they became the cause of their corruption. At that point man began to die just as God had warned if unfaithful to his Word. Athanasius goes on to describe the level of wickedness man continued to involve himself: adultery, theft, murder, rape, war, and homosexuality. This is why humanity needed saving. The image of God on earth was “disappearing” and God’s work of creation was being “undone.” Read more…

Day Six of Creation and Christian Ethics

by Uri Brito

When God made the world he made it in divine priority. He made all things with an agenda, and to use the oft-repeated line, “he saved the best for last.” He made man on day six, and at the end he breathed with the breath of perfection (Gen. 1:31): “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

Could God have created man on day one or day three? No. This was a divine priority. Man was created last purposefully. He made him on day six and then affirmed (Gen. 1:26-28) that he was to be over all things. Man receives a place of honor in creation because he is made in the image of God.

Read more…

Roots of a British Awakening?

A guest post by Thomas S Kidd

My family and I just returned from two weeks in the U.K., and while we were there, several major British religion news events transpired. First, on a day we happened to be in Edinburgh, Church of Scotland delegates voted to allow gay ministers. Then, when we returned to London, came the appalling murder of a British solider by two Muslims, one of whom was arrested in Kenya in 2010 for seeking al-Qaeda training. Finally, a new study of U.K. census data indicated that within a decade, perhaps less than half of all people in Britain will identify even nominally as Christians.Michael-Adebolajo-1912414

These disparate developments suggest several religious patterns: first, prominent churches in the U.K. seem generally inclined to follow the lead of mainline denominations in the U.S. and Canada on issues related to gender and homosexuality. The Church of England has recently decided to ordain celibate homosexuals as bishops, and has issued a new plan to ordain women bishops within two years. These developments make inevitable more difficulties between the shrinking mainline churches in the west, and the burgeoning ones in the global south, which are generally more traditional on issues of sexuality.

Second, the U.K. (like much of Eurjeffertsschori_2_300(1)ope) has a pressing problem of how to handle its growing Muslim population, some fraction of which are jihadist sympathizers. (Anecdotally, I was struck by how ubiquitous the signs of Islam are in the U.K., from mosques to burqa-clad women.) While America’s Muslim population remains proportionately low, especially outside of large cities, in the U.K. a tenth of the under-25 population is now Muslim, and the self-identifying Christian population is stagnant and aging. If it were not for Christian immigrants to the U.K. from sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, Christianity would be in utter free-fall as a percentage of the British population.

Abandoned_ChapelThird, the legal establishment of the Church of England looks increasingly strange and antiquated, when you consider how Christianity (Anglican or otherwise) is losing even a nominal hold over much of the population. It is hard to imagine how the church will survive calls for its disestablishment (meaning withdrawal of state financial support and other trends toward stronger separation of church and state) unless a very different pattern emerges in the next generation. In a democratic country, it seems impossible to justify an established Christian church when so few actively practice Christianity, and when even nominal Christianity seems destined to command no more than a plurality of the population’s  adherence. Yet the British government – particularly the monarchy – is still closely identified with Christianity. They still pray “God save the queen” in Anglican liturgies.

Given all this, is there hope for Christian revival in Britain? Christians, of course, always believe there is hope for redemption and renewal, because of God’s power. The observable facts are not promising, but there are certainly pockets of flourishing Christianity in Britain. The Kingsway International Christian Centre, an African Pentecostal congregation which is London’s largest church, attracts as many as 12,000 attendees every Sunday, and there are many other growing immigrant-dominated congregations across the U.K. Evangelical renewal efforts within the Anglican Church include the Alpha Course, pioneered by Nicky Gumbel (see more on the Alpha Course in this Anxious Bench post by Philip Jenkins).

While my family was blessed to attend Evensong services at both St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, the most vital church we visited was an evangelical Baptist congregation in Stirling, Scotland, which sits prominently in the city center. While nowhere near the scale of Kingsway, it is filled with young Scottish families. The worship is heartfelt, the preaching biblical and accessible, and community life and prayer support are vibrant. Those factors, enlivened by the Holy Spirit, would seem to be essential ingredients for revival in the U.K. and beyond.

@ThomasSKidd on Twitter

Thomas Kidd is a contributing scholar to The Kuyperian Commentary. His newest book is Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots, published in 2011 with Basic Books.

[This article first appeared at The Anxious Bench. Read more from Dr. Kidd there.]

Review: Seven Men by Eric Metaxas

by Sean Johnson

In saying, “everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher,” the Lord gave us not merely a fundamental truth about the end education and discipleship, but about the means. As the surrounding context in Luke 6 confirms, the Eric metaxas seven men and the secret of their greatnessprocess has a great deal to do with exemplification: anyone following you is going to end up wherever you end up—if you’re blind, that will be a ditch—and your poor vision will perpetuate theirs. In the schoolhouse we are recovering this wisdom (acknowledging that the best teachers do not just dictate accurate information, but model a lifestyle of wisdom and faithfulness); in the broader sphere of life, however, we never lost our innate understanding of it.  It has been codified in the concept of the “role model.” Many life lessons are best learned through images and the most vivid images are often human lives themselves. Therein lies one of the greatest values of biography: moral and spiritual formation via exemplification and imitation. And therein lies the greatest value of Eric Metaxas’, Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness.

Metaxas consciously places his Seven Men in the tradition of Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans or Foxe’s Book of Martyrs—biographical works intended chiefly to hold up the conduct and character of certain men as examples for readers to emulate (or avoid). He has sketched the lives of seven famed Christian men in order to commend their exemplary behavior to all readers, but especially to young men, who Read more…

That Your Joy May Be Full: Celebrating the Ascension of our Lord

By Uri Brito

The Church celebrates the Ascension of our Lord this Thursday. Since many Protestant churches find it difficult to gather parishioners for a Thursday service, many of them celebrate Ascension on Sunday.

The Ascension of Jesus is barely mentioned in the evangelical vocabulary. We make room for his birth, death, and resurrection, but we tend to put a period where God puts a comma.

If the resurrection was the beginning of Jesus’ enthronement, then the ascension is the establishment of his enthronement. The Ascension activates Christ’s victory in history. The Great Commission is only relevant because of the Ascension. Without the Ascension the call to baptize and disciple would be meaningless. It is on the basis of Jesus’ enthronement at the right-hand of the Father, that we image-bearers can de-throne rulers through the power and authority of our Great Ruler, Jesus Christ.

The Ascension then is a joyful event, because it is the genesis of the Church’s triumph over the world. Further, it defines us as a people of glory and power, not of weakness and shame. As Jesus is ascended, we too enter into his ascension glory (Col. 3:1) This glory exhorts us to embrace full joy. As Alexander Schmemann once wrote:

“The Church was victorious over the world through joy…and she will lose the world when she loses its joy… Of all accusations against Christians, the most terrible one was uttered by Nietzsche when he said that Christians had no joy.”[1]

But this joy is given to us by a bodily Lord.

We know that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. He is ruling and reigning from his heavenly throne. He has given the Father the kingdom, and now he is preserving, progressing, and perfecting his kingdom. He is bringing all things under subjection.

We know that when he was raised from the dead, Jesus was raised bodily. But Gnostic thinking would have us assume that since Jesus is in heaven he longer needs a physical body. But the same Father who raised Jesus physically, also has his Son sitting beside him in a physical body.  As one author observed:

Jesus has gone before us in a way we may follow through the Holy Spirit whom he has sent, because the way is in his flesh, in his humanity.[1]

Our Lord is in his incarnation body at the right hand of the Father. This has all sorts of implications for us in worship. We are worshipping a God/Man; one who descended in human flesh and who ascended in human flesh. He is not a disembodied spirit. He is truly God and truly man.

As we consider and celebrate the Ascension of our blessed Lord, remember that you are worshiping the One who understands your needs, because he has a body just like you; he understands your joy because he has a body just like you.

[1] Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World. Paraphrased

[2] Gerrit Dawson, see http://apologus.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/ascension-and-jesus-humanity/

Uri Brito is a pastor and blogger. He treasures earthly life, but dwells in the heavenly places.

The Sons of God Go Forth to War: Remembering Stonewall

Stonewall BrigadeSoutherners, especially Virginians, came to respect and love Jackson, sometimes to excess. One Virginia woman wrote that “I believe that God leads Jackson and Jackson his men, just where it is best they should go. My only fear is that people are in danger of worshiping Gen. Jackson instead of God, who rules over all. If we idolize him, he will be taken from us.” And taken he was, struck down by a volley of Confederate fire from sentries who mistook Jackson and his men for a Union detachment.

200px-Stonewall_JacksonMemorials to Jackson began even before his death, including the famous 1863 photo taken a week before his fatal wounding at Chancellorsville. Read more…

The New Kingdom Almanac: Alfred the Great, White Horse King

Alfred the Great, son of Æthelwulf of Wessex (West Saxons), vanquisher of the Danish warlord Guthrum, victor of the field of Ethandun, warrior king and royal servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was on this day, May 6 anno Domini 878, after having spent years studying the methods of the Viking raiders and engineering many advances in field and naval combat[1], that the Anglo-Saxon King Alfreda defeated the cruel Northmen of Scandinavia and preserved Christendom in Britannia, thus making the unification of that land possible for the first time since the occupation of the Roman Legions four centuries earlier [2].
White-Horse-of-Uffington

Read more…

George of Lydda: Patron Saint of Civil Disobedience

Posted by Aaron W EleyGreater Coat_of_Arms_of_Georgia
On this day, the 23rd of April, Christians throughout many countries in the world will be observing Georgemas, more commonly referred to as the Feast of St. George of Lydda. George is remembered as the Patron Saint of England, Libya, Lebanon, and many others including being the object of devotion of the country of Georgia (whose flag bears the Jerusalem Cross)[1], Catalonia, Aragon and others. Indeed, St. George’s Day will be celebrated nationally in England and the City of London over which the familiar ‘red cross on a white field’ of the Flag of St. George, the standard emblem of the Crusades, will be flown.

St-George-Cross-England-Flag_4

George was born in AD 270, in what is now Eastern Turkey, to Grecian parents of the Christian faith [2]. His father was from Cappadocia in Asia Minor and his mother from Lydda [3], which was briefly renamed Georgiopolis before the Muslim Conquest of the Levant ended that city’s Roman Period in the 7th century.

La_Tomba_di_San_Giorgio

Tomb of St. George, Lydda

Georgios (Gr. ‘worker of the land’) was a Greek of noble birth. At the age of 14, George’s father died while serving as an officer in the Roman Army. A few years later, George also lost his mother [4]. Read more…

Understanding the Puritans

The scholarly study of the Puritans has been marked in recent years by attempts to understand them in a fully transatlantic context. This follows a broader trend in early American history to focus on “Atlantic world” perspectives, rather than proto-national American ones. While others could view this de-emphasizing of the future United States as ideologically dubious, I think it is a sanguine development for understanding the Puritans in their own places and time. ~ Thomas S Kidd, PhD Read more…

Bring Out Your Dead!

church graveyard, cemetery

How often do you see cemeteries? Do you know, off hand, where the closest one is? Do your children? It is a sad state of affairs when we can’t answer these questions with certainty and, if you’ll allow me to indulge in a few preliminary comments, I’ll tell you why.

One of the best ways to engage literature is to pick a work you want to be shaped by and to read it again and again. I was recently rereading G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy with that end in mind, and the following passage struck me:

“But if it comes to clear ideas and the intelligent meaning of things, then there is much more rational philosophical truth in the burial at the crossroads and the stake driven through the body…there is a meaning in burying the suicide apart.”
“….And then I remembered the stake and the crossroads, and the queer fact that Christianity had shown this weird harshness to the suicide. For Christianity had shown a wild encouragement of the martyr. Historic Christianity was accused, not entirely without reason, of carrying martyrdom and asceticism to a point, desolate and pessimistic. The early Christian martyrs talked of death with a horrible happiness. They blasphemed the beautiful duties of the body: they smelt the grave afar off like a field of flowers. All this has seemed to many the very poetry of pessimism. Yet there is the stake at the crossroads to show what Christianity thought of the pessimist.”

It struck me not because of the particular topic but of the more general implication. Regardless of your convictions about the burial of suicides, these remarks demonstrate something powerful, and something contemporary Protestantism (at least in my circles) has begun to forget—our treatment of the dead translates into a meaningful theological statement. Read more…

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