Solution for the Dead

November 14, 2008

“… the sinner can find no fault with the gospel of Christ, yet the perpetual language of his heart is, away with it. He hates–he abhors it. Truth as it is (and his conscience bears witness to its truth), he will not receive it. He hates both the gospel and its author–he has seen and hated, both Christ and his Father. Such is his rooted hatred to the gospel that nothing but Divine power can remove it.”

— Alexander Stewart 1774-1840 – Founding Pastor of the oldest Baptist church in Ontario

Quoted in Glenn Tomlinson, From Scotland to Canada: The Life of Pioneer Missionary Alexander Stewart (Guelph, ON: Joshua Press, 2008), p. 152.

 


Book Review: For Us and For Our Salvation

October 8, 2008

For Us and For Our Salvation: The Doctrine of Christ in the Early Church. By Stephen J. Nichols. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007. 172 pp., $14.99, paper back.

 

Stephen Nichols is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. Nichols (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary), is Research Professor of Christianity and Culture at Lancaster Bible College in Lacaster, PA. He is the author and editor of a number of books. He has the uncanny ability to turn difficult theological and historical issues into things interesting and even exciting for the average Christian reader. His, “Guided Tour” books are helpful introductions to the lives and theology of key Christian leaders in history. Now he is turning to issues of cultural history as well with his recent books on Blues music and his cultural history of Jesus in America. Nichols knows that the study of church history and historical theology is essential to the church and the believer today. His book on the doctrine of Christ in the early church is no exception.

 

We live in a day of historical anemia. People have absolutely no historical context in which to understand the theological trends of the day. Little do most know that much of what is considered “new” in theological trends and fads is hardly new but generally has been dealt with in the church before simply under different names. That is where looking at the person and work of Christ as discussed by the early church fathers is so important. Much of what we consider orthodox Christology was developed in the early church. The early church fathers had to deal with heresy as they attempted to understand issues like the divine and human natures in Christ, and other theological issues. The title of the book presents the reason why this is important. The true biblical nature of Christ is the basis for our salvation. Without a true picture of Christ, how can one truly be saved? Nichols addresses the importance of studying the fathers on these issues when he writes:

 

The early church fathers wrestled with the same problems presented by The Da Vinci Code phenomenon and its fanciful speculations about Jesus. They wrestled with the same problems presented by Islam and its adamant denial of the deity of Christ. And they wrestled with the same problems presented by the scholars working in the Jesus Seminar or in Gnostic texts like the Gospel of Judas who quickly dismiss the four canonical Gospels as God’s true revelation to humanity. In the days of the early church, the names of the opponents were difference from those faced by us today, but the underlying issues bear a striking resemblance. When the church fathers responded with the orthodox view off Christ, they did the church of all ages a great service (p. 14).

 

So, Nichols looks at the early church debates over the person and work of Christ. These were not trivial debates but were at the heart of our very relationship with God and our salvation. While looking at a number of church fathers he addresses the importance of the debates over Christ at the Councils of Nicea and Chaledon and the work of the great Athanasius and Leo. He looks at the theology of the opponents of the orthodox picture of Christ presented in the creeds that developed at the councils, the historical context that these debates occurred, and the major orthodox players who helped to shape what we consider the true picture of Christ today as evangelicals.

 

The biggest strength of the volume is that Nichols, as a historian, realizes that we cannot simply focus on secondary sources or that even Nichols own analysis is sufficient to understanding these issues. One must look to the original sources. To that end, Nichols offers the original writings of those on both sides of the debates. So you will read the works of Irenaeus, Athanasius, and Tertullian, but you will also read from the Gnostic texts and Arius. It is important to look at both sides to see how ultimately, the church came to the expression of Christology that we consider orthodox today as expressed in the Nicean and Chalecedonian creeds. No one can truly understand the issues unless they look at the writings of the times. This helps but those debates in historical context and helps us to see the importance for us today.

 

These issues are not just old ones. We are facing the same issues today under new names. Therefore it is important to read the works of the early church fathers who dealt with these issues before. These issues are not tangential to the Christian life. They are at the core! Without an orthodox view of the person and work of Christ our salvation rests on no foundation. Only the God-man Jesus Christ, fully divine, and fully human, has the power to forgive sin and restore fellowship with the Father. Therefore, Nichol’s book is a clarion call to all believers in this day to know in whom they have believed, and are persuaded that He is able to keep that which they have committed unto Him against that day. Our very salvation rests upon the person and work of Christ. May we shake off our theological and historical confusion and look to the Scriptures and the work of those who have gone before us as we seek to live our life for the one that came to save us, Christ Jesus our Lord. This book is highly recommended to that end for everyone who names the name of Christ.


Book Notice – From Scotland to Canada: The Life of Pioneer Missionary Alexander Stewart

June 10, 2008

From Scotland to Canada: The Life of Pioneer Missionary Alexander Stewart
By Glenn Tomlinson

Foreword by Donald E. Meek
Afterword by Michael A.G. Haykin

Available from Joshua Press June 2008 here.

Alexander Stewart was converted to Christ during the dramatic revival in Moulin, in the Highlands of Scotland, in 1799. This revival fuelled a strong outpouring of missionary activity and church planting throughout Scotland. Stewart felt the call of God on his life and attended Robert Haldane’s Theological Seminary, following this with years of evangelism and church planting in Perthshire.

In 1818 Alexander and his wife, Janet, with their young family, emigrated to Upper Canada—the New World was opening up and many Scots were taking advantage of the promise of free land, employment opportunities and the excitement of a frontier life. Alexander saw it as an opportunity to bring gospel light to the settlers and new immigrants, as well as a place to raise his family. They eventually settled in York (now Toronto) and established the first Baptist church there. Stewart’s church planting and preaching ministry also extended to the surrounding townships of Esquesing, Chinguacousy and Eramosa.

Alexander Stewart’s story is one of persistent zeal for the extension of God’s kingdom and a fervent desire to do what he could to bring the gospel to a young country. Glenn Tomlinson has extensively mined the archives and resources from this time in Scottish and Canadian history to bring us this compelling story of a man determined to establish centres for the gospel in Scotland and Canada.

About the author… Glenn Tomlinson was born in Toronto, Ontario and raised in a godly Christian home, coming to faith in Christ at an early age. A graduate of the University of Toronto in Commerce and Economics, he worked in the financial services industry for fifteen years. During this time he also served in leadership roles at Jarvis Street Baptist Church, Metropolitan Baptist Church and Port Perry Baptist Church, all in the greater Toronto area. Recognizing God’s call on his life, he entered vocational ministry in the summer of 2005, taking up the position of pastor at Sovereign Grace Community Church, Sarnia, Ontario. He was ordained in 2007. Glenn is a student of church history and has written articles for The Gospel Witness and co-edited From strength to strength: a pictorial history of Jarvis Street Baptist Church. He is married to Sonja and they have four children.


The Dungeon Flamed with Light: The Great Awakening in the 18th Century

October 1, 2007

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A Must Attend Conference sponsored by Sola Scriptura Ministries International!

Michael Haykin, Tom Nettles, David Puckett, and Grant Gordon all discuss the 18th century Evangelical awakening especially as it relates to John Newton and William Wilberforce. Check out the below link to see the poster for the conference. You’re missing out if you’re not there!

 

It is being held on November 16-17, 2007 at Calvary Pentecostal Church in Cambridge, ON.

 

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The Importance of Studying the Church Fathers

April 30, 2007

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You all need to check out this brief article at Reformation21 written by Dr. Michael Haykin on the importance of studying the Early Church Fathers. This is something really that no Christian can do without reading!

Also, keep in the back of your minds that the next issue of Eusebeia: The Bulletin of the Andrew Fuller Centre for Reformed Evangelicalism will be dedicated to the Early Church Fathers. For information on that, please feel free to contact me.


“Listening to the Past – Lessons from Andrew Fuller” 15

April 30, 2007

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In a circular letter to the Northamptonshire Baptist Association in May 1785, Fuller offers some tremendous reasons for pursuing the study of Church History. Specifically he is writing about how to respond to the fact that the church is falling into sin and lethargy. This is his first way to begin to solve the problem.

This portion can be found in The Armies of the Lamb, pp. 105-106.”

First, let us recollect the best periods of the Christian church, and compare them with the present; and the best parts of our lown life, if we know when they were, and compare them with what we are now. A recollection of the disinterestedness, zeal and godly simplicity of the primitive Christians, and their successors in after-ages, millions of who, in Christ’s cause, loved not their lives unto death, would surely make us loathe ourselves for our detestable lukewarmness! As Protestants, let us think of the fervent zeal and holy piety of our Reformers–think what objects they grasped, what difficulties they encountered, and what ends they obtained! As Protestant Dissenters, let us reflect on the spirit and conduct of our Puritan and non-conforming ancestors. Think how they served God at the expense of all that was dear to them in this world, and laid the foundation of our churches in woods, and dens, and caves of the earth! Say, too, was their love to God more than need be? Is the importance of things abated since their death? Might not they have pleaded the anger and cruelty of the times in excuse for a non-appearance for God, with much more seeming plausibility than we can excuse our spirit of hateful indifference? O let us remember whence we are fallen, and repent!”


Survey Messages on Church History

November 23, 2006

I happened upon some excellent survey messages on the entirety of Church History by Dr. Michael Haykin, Principal and Professor of Church History at Toronto Baptist Seminary. These messages were presented at Grace Fellowship in Toronto. If you ever wanted an “overall picture” of Church History this is the place to go! Dr. Haykin is one of the premier Church Historians in the world (in my opinion at least!).