Archives For Nathan Busenitz

inquisitionsHow Many Protestants Were Killed in the Inquisition?

A friend asked me that question earlier this week. And so I thought it might be helpful to share a few thoughts, from a historical perspective.

Opinions about how to answer the question vary widely. Some suggest that just a few thousand people were executed during the Inquisition, while others project that there were tens of millions of victims. So how can the estimates be so widely divergent?

There seem to be several explanations:

1. First, the imprecise nature of the historical records means that contemporary historians are forced to extrapolate on the basis of the limited information they possess.

One of the first accounts of the Inquisition came from a former Spanish secretary to the Inquisition named Juan Antonio Llorente (1756–1823). According to Llorente, the total number of “heretics” burned at the stake during the Spanish Inquisition totaled nearly 32,000. Llorente adds that another 300,000 were put on trial and forced to do penance (cf. Cecil Roth, The Spanish Inquisition [W. W. Norton, 1964; reprint, 1996], 123). Continue Reading…

AnselmAnselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) is most famous for (1) his ontological argument for the existence of God and (2) the satisfaction theory of the atonement.

But today, I’d like to share my favorite quote from Anselm. It is found in his “Exhortation to a Dying Man,” in which he consoles those who are about to face death by asking them a series of questions.

The first set of questions is aimed at fellow clergy and the second is for laypeople.

* * * * *

Question. Do you rejoice, brother, that you are dying in the Christian Faith?
Answer. I do rejoice. . . .

Qu. Do you confess that you have lived so wickedly, that eternal punishment is due to your own merits?
An. I confess it.

Qu. Do you repent of this?
An. I do repent.

Qu. Do you have the willingness to amend your life, if you had time?
An. I have.

Qu. Do you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died for you?
An. I believe it.

Qu. Do you thank Him [for His passion and death]?
An. I do thank Him.

Qu. Do you believe that you cannot be saved except by His Death?
An. I believe it.

Continue Reading…

Persecutor

* Note: This article has been updated. And by updated, I mean completely changed.

The article I originally posted this morning was an amazing tale of intrigue, conspiracy, and dramatic conversion. It involved a former KGB agent named Sergei Kourdakov who violently persecuted the church in Russia only to be radically saved in America where he began working with Underground Evangelism—a California-based ministry that helped to smuggle Bibles into communist countries.

He was like a modern-day apostle Paul, risking his life to minister to the very people he had formerly persecuted. The parallels to Paul’s testimony were obvious and compelling. Moreover, the details of Kourdakov’s life were all arranged in convincing fashion in an autobiography published by Fleming H. Revell soon after he died (in 1973).

His story has been repeatedly told in books and sermons. Even Wikipedia houses an article propounding the details of Kourdakov’s incredible testimony.

My post this morning accurately conveyed details from Sergei’s autobiography. The problem is that his autobiography appears to have been a work of fiction, rather than fact.

Thanks to my friend and fellow blogger, Tim Challies, I discovered that the story Kourdakov recounts in his autobiography is most likely untrue. Christianity Today tells the full story at this link.

I had not been aware of the controversy surrounding Sergei Kourdakov’s story before seeing that link. But now that I’ve read the article there, I cannot in good conscience leave my previous post online.

If Kourdakov’s story is in fact false, it is a good reminder (for me) of the need to verify everything carefully. One of my pet peeves is sermon illustrations that are untrue. It appears, on this occasion, that I may have been unknowingly guilty of using such an illustration.

Consequently, I’m posting this retraction — possibly the first in Cripplegate’s history. While it might not be the last, I certainly hope to do better at vetting stories like this before I publish them.

crown_2Did the early church believe in the deity of Christ?

Ask your average Muslim, Unitarian, Jehovah’s Witness, or just about any non-Christian skeptic who has read (or watched) The Da Vinci Code, and they’ll try to convince you the answer is no. From such sources we are told that the deity of Christ was a doctrine invented centuries after Jesus’ death — a result of pagan influences on the church in the fourth century when the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion.

Emperor Constantine, in particular, is blamed for being the guy who promoted Jesus to the level of deity, a feat of cosmic proportions that he managed to pull off at the Council of Nicaea in 325. As Dan Brown put it (through the lips of one of his literary characters): “Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea. . . . By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world, an entity whose power was unchallengeable” (The Da Vinci Code, 253).

So how can believers answer such allegations? Continue Reading…

Yesterday, as I was reading through portions of Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians, I came across the following:

“Christ took upon Himself our sins, not by constraint, but of His own good will, in order to bear the punishment and wrath of God: not for the sake of His own person (which was just and invincible, and was not in any way guilty), but for our person. So by means of a joyous substitution, He took upon Himself our sinful person, and gave to us His innocent and victorious person: with which we, being now clothed, are free from the curse of the law. . . . By faith alone therefore we are made righteous, for faith alone lays hold of this victory of Christ.” (Commentary on Gal. 3:13)

crown_of_thornsJohn Calvin’s comments on 2 Corinthians 5:21 are similar:

“How can we become righteous before God? In the same way as Christ became a sinner. For He took, as it were, our person, that He might be the offender in our name and thus might be reckoned a sinner, not because of His own offences but because of those of others, since He Himself was pure and free from every fault and bore the penalty that was our due and not His own. Now in the same way we are righteous in Him, not because we have satisfied God’s judgment by our own works, but because we are judged in relation to Christ’s righteousness which we have put on by faith, that it may become our own.” (Commentary on 2 Cor. 5:21)

Those quotations, which underscore the doctrines of substitutionary atonement and Christ’s imputed righteousness, reminded me of an earlier study I had done regarding 2 Corinthians 5:21, specifically with regard to this question: In what way was Jesus “made sin” on the cross?

Continue Reading…

Fulfilled prophecy is one of the strongest evidences for the truthfulness of the Bible and the authenticity of Jesus Christ.

Numerous Old Testament predictions were fulfilled perfectly in Christ. As the apostle Peter preached: “To Him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name” (Acts 10:43).

Our Lord Himself, on the road to Emmaus, demonstrated how the Old Testament pointed to Him as the Messiah. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). Jesus’ life, which culminated in His death, burial, and resurrection, was the perfect fulfillment of God’s prior revelation (Matt. 5:17); everything took place “according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3–4).

Though the evidence is overwhelming, unbelieving critics and skeptics raise objections nonetheless. In their unwillingness to embrace the truth, they propose alleged “problems” with biblical prophecy. But how are Christians to answer those kind of critical attacks?

In this post, I’d like to briefly respond to five common objections to biblical prophecy: Continue Reading…

December 30, 2014

Our Blessed Hope

by Nathan Busenitz

clouds_2I imagine it as a sunny morning with just a few clouds in the sky. What a whirlwind the last few weeks had been. Just six weeks ago, the Lord had been wrongly arrested, falsely accused, and unjustly crucified. Peter and the others thought it was the end, their dreams and expectations dying on the cross that day too.

But then, just three days later, Jesus rose from the grave. In the weeks that followed, He appeared to His disciples on numerous occasions, explaining to them why His death had been necessary as the Savior of the world.

The Lord interacted with His followers for forty days after His resurrection, appearing to as many as five hundred at one time. The resulting anticipation was high because the hope that had died on the cross had risen again — there was no longer any room for doubt.

Nearly six weeks later, Christ assembled His disciples on the Mount of Olives for one last lesson. As they gathered around Him, He instructed them, “You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

And then, He ascended into heaven. Continue Reading…

Mention “Christmas” and “controversy” together in the same sentence, and most evangelicals will assume you’re talking about Santa Claus, Christmas trees, or the secularization of the winter holiday season.

But, from a historical perspective, a much more significant controversy surrounded Christmas for the first five centuries of church history; and its effects still linger in some circles today. It centered on the very essence of Jesus’ birth – the doctrine of His incarnation.

There is, of course, an element of mystery in the incarnation. After all, how can one person be both fully God and fully man at the same time? Yet, that is precisely the miraculous truth that the Scriptures affirm regarding the Person of Jesus Christ.

Nonetheless, despite the clarity of biblical revelation, the doctrine of Christ’s incarnation came under attack from the very beginning. Continue Reading…

There are a lot of Santa Claus stories floating around this time of year. Almost all of them are completely based in fantasy. Flying reindeer; a sleigh full of gifts; precarious chimney climbing; a fluffy red suit — all of that is total fiction.

But when my kids used to ask me, “Dad, is Santa Claus real?” I didn’t always say “No.” At least not right away.

(Pause for dramatic effect.)

Santa_Claus

Like any good student of church history, I explained that the real “Santa Claus” was actually a fourth-century pastor named Nicholas of Myra who was later considered a saint by the medieval Roman Catholic Church. He was a favorite of Dutch sailors who called him, “Sinter Klaas” (or “Saint Nicholas”) which then came into English as “Santa Claus.”

Of course, I was careful to point out that the modern American version of Saint Nicholas bears absolutely no resemblance to the fourth-century pastor from Asia Minor. The real Nicholas did not live in the North Pole. He was not Scandinavian. He did not drive a team of magical caribou. He did not work with elves. Nor did he travel the world every Christmas Eve exchanging presents for milk and cookies. Continue Reading…

christmas_treeIt’s not uncommon to hear that the celebration of Christmas is rooted in ancient Roman paganism. That claim generally goes something like this: the ancient Romans celebrated a pagan festival on December 25th, but when the Roman Empire was Christianized in the 300s, the church simply turned the pagan festival into a Christian holiday.

It is true that there was a pagan Roman holiday called the “Birthday of the Unconquered Sun” that marked the winter solstice. And in the old Julian calendar, the winter solstice occurred on December 25. The cult of “Sol Invictus” (“the Unconquered Sun,” a.k.a. the sun god) became an official Roman cult in 274 under the reign of Emperor Aurelian. And the Roman empire was Christianized about fifty years later under Constantine.

It doesn’t take too much imagination to see how some could assume that the post-Constantine Romans simply adopted the pagan holiday and Christianized it.

But there’s actually good evidence to suggest that the date of December 25 does not have pagan origins. That’s because, long before Aurelian made December 25 an official pagan holiday, there were Christians in the early church who taught that Jesus was born on December 25th. Continue Reading…