Archives For History


Much of the world continues astir in the wake of ISIS’s brutal attack last Friday on Paris which left 129 people killed and more than 350 wounded.

Social media was quick to explode with prayers, cries of shock, outrage, and condemnation. But one common thread we have seen running throughout the tweets and headlines and comments of many has been along these lines: “ISIS are not real Muslims.”

We understand the desire of peaceful Muslims to distance themselves of such despicable acts. Yet, the question remains: Can ISIS be considered Muslims in any way? It’s a difficult question, especially for westerners and Christians. In order to speak accurately and intelligently on the issue, some careful consideration is needed.

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November 3, 2015

A Mighty Fortress

by Nathan Busenitz

‘Luther at the Diet of Worms,’ Anton von Werner, 1877, Public Domain

A post-Reformation Day reflection.

It was 498 years (and three days) ago, in October of 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

That event sparked the Protestant Reformation, as people throughout Saxony and the rest of Western Europe took a stand against the corruption and error of the medieval Roman Catholic Church. As for Luther, he quickly became a wanted man.

Just a few years later, after a series of debates and confrontations, Luther was issued a bull of excommunication by Pope Leo X. It was June of 1520. Luther was given 60 days to recant. Instead, he took a copy of the papal decree out into the center of Wittenberg and burned it as a public demonstration of his resolve.

When news reached Rome that he was unwilling to change his views, Luther was officially denounced by the Catholic church.

Shortly thereafter, the German Reformer was summoned to defend his views before the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, who at that time was the most powerful ruler in Europe.

Because there was no separation of church and state, European governments were often directly involved in the punishment of heretics. Luther knew that if he was convicted of heresy, he would likely be sentenced to death just as John Huss had been a century earlier.

The imperial council, known as a Diet, met in the city of Worms.

Luther arrived on April 16, 1521 and appeared before the assembly the following day at 4:00 in the afternoon. A stack of his books was presented, and he was asked if he would recant the alleged heresies they contained.

Luther, knowing what was at stake and wanting to make sure he answered in a way that was both accurate and precise, asked for more time. He was given 24 hours.

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Reformation Day - Nerds498 years ago tomorrow, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, kick-starting the Protestant Reformation. Nearly 500 years later, God’s people reserve this day to celebrate the rescue of His Word from the shackles of Roman Catholic tyranny, corruption, and heresy. The glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the sufficient Scriptures had been recovered, and it’s been doing its saving work ever since.

Romans 1:16–17 stands at the heart of the Reformation, especially because of how central it was in Luther’s conversion. Luther speaks of how he had hated the phrase, “the righteousness of God,” because he understood it to be speaking only of God’s standard of righteousness by which He would judge unrighteous sinners. But eventually, he says, “I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open.”

Today, as we reflect upon and remember the grace of God that fell upon the world in the Protestant Reformation, I want to reflect upon the Gospel that made it happen—and particularly the concept of righteousness which was so central to the regeneration of the great reformer. And to do that I want to focus on another text that Paul penned, which gives us wonderful insight into the saving righteousness of God. In Philippians 3:9, Paul explains what it means to be found in Christ—namely, “not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (NKJV).

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It was a saying frequently heard in those days. As they would make their way up to the doors of the monastery, history records that those daring to enter the Augustinian ranks chanted the following: “In thy holy name we have clad in the habit of a monk, that he may continue with thy help faithful in thy Church and merit eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

With the hope of accumulating that merit, the monk candidate then stepped foot into a life of austere devotion to Roman Catholic tradition. It would not be easy, but with enough rigor and exertion, the candidate could move himself that much closer to the possibility of heaven.

There was one such man who dared enter the Augustinian ranks at the age of 22. After nearly being struck by lightning, Martin Luther vowed to abandon his secular studies to become a monk. Two weeks later, on July 17, 1505, Luther presented himself at the monastery of Erfurt.

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Recent events suggest that our society is growing increasingly hostile to genuine Christianity. Consequently, more intense forms of persecution may be on the horizon for the American church. In the face of that reality, believers can be encouraged by reflecting on the faithfulness exhibited by previous generations of Christians, and by resting in the promises of God. Hence the re-posting of today’s article…

Fox’s Book of Martyrs is a must read for every Christian. Written by John Fox over 350 years ago, it catalogs the lives of hundreds of believers who, throughout church history, were willing to give their lives for the cause of Christ. When it comes to contagious courage, I can think of no greater testimony than reading about those who embraced their Lord to the point of embracing death.

One such account concerns the lives of Jerome Russell and Alexander Kennedy, two English Protestants who took a daring stand for what they believed. Because of their biblically-sound doctrine, the pair was arrested and imprisoned. Kennedy was only eighteen years old. After some time, the two men were brought before religious officials for questioning. Russell, being older, gave an articulate defense, usI ing the Scriptures to support his belief in salvation through faith alone. Yet, in spite of the evidence, the men’s accusers prevailed and Russell and Kennedy were deemed heretics.

In keeping with the jurisprudence of the times, they were condemned to death—their sentence to be carried out the following day. Early the next morning, Russell and Kennedy were led from their prison cells to the place of execution. They could have denied their Lord, right then and there, and been spared. But when Kennedy, being but a young man, began to display signs of fear, Russell quickly encouraged him to stand firm: Continue Reading…

C_T_StuddFor believers, to live well is to live for Christ, and to die well is to die for His glory. A brief article in the 1857 edition of The Scottish Christian Journal, entitled “Dying Well,” summarized that truth with these words, “Would ye die well? then, through Christ, live well. The right way to die well is to live well.”

Three years later, on December 2, 1860, a man named Charles Thomas Studd was born into a wealthy family in England. Charles was a teenager when his father committed his life to Christ after attending an evangelistic meeting led by D. L. Moody. A short time later, at the age of 16, Charles himself came to saving faith in the Lord Jesus.

He would go on to Cambridge where he became one of the most celebrated cricket players of his day, famous not only in Britain but around the world. When his time at Cambridge ended, Charles realized that he did not want to pursue a career in athletics. As he said it, “I know that cricket would not last, and honour would not last, and nothing in this world would last, but it was worthwhile living for the world to come.”

Armed with an eternal perspective and motivated by a desire to glorify the Lord no matter the cost, Charles Thomas Studd (often referred to by his initials, C. T.) left England to serve as a missionary in China, under the oversight of Hudson Taylor. Explaining his missionary zeal, Studd quipped, “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.” Continue Reading…

I have talked to a few people who don’t understand why many pastors are so angry with Planned Parenthood. There are many companies and doctors that do abortion, so why does so much of the anti-abortion effort get directed at Planned Parenthood? After all, they also do cancer screenings, STD tests, adoption referrals and birth control prescriptions…so what gives?

The video released this week provides a perfect explanation. Planned Parenthood is an organization dedicated to making money of the abortion industry. Our culture is a culture of death, and we have institutionalized the idea that a woman can kill a child as long as that child is inside of her. That is sick, evil, and an affront against the dignity of the image of God.

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But Planned Parenthood goes beyond simply participating in the abortion industry. They not only embody the evil of our country’s Moloch worship, but they refine it. This is why:   Continue Reading…

A few months ago I got to sit next to Congressman John Lewis on a flight from Atlanta back into Washington DC. If you are not familiar with him, Congressman Lewis is civil rights leader, and deserves much of the credit for getting African-Americans the right to vote. In 1963 he led the march across the bridge in Selma, was tear gassed by state troopers, and when he kneeled down to pray had his skull fractured by a police officer’s night-stick.

He is the one who, instead of being taken to the hospital, groped his way over the TV cameras and appealed directly to President Johnson. With his face covered in blood he plead for the President to call off the police, and to grant black Americans the right to vote.

Lewis has been beaten by a police officer on a horse, fire bombed while ridding on a bus, and attacked by a mob for riding a bus with white people. In fact, I recognized him when he sat next to me mostly because the scar from his skull fracture is still visible, even after 50 years.    Continue Reading…

AtonementThroughout church history, there have been various views and theories that conceptualize the nature of Christ’s work on the cross. Because the atonement runs to the very heart of the Gospel, it’s important for us to know how people throughout the history of the church have understood the work of Christ, and to be able to test each by Scripture. Today, I want to briefly survey and evaluate some of the main theories of the atonement.

The Ransom Theory

First, there is what is known as the ransom, or classic, theory of the atonement. Also termed Christus Victor, this theory regards Christ’s atonement as accomplishing a victory over the cosmic forces of sin, death, evil, and Satan. Proponents of the ransom view believe that in the cosmic struggle between good and evil and between God and Satan, Satan had held humanity captive to sin. Therefore, in order to rescue humanity, God had to ransom them from the power of Satan by delivering Jesus over to him as an exchange for the souls held captive. Proponents of the ransom theory often appeal to Jesus’ statement that He came to give His life as a ransom for many (Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45).

Though Christ did give His life as a ransom for many, and though His death did indeed disarm the powers of darkness (Col 2:15), rendering powerless the devil who had the power of death (Heb 2:14), this view of the atonement affords more power to Satan than he actually has. Satan has never been in any position to make demands of God. Instead of this, Scripture makes it clear that Jesus paid the price on behalf of sinners to ransom them from the just punishment of God’s holy wrath (Rom 5:9). In the deepest sense, Jesus saved us from God, not merely the power of sin and Satan.

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Wolf HallMy wife and I have enjoyed watching a new series on PBS Masterpiece called “Wolf Hall“. In this intriguing show history is retold through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, “the enigmatic advisor to King Henry VIII, as he maneuvers the corridors of power in the Tudor court. This six-part series follows the back-room dealings of this accomplished power broker, from humble beginnings, who must survive deadly political intrigue.”

One of the things that I like to do while watching a show like this is to utilize my smartphone to ‘fact check’ the details. For example, did Queen Anne Boleyn truly commit incest or was it a false charge trumped up against her because she failed to produce a male offspring? What were the actual circumstances surrounding her death?  As a Christian, I especially want to know what role genuine believers played during the English Reformation?

For those of you interested in learning more about the heroes of the faith in this era I recommend the following books: Katherine Parr: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Reformation Queen (one of the many wives of Henry) by Brandon Withrow. I also would commend chapter four in Christopher Catherwood’s, Five Leading Reformers: Lives at a Watershed in History.  Finally, I would encourage you to consider reading J. C. Ryle’s classic book, Five English Reformers.

Here is a snippet of some of the helpful details Catherwood provides in his short, but helpful book, on Five Leading Reformers. “The Reformation, when it finally came to England, came not with a Wycliffe or a Tyndale, but through the gentle scholar of quiet determination, Thomas Cranmer.”

What then is the key factor in determining the English Reformation? The answer is surely the top down nature of the English Reformation, a change made initially not on spiritual grounds but on political ones. This is how Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) could be promoted by one King (Henry), lauded by the King’s son (Edward) and martyred by the same King’s elder daughter (Mary).” “We need now to come on to the events which propelled Cranmer to fame- the issues at the heart of the English Reformation.” Continue Reading…