Archives For History


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…

Seven years ago, a group of fifteen Southern Baptist evangelists met together to bemoan the growth of Calvinism within SBC circles.

When asked about his concerns, Jerry Drace (the evangelist who initiated the meeting) explained that some Baptist pastors are so Calvinistic “that they almost laugh at evangelism. It’s almost to the extent that they believe they don’t have to do it. So [Calvinism] gives them an excuse not to do evangelism.”

Drace’s comments raise an important question. Does an affirmation of God’s sovereign election in salvation (commonly called “Calvinism”) discourage people from faithfulness in evangelism?Calvin and Company

An answer to that question could be approached from several different angles.

One could, for example, consider evangelistic efforts among Baptists — comparing those who embrace the doctrine of election with those who do not. An SBC study “found that Calvinistic recent graduates report that they conduct personal evangelism at a slightly higher rate than their non-Calvinistic peers.”

A better place to go, of course, would be the Word of God. There are many passages to which we could turn (from John 6 to Acts 13 to Ephesians 1); but I would start in Romans 9–10. Pardon the anachronism, but it is no accident that one of the most “Calvinistic” chapters in the Bible (Romans 9) is partnered with the one of the most “evangelistic” (Romans 10). Clearly, the apostle Paul saw no disconnect between the reality of God’s sovereignty in salvation and his own evangelistic zeal. Continue Reading…

It seems like everyone and their dog is hearing “the voice of God” these days.

“Hearing the voice of God” used to be the mark of a prophet of God, but over the last century or so, it’s slowly become the mark of a “mature believer.”   These days, “conservative” folk (like Beth Moore or Francis Chan) regularly suggest that God speaks to them…not in audible voices, but definitely in some sort of propositional statements (ultimately the audible/inaudible distinction is meaningless).   The issue of “hearing the voice of God” is probably the most significant infiltration of bad Charismatic theology into non-Charismatic circles.  It’s a train hauling insanity and heresy that is steaming through Evangelicalism and it seems like there’s no stopping it.

Part of the danger of “God told me” train is that it’s seemingly immune to both Scripture and logic.  As illustration of that, I recently was doing some historical research into the foundation of Assemblies of God.  In 1906-1915, the “God told me” train was chugging like mad all over North America.  It was quite revealing to see how quickly the “God told me” train derailed when everyone and their dog was getting divine revelations.


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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.

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