In his book, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, Francis Chan famously asked, “Are we in love with God or just His stuff?” In a society that glorifies the prosperity gospel through shows like this one, it’s probably a fair question to ask.
But it also isn’t a new question that’s relevant to our culture only. About 1500 years ago, another Christian leader, Caesarius, Bishop of Arles, asked the same thing of his congregants. In its volume on the gospel of Mark, the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture quotes him as preaching the following: Continue reading Do You Love the Gift or the Giver?
Roger Williams could be described as a chronological example of Jesus statement that “a prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” For a man who has been credited with such a large contribution to American thought, very little is known about the details of his life. The dates of both his birth and his death are unknown, his sermons have not survived, and he did not receive any great honor during his life or immediately after his death. The legacy that has since been traced back to him, especially in regards to religious liberty and civility, would not have been expected by his contemporaries, especially those with whom he sparred over theological, philosophical, and political issues. The lack of appreciation in his own time was surely at least in part due to his progressive nonconformity (he counted himself among the Anglicans, Puritans, Separatists, and Baptists within the span of a few short years before finally shunning all established churches). However, it was his ability to balance two seemingly conflicting views (the universal and inalienable right of religious liberty and a corresponding need for civic responsibility) that made him unique, both in his own time and beyond, and has earned him honor from both sides of political and theological arguments ever since. Continue reading Liberty & Responsibility: The Life, Theology, and Legacy of Roger Williams
Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction By Bryan M. Litfin, Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2007, 301 pp, $24.99 paperback.
Bryan M. Litfin, professor of theology at Moody Bible Institute, provides a concise and cursory glance at ten pillars of early Christianity in his book Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction. Writing from an evangelical perspective, Litfin targets his work specifically to an evangelical audience “because Catholics have been exposed to the fathers of the church. But evangelical Christians haven’t” (p. 11). This, he believes, is lamentable because “we are inextricably bound to the church fathers. They are our spiritual ancestors, for better or for worse” (p. 14). Too often the only exposure evangelicals have had to these leaders are quotes taken out of context to defend one theological point or another. These excerpts are wielded as weapons, rather than their work being allowed to stand as a whole, and in the process evangelicals have missed out on the rich heritage of the early church fathers.
Thus, rather than focusing on the theology of the fathers, Litfin aims to introduce readers “in a more personal way” to those who make up their “spiritual legacy and heritage in the faith” (p. 16). Litfin defines early church fathers as those who are “ancient, orthodox in doctrine, holy in life, and approved by other Christians” (p. 19). And in keeping with his evangelical perspective, while focusing on the lives and personalities of the church fathers, Litfin also hopes to dispel three prevalent misconceptions that evangelicals have regarding these early leaders: 1) that they were not biblical; 2) that they were Roman Catholics; and 3) that they represent the “fall” of Christianity from the purity of apostolic times (pp. 20-28). Continue reading Book Review: Getting to Know the Church Fathers
Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution—A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First By Alister McGrath, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007, 560 pp, $15.99 paperback.
Nearly 500 years after the initial events took place, the Protestant Reformation continues to be approached from a variety of angles and perspectives. In his book, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution—A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First, Alister McGrath presents a new study, interpreting the movement, its founders, and its currents through its unique doctrine of the priesthood of all believers (i.e., the idea that all individuals have the ability and responsibility to interpret and teach Scripture). He attempts to retell the history of Protestantism, from its origins to the present day, through this lens, while also examining how this past can help anticipate the future. In painting with such broad brushstrokes, it is inevitable that McGrath overlooks or overgeneralizes some aspects of the Reformation and its effects, but the overall result is a refreshing glance at a frequently and copiously addressed topic and a warning to Protestants about unintended effects of one of the doctrines they hold most dear. Continue reading Book Review: Christianity’s Dangerous Idea