Category : Church History

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Margaret of Scotland

O God, who didst call thy servant Margaret to an earthly throne that she might advance thy heavenly kingdom, and didst give her zeal for thy church and love for thy people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate her this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of thy saints; though Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in --Scotland, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Herman of Alaska

Holy God, we bless thy Name for Herman, joyful north star of Christ’s Church, who came from Russia to bring the Good News of Christ’s love to thy native people in Alaska, to defend them from oppressors and to proclaim the Gospel of peace; and we pray that we may follow his example in proclaiming the Gospel; through the same Jesus Christ, who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, throughout all ages. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Samuel Seabury

Eternal God, who didst bless thy servant Samuel Seabury with the gift of perseverance to renew the Anglican inheritance in North America; Grant that, joined together in unity with our bishops and nourished by thy holy Sacraments, we may proclaim the Gospel of redemption with apostolic zeal; through Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), Spirituality/Prayer, TEC Bishops

Samuel Seabury’s First years of Ministry for his Feast Day

Christmas day in 1753 fell on the Tuesday which was but two days after the ordination to the Priesthood just mentioned. The newly ordained priest on the morning of that day, was sent with a note of introduction from the Chaplain of the Bishop of London to the Incumbent of one of the Churches in that city, apparently with the view of assigning to him some duty for the day. The Incumbent gave him but a surly reception, sternly demanding upon his entrance to the vestry-room, who he was, and what he wanted; in silent reply to which demands he presented his note; the comment upon which was, “Hah! Well, if the Bishop has sent you, I suppose I must take you. Give him a surplice, and show him into the desk” (to the Sexton), “and do you, Sir, find your places, and wait there till I come.” A younger clergyman, of more amiable appearance, meanwhile seemed much amused at this splenetic reception. Coming back into the Vestry after the service, the Doctor turning fiercely upon the neophyte, exclaimed, “What is the reason, Sir, that you did not read the Litany?” “Because, Sir, it is not a Litany day.” “And don’t you know that if the Ordinary chooses to have it read on Festival days, it is your duty to read it?” “That may be, Sir, but it is the Ordinary’s business to let me know that.” The old man’s face was black with passion, but before he had time to explode, the younger clergyman came to the rescue, saying: “Doctor, you won’t get much out of this young man; you had better turn him over to me, for I see you don’t want him: come, Mr. Seabury, will you go with me to–Church and preach for me!” “I never preached a sermon in my life.” “Well, of all things I should like to hear a virgin preacher! ” So the young men took themselves off, and after dinner the virgin sermon was preached; though concerning its subject, and the place where it was broached, tradition is silent: as it also is in respect to any further official acts of the preacher during the remainder of his stay in England.

In the year following, 1754, having received his appointment as a missionary of the Society for Propagating the Gospel, he set sail for his native land, and soon after began the regular exercise of his ministry at New Brunswick, in the Province of New Jersey. One of his relatives, writing about this time to another, observed: “Mr. Samuel Seabury has returned to America again; an excellent physician, a learned divine, an accomplished gentleman and a pious Christian;” a record which indicates the reputation which he had in the small circle within which he was then known, and which it was anticipated that his future life would verify.

Not much is known in regard to his work during the short time of his charge at New Brunswick, but the period is interesting, both on account of the evidence of his doctrinal principles afforded by his sermons, and also on account of the evidence of the extension of his influence and reputation in a somewhat wider sphere, afforded by contemporaneous events with which he was associated.

Among his manuscripts are several of the sermons which he preached at New Brunswick….

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Ministry of the Ordained, TEC Bishops

(Churchman) Paul Carr: Are the Priorities and Concerns of Charles Simeon Relevant for Today?

There is a strong argument for reforming the Church from within rather than through schism and we have a practicable model for pastoral care and social action. In closing, permit me to highlight three areas of Simeon’s ministry which have greatly challenged me in my reflections and which, if we were to follow them, would have the potential to rejuvenate our ministry.

1 Giving priority to an effective devotional lifestyle, with a commitment to spending ‘quality’ time in Bible study and prayer.

2 A commitment to living a holy life, recognizing the need of the renewing and cleansing power of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.

3 That, along with Simeon, our understanding of the purpose of our preaching would be: ‘Sir, we would see Jesus’ (John 12:21).

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics

(Churchman) J I Packer–Expository Preaching: Charles Simeon and ourselves

Simeon himself is our example here. The feature of his preaching which most constantly impressed his hearers was the fact that he was, as they said, “in earnest”; and that reflected his own overwhelming sense of sin, and of the wonder of the grace that had saved him; and that in turn bore witness to the closeness of his daily fellowship and walk with his God. As he gave time to sermon preparation, so he gave time to seeking God’s face.

“The quality of his preaching,” writes the Bishop of Bradford, “was but a reflection of the quality of the man himself. And there can be little doubt that the man himself was largely made in the early morning hours which he devoted to private prayer and the devotional study of the Scriptures. It was his custom to rise at 4 a.m., light his own fire, and then devote the first four hours of the day to communion with God. Such costly self-discipline made the preacher. That was primary. The making of the sermon was secondary and derivative.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics

John Piper on Charles Simeon: We Must Not Mind a Little Suffering

He grew downward in humiliation before God, and he grew upward in his adoration of Christ.

Handley Moule captures the essence of Simeon’s secret of longevity in this sentence: “‘Before honor is humility,’ and he had been ‘growing downwards’ year by year under the stern discipline of difficulty met in the right way, the way of close and adoring communion with God” (Moule, 64). Those two things were the heartbeat of Simeon’s inner life: growing downward in humility and growing upward in adoring communion with God.

But the remarkable thing about humiliation and adoration in the heart of Charles Simeon is that they were inseparable. Simeon was utterly unlike most of us today who think that we should get rid once and for all of feelings of vileness and unworthiness as soon as we can. For him, adoration only grew in the freshly plowed soil of humiliation for sin. So he actually labored to know his true sinfulness and his remaining corruption as a Christian.

I have continually had such a sense of my sinfulness as would sink me into utter despair, if I had not an assured view of the sufficiency and willingness of Christ to save me to the uttermost. And at the same time I had such a sense of my acceptance through Christ as would overset my little bark, if I had not ballast at the bottom sufficient to sink a vessel of no ordinary size. (Moule 134f.)

He never lost sight of the need for the heavy ballast of his own humiliation. After he had been a Christian forty years he wrote,

With this sweet hope of ultimate acceptance with God, I have always enjoyed much cheerfulness before men; but I have at the same time laboured incessantly to cultivate the deepest humiliation before God. I have never thought that the circumstance of God’s having forgiven me was any reason why I should forgive myself; on the contrary, I have always judged it better to loathe myself the more, in proportion as I was assured that God was pacified towards me (Ezekiel 16:63). . . . There are but two objects that I have ever desired for these forty years to behold; the one is my own vileness; and the other is, the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ: and I have always thought that they should be viewed together; just as Aaron confessed all the sins of all Israel whilst he put them on the head of the scapegoat. The disease did not keep him from applying to the remedy, nor did the remedy keep him from feeling the disease. By this I seek to be, not only humbled and thankful, but humbled in thankfulness, before my God and Saviour continually. (Carus, 518f.)

Please do read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

(Churchman) Arthur Bennett–Charles Simeon: Prince of Evangelicals

Simeon’s firm allegiance to the Anglican Church was as much a matter of spiritual duty as of love. In view of the cynical treatment he received from churchmen and university alike he may well have left it for Independency or Presbyterianism. But a godly imperative kept him in its fold. He was wedded to its doctrines set forth in the Thirty-nine Articles and Homilies, and expressed in its Prayer Book. In his opinion the Protestant Reformed Church of England was the truest and finest manifestation of the Christian Faith emanating from scripture and had everything in it to meet his spiritual needs. He was sad to see others departing from it into Dissent and sought, by forming parish Societies, to prevent his own people following them. As to the clergy, Stephen Neill makes the point that the actions of evangelical clergy in the eighteenth century could have led to separation from the Church, but:

The influence of Charles Simeon swung the movement the other way, and all the evangelicals of the first half of the nineteenth century were convinced and devoted churchmen. G.M. Trevelyan’s powerful statement that owing to Simeon the drift of evangelical clergy into
Dissent was arrested is incontrovertible.

Without him, he went on, ‘the Church of England might perhaps have fallen when the tempest of Reform blew high in the thirties’. The respect that evangelicals obtained within the Established Church was, in James Downey’s view, ‘largely accomplished through the teaching and influence of Charles Simeon who finally won a general respect for evangelical preaching’ by his structured presentation of Christian truth and note of authority, and that in a church that rejected Whitefield’s and Wesley’s effusive style. Credit must also be given to the ordinands who attended his sermon classes and used his homiletic methods in their churches.

But Simeon did not discount nonconformity. His sentiments were warm to those ministers who shared his spiritual views, even to supporting financially Joseph Stittle, a layman, who shepherded some extreme Calvinists who forsook Simeon’s ministry. By joining with Free Churchmen in creating Missionary and Home Societies he formed a bridge between Anglicanism and nonconformity, avers Trevelyan. Of Methodism, which hardly touched Cambridge, he had little contact, and met John Wesley but twice, though he visited Fletcher of Madeley and received a warm reception. Wesley’s Arminianism and doctrine of perfection were hardly likely to attract the sin-conscious Simeon. Presbyterianism was more to his liking. He made close friends of Scottish ministers, and preached and communicated in their churches. Towards Roman Catholicism he was extremely severe and held the traditional view that its system was not of God. He showed acid disfavour to the Catholic emancipation movement, even refusing to vote for Charles Grant’s son, a candidate for Parliament, who favoured it. ‘Gladly would I give to the Catholics every privilege that would conduce to their happiness. But to endanger the Protestant ascendency and stability is a sacrifice which I am not prepared to make,’ he said.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

Another Prayer for the Feast Day of Charles Simeon, this one from the Church of England

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

John Stott gives an introduction to the life and work of Charles Simeon

John Stott on Charles Simeon at Taylor University from Randall Gruendyke on Vimeo.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

Charles Simeon as described by (Bishop of Calcutta) Daniel Wilson

He stood for many years alone, he was long opposed, ridiculed, shunned, his doctrines were misrepresented, his little peculiarities of voice and manner were satirized, disturbances were frequently raised in his church or he was a person not taken into account, nor considered in the light of a regular clergyman in the church.

–as quoted in William Carus, Memoirs of the Life of the Rev. Charles Simeon (New York: Robert Carter, 1848), p.39

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology

A Thanksgiving Prayer of Charles Simeon to Begin the Day

From there:

Blessed Lord, the only living and true God,
the Creator and Preserver of all things,
We live by you;
and our whole dependence is upon you,
for all the good that we either have or hope for.
We now desire to bless your name for those mercies,
which in so large a measure
you have generously given us.

Worthy are you, O Lord our God,
to receive all honor and glory,
all thanks and praise,
and love and obedience,
as in the courts of heaven,
so in all the assemblies of your servants upon earth;
for you are great, and you do wondrous things;
you are God alone.

You have looked favorably on your land,
and you have dealt graciously with us.
Instead of giving us over to all the calamities that we feared,
you have multiplied your mercies towards us,
for which we are now called to solemnize a day of thanksgiving.

How sweet and wonderful is it
to recount all the instances of your patience with us, and your blessings to us!

O what shall we render to the Lord for all his benefits!
O let not our hearts be stingy towards you,
whose hand has been so open and generous unto us.
But do enlarge these hearts of ours,
and fill them with more love and thankfulness to the gracious Giver of all our good things.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Charles Simeon

O loving God, who orderest all things by thine unerring wisdom and unbounded love: Grant us in all things to see thy hand; that, following the example and teaching of thy servant Charles Simeon, we may walk with Christ in all simplicity, and serve thee with a quiet and contented mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Martin of Tours

Lord God of hosts, who didst clothe thy servant Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice, and didst set him as a bishop in thy Church to be a defender of the catholic faith: Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, France, Spirituality/Prayer

(WSJ) Elisabeth Braw–The Stasi Spies in Seminary

East Germany’s Communist government opened the Berlin Wall and thus the country 30 years ago Saturday. Geopolitics and economics drove this outcome, but East Germany’s religious communities played a complicated, significant and far too often overlooked role.

The Stasi, East Germany’s secret police agency, understood that the country’s congregations presented a major threat to the existing order. Lutherans were East Germany’s largest denomination, and many actively opposed the regime. Undermining them became a thorny task for a ruling class that disdained the brutality of the Soviet Union and its other satellites.

By 1954 the Stasi had built a Soviet-inspired agency to monitor churches, later named Department XX/4. It gradually perfected the art of subversion. The group’s officers came from the proletariat, as most top officials did. The Stasi recruited farmhands and factory workers and sent them to the Potsdam College of Jurisprudence, its officer training school.

To weaken faith communities, the department cultivated believers, including pastors, as spies….

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Germany, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Ammon of Egypt

Drive far from thy church, O God, the spirit of clerical ambition, that all whom thou dost call to lead thy people might do so in the order to which they have been truly called. Grant that like thy servant Ammonius we may refuse to conflate ordination and leadership and may never confuse rank with holiness. In the name of thy son Jesus Christ our Lord, who alone is our great High Priest. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Willibrord

O Lord our God, who dost call whom thou willest and send them whither thou choosest: We thank thee for sending thy servant Willibrord to be an apostle to the Low Countries, to turn them from the worship of idols to serve thee, the living God; and we entreat thee to preserve us from the temptation to exchange the perfect freedom of thy service for servitude to false gods and to idols of our own devising; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

(OUP Blog) Heretics to demigods: evangelicals and the American founders

As political conservatism became more secular and more wedded to classical liberal principles at the close of the nineteenth century, evangelicals left behind some of these theological scruples and lent their voices to laudatory hymns to the Founders. Their approach to the Founders became less nuanced and indistinguishable from the generic civil religion espoused by political conservatives by the mid-twentieth century.

This historical backdrop helps illuminate the bizarre spectacle of best-selling evangelical author David Barton recently maintaining that Jefferson was a bona fide evangelical. In short, two developments (among other factors) help explain the evangelical change of heart regarding Founders like Jefferson and Paine. First, evangelicals came to embrace uncritically the minimalist, laissez-faire model of the state championed by many Founders. Second, theological commitments became less important to conservative Protestants as pragmatic concerns about securing and protecting their political influence prevailed.

Uncritical nationalism and partisanship have long been temptations for Christians of every sort. Still, reflecting on their past critical engagement with the Founders can bring greater clarity to how evangelicals envisage their role in the public square today and their distinctive contribution to the larger American experiment.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Evangelicals, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(CT) The New ‘Harriet’ Biopic Is Faithful to Tubman’s Faith

Harriet Tubman is one of America’s most iconic figures, as evidenced by the proposed (and still delayed) Harriet Tubman 20-dollar bill and the new biopic Harriet, produced by Focus Features.

After she escaped slavery in 1849, Tubman worked as the only female conductor on the Underground Railroad, assisting escapees along a short route through free states. She was one of the few who at great risk entered slave-holding states to extract slaves and lead them north to freedom. Nicknamed “Moses” by abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, very few knew Harriet’s real identity; most assumed a man was making these voyages. Tubman also served in the US army as a nurse, advisor, scout, and spy. Her greatest feat in the service was leading the charge that freed over 750 slaves in the Combahee River Raid in South Carolina.

The film, which covers her life from 1849 to 1864, releases nationwide this weekend. Jenny McGill spoke recently with Kate Clifford Larson, author of Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero, about the historical accuracy of the film, Tubman’s deep Christian faith, and the African American spirituals that were key to her rescue missions.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Movies & Television, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

William Temple on Worship for His Feast Day

Both for perplexity and for dulled conscience the remedy is the same; sincere and spiritual worship. For worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of the mind with His truth; the purifying of the imagination of His beauty; the opening of the heart to His love, the surrender of the will to his purpose and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin. Yes, worship in spirit and truth is the way to the solution of perplexity and to the liberation from sin.

–William Temple Readings in St. John’s Gospel (Wilton, Connecticut: Morehouse Barlow, 1985 reprint of the 1939 and 1940 original), p. 67

Posted in Church History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of William Temple

O God of light and love, who illumined thy Church through the witness of thy servant William Temple: Inspire us, we pray, by his teaching and example, that we may rejoice with courage, confidence and faith in the Word made flesh, and may be led to establish that city which has justice for its foundation and love for its law; through Jesus Christ, the light of the world, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

(Eleanor Parker) An Anglo-Saxon Sermon for All Saints’ Day

God’s saints are angels and human beings. Angels are spirits without body; the Almighty Ruler created them in great beauty, for his own praise and to the honour and glory of his majesty in eternity… Now this day is worthily consecrated to these angels, and also to the holy people who through great virtues have flourished for God from the beginning of the world. First of these were the patriarchs, righteous and glorious men in their lives, the fathers of the prophets, whose memory shall not be forgotten, and their names shall last for ever, because they were pleasing to God through faith, and righteousness, and obedience. These were followed by the chosen company of prophets: they spoke with God, and to them he made known his secrets, and enlightened them with the grace of the Holy Ghost, so that they knew the things to come and proclaimed them in prophetic song. Truly the chosen prophets by many signs and tokens shone forth in their lives. They healed the sick, and the bodies of the dead they raised to life…

After the company of the apostles we honour the steadfast band of God’s martyrs, who through various torments bravely imitated the passion of Christ, and through martyrdom passed to the kingdom on high. Some of them were slain with weapons, some burned by fire, others beaten with whips, others pierced with stakes, some slain on a cross, some sunk in the wide sea, others flayed alive, others torn with iron claws, some overwhelmed with stones, some afflicted by the winter’s cold, some slain by hunger, some with hands and feet cut off, as a spectacle to people, for their faith and the holy name of Jesus Christ. These are the victorious friends of God, who scorned the commands of wicked rulers, and are now crowned with glory by the triumph of their sufferings in eternal joy. They could be killed in body, but they could not by any torments be turned away from God. Their hope was filled with immortality, though before men they were tormented. They were afflicted for a short time, and comforted for a long time; because God tested them as gold in a furnace, and he found them worthy of him, and as holy offerings received them into his heavenly kingdom.

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Posted in Church History, Ecclesiology, Preaching / Homiletics

Happy Reformation Day to all Blog Readers

Posted in Church History

Ole Hallesby on the Painstaking and Rewarding Work of Prayer

“The work of the Spirit can be compared to mining. The Spirit’s work is to blast to pieces the sinner’s hardness of heart and his frivolous opposition to God. The period of the awakening can be likened to the time when the blasts are fired. The time between the awakenings corresponds, on the other hand, to the time when the deep holes are being bored with great effort into the hard rock.

To bore these holes is hard and difficult and a task which tries one’s patience. To light the fuse and fire the shot is not only easy but also very interesting work. One sees “results” from such work. It creates interest, too; shots resound, and pieces fly in every direction! It takes trained workmen to do the boring. Anybody can light a fuse.

…the Spirit calls us to do the quiet, difficult, trying work of boring holy explosive materials into the souls of people by daily and unceasing prayer. This is the real preparatory work for the next awakening. The reason why such a long period of time elapses between awakenings is simply that the Spirit cannot find believers who are willing to do the heavy part of the mining work. Everybody desires awakenings; but we prefer to let other do the boring into the hard rock.”

–Ole Hallesby, Prayer (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortess, 1994 printing of the 1931 original), [Book Three] pp.77-78

Posted in Books, Church History, Norway, Spirituality/Prayer

(NPR) With Plans To Pay Slavery Reparations, Two Seminaries Prompt A Broader Debate

Among elite U.S. universities, Harvard, Yale, Brown, and Georgetown have all admitted in recent years that at one time they benefited financially from the slave trade. But two Protestant seminaries have now gone a step further, saying that in recognition of their own connections to racism they have a Christian duty to pay reparations.

Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Va., the flagship institution of the U.S. Episcopal Church, announced in September that it has set aside $1.7 million for a reparations fund, given that enslaved persons once worked on its campus and that the school participated in racial segregation even after slavery ended.

Earlier this month, Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J., followed suit with an announcement of a $27 million endowed fund for reparations, from which $1.1 million would be dispersed annually.

“As a theology school, we use the language of confession to acknowledge our complicity with slavery,” says M. Craig Barnes, the Princeton seminary president. In its announcement, the seminary said a historical audit, while showing that the school never itself owned slaves, nonetheless made clear that it “benefited from the slave economy, both through investments in Southern banks … and from donors who profited from slavery.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Stewardship

A Prayer for the Feast Day of John Wyclif

O God, whose justice continually challenges thy Church to live according to its calling: Grant us who now remember the work of John Wyclif contrition for the wounds which our sins inflict on thy Church, and such love for Christ that we may seek to heal the divisions which afflict his Body; through the same Jesus Christ, who livest and reignest with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

Still More from Ole Kristian Hallesby on Prayer

‘If prayer is, as we have seen, the central function of the new life of faith, the very heart-beat of our life in God, it is obvious that our prayer life must become the target against which Satan directs his best and most numerous darts’

–Ole Hallesby Prayer (Augsburg, 1931), Book Four

Posted in Books, Church History, Norway, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of James Hannington and the Martyrs of Uganda

Precious in thy sight, O Lord, is the death of thy saints, whose faithful witness, by thy providence, hath its great reward: We give thee thanks for thy martyrs James Hannington and his companions, who purchased with their blood a road unto Uganda for the proclamation of the Gospel; and we pray that with them we also may obtain the crown of righteousness which is laid up for all who love the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Church of Uganda, Spirituality/Prayer

Ole Kristian Hallesby–The heart of Prayer is Owned Helplessness

Prayer is an attitude of our hearts, an attitude of mind. Prayer is a definite attitude of our hearts toward God, an attitude which He in heaven immediately recognizes as prayer, as an appeal to His heart. Whether it takes the form of words or not, does not mean anything to God, only to ourselves.

What is this spiritual condition? What is that attitude of heart which God recognizes as prayer? I would mention two things.

1. In the first place, helplessness.

This is unquestionably the first and the surest indication of a praying heart. As far as I can see, prayer has been ordained only for the helpless. It is the last resort of the helpless. Indeed, the very last way out. We try everything before we finally resort to prayer. This is not only true of us before our conversion. Prayer is our last resort also throughout our whole Christian life. I know very well that we offer many and beautiful prayers, both privately and publicly, without helplessness as the impelling power. But I am not at all positive that this is prayer.

Prayer and helplessness are inseparable. Only he who is helpless can truly pray.

Listen to this, you who are often so helpless that you do not know what to do. At times you do not even know how to pray. Your mind seems full of sin and impurity. Your mind is preoccupied with what the Bible calls the world. God and eternal and holy things seem so distant and foreign to you that you feel that you add sin to sin by desiring to approach God in such a state of mind.

Now and then you must ask yourself the question, “Do I really desire to be set free from the luke-warmness of my heart and my worldly life? Is not my Christian life always lukewarm and half-hearted for the simple reason that deep down in my heart I desire it that way?”

Thus an honest soul struggles against the dishonesty of his own being. He feels himself so helplessly lost that his prayers freeze on his very lips.

Listen, my friend! Your helplessness is your best prayer. It calls from your heart to the heart of God with greater effect than all your uttered pleas. He hears it from the very moment that you are seized with helplessness, and He becomes actively engaged at once in hearing and answering the prayer of your helplessness. He hears today as He heard the helpless and wordless prayer of the man sick with the palsy.

–Ole Hallesby Prayer (Augsburg, 1931), Book One, read by yours truly in preparation for last weekend’s Saint Philip’s parish retreat on prayer

Posted in Books, Church History, Norway, Spirituality/Prayer

(CT) The Gospels Are Fact Not Folklore: An Interview with Craig Keener about his new book

If the gospels are comparable to other biographies in the Greco-Roman world of the first century, what does that tell us about their reliability as historical sources?

If we apply these genre expectations to the Gospels, we should affirm that, at least on average, most accounts in the Gospels reflect actual events in the life of Jesus. Now, those of us with theological commitments to the text may believe more than that, and those with ideological commitments against the text may affirm less than that, but at least this approach can get us all into the same historiographic ballpark. Most events and themes in the Gospels reflect relatively recent memory of Jesus. Thus the figure that we meet in the Gospels, despite different emphases from one Gospel to another, is the figure of Jesus.

How do we know that the gospels don’t fall into the category of mythology or a related fictional genre?

Novels and collections of mythography did not deal with real persons of the past generation or two. Most ancient novels are purely fictitious romances; the minority of novels that use historical characters are set in the distant past. Moreover, they do not cleave closely to their sources the way Matthew and Luke obviously do. Since the dependence of Matthew and Luke on prior sources shows that they clearly are interested in prior information, and since they use Mark with such confidence as a reliable source—Matthew tweaks Mark, but includes more than 90 percent of the events he reports—and since they wrote fairly soon after Mark, and were in a far better position to evaluate Mark’s reliability than are modern scholars, it seems clear that they are writing information-based works, quite different from ancient novels.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, History, Theology: Scripture