Church History

Review of ‘An Introduction to John Owen’ by Crawford Gribben

Review of An Introduction to John Owen: A Christian Vision for Every Stage of Life by Crawford Gribben, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020, 190 pages, pbk.

Crawford Gribben is a professor at Queen’s University in Belfast and is well known as a scholar of Puritanism, specializing on eschatology. He has written a previous book on John Owen which has garnered him much praise.

This work represents a modest exploration of the life and thought of the Puritan giant John Owen, and comes at the subject from a different angle than most of the biographies and studies of Owen I had encountered before. It is definitely a book by a historian, not a theologian (Sinclair Ferguson’s John Owen on the Christian Life is a good example of the latter). Gribben employs the device of the stages of life to understand Owen, and he is well-suited to the purpose. In particular, Owen’s experiences during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell and then in the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy provide a good lens through which to view him and his writings.

The book consists of a chapter long Introduction followed by four chapters and the Conclusion. The main chapters deal with “Childhood,” Youth,” “Middle Age,” and “Death and Eternal Life,” as seen from Owen’s perspective. These phases of life are approached via Owen’s own thoughts, intermixed with facts about Owen’s life situations and temperament. All this is preceded by a full timeline.

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Is Anglicanism a distinctive middle way or via media between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism?

"the conception of the Church of England as a half-way house between Rome and John Calvin’s Geneva (or Martin Luther’s Wittenberg) would have been incomprehensible to the English Reformers of the sixteenth century." - Ref21

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Why Did John Calvin Write the “Institutes of Christian Religion”?

"Calvin wrote his work to train readers in godliness, not to define Christianity as one religion by articulating a set of ethical and theological beliefs. For this reason, titling the book, Institution of Christian Religion conveys better the idea of Christian worship or godliness that Calvin intended to communicate through the title." - Wyatt Graham

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The Reformation at 500: The Papal Bull (Part 2)

Read Part 1.

“Since God has given us the papacy,” Pope Leo X stated dramatically, “let us enjoy it.”

There was one man standing in the way of such enjoyment, however. Leo had little regard for the priest in Wittenberg, Dr. Martin Luther, who he referred to as “a drunken German.”

“He will feel different when he is sober,” concluded the pope.

His ability to underestimate Luther could not have been more profound.

The movement that would become the Reformation had advanced greatly in 1518 and 1519. Luther’s encounters with church officials at the Heidelberg Disputation (in May of 1518), at the meeting at Augsburg (with Cardinal Cajetan in October of 1518) and at the Leipzig Debate (where he contended with Johann Eck in July of 1519) had forced him to evaluate the true source of authority. Ultimately, he would conclude that it had to be Scripture alone—Sola Scriptura, a term that would later be used to characterize the formal principle of the Reformation. His clash with the Holy Mother Church was quickly coming to a head.

But, in the providence of God, a web of complications kept the church, or even the Holy Roman Empire, from dealing as quickly or as forcefully with Luther as some thought necessary.

For one thing, the empire was without an emperor from the death of Maximilian I on Jan. 12, 1519, until the election of his grandson, Charles V, who began to reign on June 28, 1519.

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A Conversation with Dr. Mark Noll on the history of evangelicalism

"I am joined by Dr. Mark Noll, research professor at Regent College... author of Evangelicals: Who they Have Been, Are Now, and Could Be (with George Marsden and David Bebbington, Eerdmans, 2019), .... [topics:] how to define an evangelical, the history of evangelicalism, both in the United States and abroad, and how evangelicals are responding to the current moment." - Russell Moore

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Review: If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis

A review of If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis: Explaining the Ideas of C. S. Lewis on the Meaning of Life,* by Alister McGrath, Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2014, 241 pages, hdbk.

C. S. Lewis is an endlessly fascinating person. He was an Oxford Don with few equals as an intellectual. Anyone who is familiar with the three volumes of Letters is well aware that they are reading the correspondence of a man who had read (and often reread) just about every great work of literature in the Western canon. Lewis was a Medievalist, thoroughly at home in Thomas Aquinas, Dante and Boccaccio (in their originals), with Beowulf and the Nordic mythology, and with Edmund Spenser, Milton, and a whole roster of other poets and mystics and playwrights.

But Lewis not only knew the greats of the 10th to the 16th centuries, he was also immersed in Plato and Aristotle, the Tragedies, Virgil and Ovid, and Neo-Platonists, again, all in the original Greek and Latin. His Letters especially brim with references and allusions to these works as well as a host of British, French and German classics. He was, by any measure, a brilliant scholar.

But to say this about Lewis is not to get at the whole man. For C. S. Lewis was a man of down-to-earth uncommon sense. His faculties were aware of the limitations of the five senses and the realities of life and truth that dwelt beyond. He, like G. K. Chesterton, saw the miraculous everywhere.

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The Reformation at 500: The Papal Bull (Part 1)

In September of 2017, my wife Lynnette and I were privileged to visit the land of Germany and tour the sites of the Reformation in celebration of its 500th anniversary.

The trip was memorable—even life-changing—for a number of reasons.

First of all, the trip was given to us by our friends at Grace Bible Church, in Portage, Wis., where I had served as interim pastor for nearly two years. Suffice it to say that we will never forget all that that congregation did for us.

Secondly, the trip took place less than three months after my wife had brain surgery to remove a pituitary tumor. That period, in the late spring, summer and fall of 2017, was one that I would never want to redo—and yet I cannot imagine my life without it. It led directly into our determination to seek to serve in my position with The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.

Thirdly, this was our first experience with international travel. That, in itself, was extremely significant for us.

Finally, this trip took my interest in, and passion for, the Reformation, to an entirely different level. Although I have been fascinated with the Reformation all of my life (being raised a confessional Lutheran) and have preached on it for nearly 30 years, this trip opened my eyes to so many new realities, and brought it all to living color in my mind.

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