Church History

Review - Martin Luther: A Spiritual Biography

Quite rightly, in view of the historical and spiritual importance of the Reformation, there have been a spate of books about Martin Luther; this year, and indeed last week, being the five hundredth anniversary of the event that sparked the movement into flame — the nailing of Luther’s 95 theses onto the church door at Wittenberg on October 31st, 1517.

The author of the present book, Herman Selderhuis, has distinguished himself with his work on John Calvin, including a study of Calvin’s Theology of the Psalms and The Calvin Handbook. He has also written a similar biography to this on John Calvin.

The first thing I want to say about this biography of Luther is that it is very well written. Selderhuis has a plain, pithy and subtly tongue-in-cheek style that really makes the material flow. The second thing I would say is that this is not biography lurching into hagiography. The book presents the Reformer as a very flawed but endlessly fascinating individual. Luther was, for example, proud (179) and stubborn (181).

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Using the London Baptist Confession of 1646 in the Local Church

Reformed Baptists are drawn to the London Baptist Confession of 1689 (originally issued in 1677) because it so closely mirrored the popular Presbyterian Westminster Confession of Faith. But the first two London Baptist confessions of 1644/1646 offer a window into history and a resource for Baptists today that is slightly different in its emphases. The London Baptist Confession of 1646 is Reformed and Baptist in its theology while emphasizing the newness of the New Covenant era that began with Christ. This article explores some of the benefits and challenges of using the London Baptist Confession of 1646 in the local church today.

Appealing Qualities

There are three appealing qualities of this Confession that are worthy of highlighting.

The Confession was originally drawn up and signed by seven churches in London in 1646. This was a “corrected and enlarged” edition of the first confession, published in 1644. The title of the original Confession of 1646 was: “A Confession of Faith of Seven Congregations or Churches of Christ in London, Which are commonly (But Unjustly) Called Anabaptists.” A copy of the original Confession of 1646 is widely available on the internet. An edition printed by Matthew Simmons and John Hancock in Popes-head Alley, London, 1646 is available online from The Angus Library and Archive at Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford.

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Review - The Church of the Fundamentalists

Larry Oats prefaces his new book, The Church of the Fundamentalists, by noting “While much has been written on the histories of the fundamentalist and evangelical movement, the theological basis of that division has frequently been overlooked. The purpose of this book is to examine how the ecclesiologies of mid-twentieth century fundamentalists and evangelicals affected their views of ecclesiastical separation and how those views led individuals to establish, abandon, or modify their views of ecclesiastical separation.” In other words, the controversies swirling around the fundamentalist issue center on the question, “What is the church supposed to be?”

The book contains four chapters with an introduction and conclusion in its 176 pages. The first chapter surveys “Varieties of Ecclesiologies,” really a survey of the “primary historical views of the nature of the church.” (25) This background is necessary in order to understand the theology driving the fundamentalist-vs.-evangelical answers to this central question.

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A. J. Gordon’s Opinion of Spurgeon & His Ministry

(Image: Archive.org)

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com.

A. J. Gordon (1836-1895) was one of the pre-eminent Baptist pastors in America in his day, zealous for evangelism and missions, and a prolific author of pre-millennial sentiments. His analysis of his great English contemporary, Charles H. Spurgeon, is noteworthy.

“To have the ear of the people is a great thing, and much to be coveted by the minister of the gospel, if only it be certain that God has the minister’s ear. If it be not so, and the preacher has thousands hanging on his lips, who himself does not hang on God’s lips with the daily cry, ‘Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth,’ it may be a calamity. In other words, popularity without piety—the magnetism which draws the people, without the communion which draws daily supplies of truth and inspiration from God—is not to be envied.

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The Christian and Church History

From Faith Pulpit, Summer 2015. Used by permission, all rights reserved.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

As I study church history, 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17 is a comforting passage. When one studies the discipline of church history, many unsettling episodes present themselves. We often wonder how people could make the decisions they did, and even more, how they justified those decisions with the authorities they used.

We as Bible-believers have the benefit of going back to the divine source—the Word of God—as our authority. Whether we realize it or not, we are affected in the way we think by the events of the past. And it is true that no person or group can be completely isolated and not use their own personal understandings to interpret the Bible. Further, try as we might, we often struggle to understand the context of the Old Testament and even first-century Christianity.

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