C.S. Lewis, John Calvin and Christian Joy

C.S. Lewis, John Calvin and Christian Joy

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

We’ve been dipping into CS Lewis’s wonderful work, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (excluding drama) and have discovered some fascinating insights on the Protestant believers of the 16th Century and the Puritans that followed them in the 17th.

Lewis was never one to hold back his opinion and therefore readers of a variety of theological persuasion will find his views both illuminating and challenging. He has argued that our view of the early Protestant believers and our understanding of the Puritans needs some revision if we’re to understand what really drove their thinking forward:

C.S. Lewis on Protestant Joy: Too glad to be true!
‘It follows that nearly every association which now clings to the word puritan has to be eliminated when we are thinking of the early Protestants. Whatever they were, they were not sour, gloomy, or severe; not did their enemies bring any such charge against them. On the contrary, Harpsfield (in his Life of More) describes their doctrines as ‘easie, short, pleasant lessons’ which lulled the unwary victim in ‘so sweete a sleepe as he was euer after loth to wake from it’. For More, a Protestant was one ‘dronke of the new must of lewd lightnes of minde and vayne gladnesse of harte’ (Dialogue, III.ii)…Protestantism was not too grim, but too glad to be true.’[i]

Calvin’s freedom to enjoy God’s creation
‘Even when we pass on from the first Protestants to Calvin himself we shall find an explicit rejection of ‘that vnciuile [uncivil] and forward philosophy’ which ‘alloweth vs in no vse of the creatures saue that which is needful, and going about (as it were in enuie [envy]) to take from vs the lawful enjoyment of God’s blessings, yet can neuer speede vnless it should stoppe vp all a man’s senses and make him a verie block’.’[ii]

Lewis commends Calvin
‘When God created food, ‘He intended not only the supplying of our necessities but delight and merriment (hilaritas)’.

Clothes serve not only for need but also for ‘comelinesse and honesty’; herbs, trees, and fruits, ‘beside their manifold commodity’, for ‘goodlinesse, brauery, and sweete smelling sauour’.

The right mistake: Protestantism too earth-bound, enjoyable, ‘sensual’
A comparison of the whole passage (Institutio, III.x.2) with, say, the sermons of Fisher, will correct many misapprehensions. When Newman in his Letter to X Y professed an ‘abstract belief in the latent sensuality of Protestantism’, he was, in my opinion, dreadfully mistaken; but at least, like More and Harpsfield, he was making the right mistake, the mistake that is worth discussing. The popular modern view of the matter does not reach that level.’[iii]

CS Lewis on the freedom of the Protestants
‘To be sure, there are standards by which the early Protestants could be called ‘puritanical’; they held adultery, fornication, and perversion for deadly sins. But then so did the Pope. If that is Puritanism, all Christendom was then puritanical together. So far as there was any difference about sexual morality, the Old Religion was the more austere. The exaltation of virginity is a Roman, that of marriage, a Protestant, trait.’[iv]

To read the next post in this series (CSL on 16th Century persecution, including the Calvin and Servetus controversy) click here

To read the first post in this series on CS Lewis click here

©2013 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] CS Lewis, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1954), p.34

[ii] ibid p.35

[iii] ibid p.35

[iv] ibid p.35

Charles Finney – Learning the Basics

Charles Finney

Strong-headed, rough as a broken rock, Charles Finney was converted and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Early difficulties
He soon realised that he was never going to be a lawyer, but had to be a preacher. He began discussions with his Pastor, George Gale, about ordination and applied to three seminaries, but was rejected (partly because he also applied for financial assistance, partly because he was already in his thirties).

It was agreed by the local presbytery that he should begin personal studies under the guidance of Gale and they would review his application for ordination. Six months into this agreement Gale became ill and advised them to ordain Finney so he could take over pastoral responsibilities at the church in Adams.

Unfortunately, it didn’t go well. While it is true he was ordained more quickly than expected, it was clear that his somewhat severe style was not going to suit a pastoral mode of ministry. Once again, Gale (whom Finney unfairly criticises in his Memoirs) stepped in to help by suggesting he be commissioned as a ‘missionary’ to evangelise.

This slightly unusual course proved to be providential for Finney. It gave him a pattern for evangelistic ministry and he began to mature as a Christian and a leader as he learnt to preach the gospel.

His reaction to criticism
Although his insecurities and defensiveness are very evident in his Memoirs (and presumably helped define the change from a Reformed to a strong Arminian position in his later theology[i]), he was clearly and wonderfully used by God.

His early meetings were not wildly successful, but he faithfully persevered. He became aware of two primary needs: firstly that the non-believer needed to hear the gospel clearly and respond to it personally, i.e., the command to repent and believe was a command that could be obeyed. Secondly, he became aware of the necessity of the Holy Spirit in working upon the hearts and minds of those who heard, in order that they repent and believe.

At times, in his writings, he flip-flops from one emphasis to the other. But the criticism he received from pastors, theologians and evangelists over his direct and personal methods to ensure responses to the gospel resulted in a decided anti-Reformed position in his thinking.

In fact, his biographer, Keith Hardman, asserts that, in connection with his recollections in his Memoirs, ‘Finney interjected his later theological position into it, as he did with all of these incidents.’[ii]

Prayer and Preaching
Throughout the 1820s Finney continued itinerating, trying to secure conversions to Christ. He was accompanied by a praying minister, Daniel Nash. Nash was no great preacher but recognised a preaching gift in Finney and committed himself to prayer for him and for the meetings. They travelled together in partnership, with Nash sometimes ‘shouting’ in prayer and even calling out the names of individuals whom they considered needed converting! This proved controversial, of course, but the praying/preaching partnership began to bear much fruit – as we will see next time in a post entitled, ‘Demonstrations of the Spirit’s power!’

To read the first part in the Charles Finney story click here

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] ‘His peculiar views, adopted since he has been at Oberlin, were no part of his theology at that time…Of the doctrine of election Mr Finney in his preaching said very little. His reason for it was that he was dealing with the impenitent chiefly, and he thought it was adapted to converted, or the mature Christian, rather than to the impenitent. This I always thought in some degree a wrong judgement…Had Mr Finney taken a different view of it, and dwelt upon it more, his faith would have been more firmly anchored, and he would have been saved from the position in which he has found himself…When he was licensed and first laboured as a missionary, he was very firm and faithful in bringing out this doctrine.’ George Gale, quoted in Keith J Hardman, Charles Grandison Finney, Revivalist and Reformer (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1987)

[ii] Hardman, p.53

How a Reformed Pastor Converted the Arminian Charles Finney

Pastor George Gale, who led Charles Finney to Christ

Charles Finney was not destined to become a schoolteacher, even though he loved it and was loved by those he taught. It was suggested to him that a career in law might be the thing.

At that time the procedure was to study, as an apprentice, under a practicing lawyer. This Finney did in the town of Adams, NY. He was a diligent and able student and during the few court appearances he made was a very real match for any opponent.[i]

The Authority of the Bible
During his studies he noticed the repeated references to the Bible. The Scriptures were often referred to as an authority in terms of legal principles. It was impossible to ignore.

‘This,’ said Finney, ‘excited my curiosity so much that I went and purchased a Bible, the first I had ever owned…This soon led to my taking a new interest in the Bible, and I read and meditated on it much more that I had ever done before.’[ii]

Free will, conviction and personal application
As a student of Law Finney learned three things that later marked his preaching. The first was the moral responsibility of a person with regard to guilt. The exercise of their own free will to commit a certain act was critical to securing a guilty verdict. If it was an involuntary act then the question of guilt is not clear. Secondly, he learned the importance of using close, searching, legal questions to convince both the guilty person and a jury of their guilt. And thirdly, he learned that in order to persuade a jury the lawyer needed to speak directly to them, not talk in an abstract way.

Finney, attending the Presbyterian Church in Adams, began to be troubled by the preaching of the Pastor, George Gale, who although younger than Peter Starr, preached in the same style. Decidedly Calvinistic, Gale emphasised the inability of a sinner to get right with God on his own, and, according to Finney, he never directly addressed the congregation – never saying ‘you!’.

Finney later acknowledged, ‘I now think that I sometimes criticised his sermons unmercifully.’[iii] But Gale continued to pursue and encourage Finney, visiting him in the law office and seeking to find out how much understanding of the gospel Finney was gaining.

Gale’s persistence and Finney’s conviction of sin
It must be acknowledged that Finney’s conversion, humanly speaking, was in large measure due to the evangelistic efforts of this young Reformed pastor.

Numbers were being added to the church in Adams. Gale was by no means an unevangelising hyper-Calvinist. Finney began to feel a certain, unshakeable conviction of sin.

After evangelistic sermons Gale would hold ‘inquiry meetings’ for those seeking salvation. Finney finally attended one. He wrote, ‘I trembled so that my very seat shook under me.’

Gale also wrote of that meeting, ‘He looked at me with an air of solemnity I shall never forget…
“I am willing now to be a Christian! Do you think there is any hope in my case?”
I told him he might be converted, but if he were it would be something very similar to God’s exercising miraculous power: It was not teaching that he needed. It was compliance with what he already knew.’[iv]

Peace at last!
Finally Finney submitted to God. He went up into the woods determined to get right with God before returning. He knelt down and surrendered his life to Jesus Christ.

He immediately experienced a freedom in his spirit and began to pray. He prayed for hours revelling in a peace that was inconceivable only moments before. He was determined that he would now preach the gospel to others.

To read about how Finney, on the evening after his conversion, was baptised in the Holy Spirit, click here

For the first instalment of the Finney Story click here

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] Keith J Hardman, Charles Grandison Finney, Revivalist and Reformer (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1987), p.37

[ii] ibid

[iii] ibid p.39

[iv] ibid p.41

Charles Finney’s False Starts

Lake Ontario, NY

Charles Finney grew up south of Lake Ontario in New York State. ‘My parents were neither of them professors of religion. I seldom heard a sermon unless it was an occasional one from some travelling minister.’[i]

He was a quick learner and was entrusted with some teaching responsibilities in the local school in Henderson from the age of 16 until he was 20.[ii]

Preaching that would make you laugh
Finney writes, ‘Almost the only preaching that I heard was that of an Elder Osgood, who was a man of considerable religion but of very little education. His ignorance of language was so great as to divert the attention of the people from his thoughts to the very comical form of expressing them.

For example, instead of saying, ‘I am’, he would say, ‘I are’ and in the use of the pronouns thee and thou etc, he would mix them up in such a strange and incongruous manner, as to render it very difficult indeed to keep from laughing while he was either preaching or praying. Of course, I received no religious instruction from such teaching.’[iii]

Preaching that would make you cry
In 1812, aged 20, Finney moved to Connecticut and lodged with an uncle and attend an Academy there. He began attending his uncle’s Congregationalist Church, led by the much-loved but aging, Peter Starr. This was the first time he began regularly attending church services.

Finney decided that he would hear Christianity consistently presented. Biographer Keith Hardman writes,

‘Having developed some abilities in speaking and leading himself, he naturally expected to find theology preached with a certain amount of vigour and dynamic. It was not to be.

To observe Starr’s methods, Finney sat in the balcony where he could look down on the pastor’s performance and note his techniques.

To his chagrin, he found that the pastor ‘read his sermons in a manner that left no impression on my mind. He had a monotonous, humdrum way of reading what he had probably written many years before…It seemed to be always a matter of curiosity to know what he was aiming at.’[iv]

Finney’s later criticism of local pastors and preachers was, in large measure, based on these experiences.

No further formal education
Already in his twenties, Finney asked his teacher about the possibility of attending Yale University. The teacher dissuaded him however, both in light of his evident intellectual ability as well as his age.

Finney later regretted that his formal education progressed no further than high school. But in his twenties he was extremely self-confident.

If, however, Finney’s spiritual advancement was also faltering there was at least one ray of light: his brother was suddenly converted. He wrote to Charles. He was the first of the Finney family to be converted and something about his letter to the twenty-six year old hit home: ‘I actually wept for joy!’ he said.

The seeds of grace were being sown.

For the next post in this series click here

For the first part of the Charles Finney Story click here

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] Keith J Hardman, Charles Grandison Finney, Revivalist and Reformer, (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1987), p.30

[ii] ibid p.31

[iii] The Memoirs of Charles Finney, Ed. Rosell and Dupuis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1989), p.22-24

[iv] Hardman p.33

Message of the Month John Piper

Working for your Joy!

John Piper

The search for genuine joy in the battle of life is a search that concerns every person.

The soul’s thirst for satisfaction drives men and women, Christian and non-Christian, to try a myriad of promises – and often leaves them feeling empty, short-changed, duped.

In this compelling message, John Piper argues that the chief aim of the Christian leader is to make joy the ultimate aim of each person – by pointing them to the only ultimately satisfying source of joy: Jesus Christ.

Joy in Christ is the goal of the Christian life – Joy, Piper asserts, is not just the icing on the cake, it is the cake!!

John Piper - working for the joy of all peoples

The link below is to a video, but if you don’t have access to fast internet (as most people don’t yet), then there is a link on the page to an mp3 version of the message.

The context of this message was a 300 leaders conference in London, hosted by Newfrontiers Pastor Tope Koleoso. I hope you enjoy it.

The Message (click the link): Working for your Joy

© Church History / Lex Loizides

Influencing Culture – Engineering, Economics and Health Care

We’ve already seen how 19th century missionary William Carey, rather than being a culture-destroyer, actually sought to strengthen and build the nation of India.

We saw how he sought to instill a ‘basic scientific presupposition’ into Indian thinking and how he even helped develop Botanical research in India.

In this post we are continuing Vishal Mangalwadi’s imaginary quiz amongst modern Indian university students about Carey’s identity.

So, in answer to the question ‘Who was William Carey?’ a student of Mechanical Engineering suggests:

Locally produced steam engines and locally made paper
‘William Carey was the first Englishman to introduce the steam engine to India!

‘Carey encouraged Indian blacksmiths to make copies of his engine using local materials and skills.’

He was also the first person to make indigenous paper for the publishing industry. (Mangalwadi, William Carey and the Regeneration of India, Good Books, Mussourie, p.1)

Fair and Honest Banking
‘William Carey was a missionary,’ announces an Economics Major, ‘who introduced the idea of Savings Banks to India, to fight the all pervasive social evil of usury.

‘Carey believed that God, being righteous, hated usury, and thought that lending at the interest of 36-72% made investment, industry, commerce and the economic development of India impossible.’ (ibid. p.2)

Compassionate Medical Care
Next a Medical student raises his hand: ‘William Carey was the first man who led the campaign for a humane treatment of leprosy patients.

Until his time they were sometimes buried of burned alive in India because of the belief that a violent end purified the body and ensured transmigration into a healthy new existence.

‘Natural death by disease was believed to result in four successive births, and a fifth as a leper.

‘Carey believed that Jesus’ love touches leprosy patients, so they should be cared for.’ (ibid. p.2-3)

The more we read about Carey the less he sounds like the caricature of a blundering insensitive colonial missionary, and the more he sounds like a man bringing the authentic love of God into peoples’ lives.

In the next post we’ll examine Carey’s commitment to developing printing technologies and a free press in India.

We’ll continue to examine Carey’s breathtaking efforts here

To see the first part of the William Carey story click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

How Bible Translation Protects Indigenous Languages

William Carey's translation of the New Testament into Bengali

We’ve already seen how the first major contribution William Carey made to India was to teach that reform was not only necessary but possible.

Indian intellectual, Vishal Mangalwadi argues that the process of Indian Modernisation began with Carey’s rejection of Karma in favour of the Christian concept of a personal God who is the Creator:

‘The idea of Karma is that an impersonal law rules our destiny and automatically gives us the consequences of our actions.

‘According to the Bible, sin is breaking the laws of a Person – our loving heavenly Father. Therefore it is possible to find forgiveness and to be delivered from sin and its consequences.’ (Mangalwadi, William Carey and the Regeneration of India, Good Books, Mussouri, 1997)

Access to knowledge for all
Following the example of the Protestant Reformers of the 16th Century, Carey knew that in order to achieve spiritual and social liberation, the Bible must be translated into the languages in common use (vernacular).

Mangalwadi argues that this was the first step towards modernisation – the availability of knowledge in the language of the people.

Carey's Bengali Grammar, 1801

This meant the possibility of education for the masses as well as their protection from exploitation through ignorance. To Carey it was obvious that the most important text to translate was the Bible.

Mangalwadi writes: ‘A key factor in modernisation which Carey tried to popularise is that the spoken language of the people should also be the language of learning, the language of industry, of marketing, and of governing.

‘A feature of a medieval society is its use of an elitist language as a means of discriminating, and also as a method of granting to an aristocracy unearned privileges.

The preservation of indigenous languages – what Carey’s work enabled
‘It became possible for India to make the transition from Persian as the court language, to Urdu, and then to the regional languages (at least in the lower courts) because of Carey’s labour and leadership in turning the vernaculars into literary languages through Bible translation.’ (ibid p.79-80)

The promotion of indigenous languages

Carey became utterly consumed with the need to record, write and understand the local languages – in order that he might deliver the Bible to the people.

He translated and published the Bible into nearly 40 different languages. He started more than 100 schools and began the first college in Asia to teach in an Asian language (Bengali).

Hear the voice of a modern Indian scholar: ‘Their passion for reforming India by making the Bible available in the vernaculars motivated the missionaries to develop grammar for many Indian dialects, and eventually, to develop Hindi as a literary language for the majority of the citizens of India.’ (ibid p.80)

We know that mistakes were made, but the next time you hear the legacy of self-sacrificing, good-hearted missionaries slandered in the lecture hall, or classroom, in conversation or on TV, remember the work of William Carey and Vishal Mangalwadi’s assessment of his contribution to India.

For the first part of the William Carey story click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

William Carey and the Modernisation of India

William Carey in India

William Carey is known among evangelicals because of his missionary initiative – and his subsequent impact on 19th century missions to all parts of the globe.

His actual work in India has received less attention. This may be, in part, because it took Carey and his workers a full seven years before they saw their first Indian profess faith in Christ. That doesn’t fit too well into a modern exhortation leave all and go into the world with the gospel!

William Carey and the Regeneration of India
But Indian author and speaker Vishal Mangalwadi has done us a great service by publishing on Carey. Vishal himself deserves a wide audience and his books deserve careful consideration. As an Indian observing the West his insights are piercing.

In the book, ‘William Carey and the Regeneration of India’ Vishal and his wife Ruth outline for us the incredible impact Carey had on the modernisation and freedom of modern India.

British Greed
The British view of India during Carey’s time was not particularly benevolent. Historian Lord Macaulay described the British East India Company as ‘a gang of public robbers’.

Mangalwadi says that even British humanitarians visiting India tended to romanticise ‘the customs and wisdom of the natives’ rather than rebuke the greed of the Company.

Their desire to establish an Indian elite seemed an attempt to replicate class distinctions rather than benefit the people.

Changes did eventually come, when Wilberforce, Charles Grant and others were able to form an ‘evangelical’ core within the governors of the Company.

But before that time Carey stands out as a true servant of India and her people.

Serving India with the Bible
The first impulse in Carey’s understanding was, of course, that men and women should repent of their sin and come to Christ for forgiveness and personal transformation. Only then could families and society be impacted by the gospel.

In order to advance this cause Carey set about translating the Bible into local languages.

Mangalwadi writes, ‘Carey spent enormous energy in translating and promoting the Bible, because, as a modern man, he believed that God’s revelation alone could remove superstition and inculcate a confidence in human rationality – a prerequisite for the modernisation of India.’ (Ruth and Vishal Mangalwadi, William Carey and the Regeneration of India, Nivedit Good Books, Mussouri, p. 67)

Influencing the Culture
But Bible translation, for which Carey is famous, was by no means his only work. He became involved in a vast array of technological improvements and innovations that would be impressive were we dealing with a whole denomination of men and women, and not just one man.

Read the next installment of this story, Christianity and Karma

To read the first part of the William Carey story click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

Colonialism and Christian Mission

WIlliam Wilberforce - an unfinished work

William Wilberforce – working for India’s freedom
William Wilberforce was, as yet, unable to change the policy of the British with respect to missionaries going to India.

Parliament refused to change their Indian policy to include ‘religious improvement’ as Wilberforce had hoped.

It’s interesting to note that the hero of the abolition of slavery bill was also directly involved in bringing the Christian gospel to India. Wilberforce was a Christian first and a politician second.

Servants of the British Empire intervene to stop Christian missionaries
Carey attempted, perhaps in response to John Newton’s bad advice, to sail to India without a visa (or licence, as they called it then). But, although the Captain of the ship had allowed Carey to board, when a warning of legal action came from the British authorities, Carey and the team has to disembark.

They watched in tears, as the only apparent means of their getting to India pulled out of the harbour – without them!

At this point Carey actually considered getting to India by land – a journey that could take many months.

The Adventure – The Hardship – Begins
Finally good news – a non-British ship, a Danish ship, was sailing to India and would take them. Finally there was a way round the Empire’s resistance to missions.

And a further answer to prayer was that, after much persuading, Dorothy Carey, her sister, and all the children had agreed to join William and the others in the first modern attempt to take the liberating message of the gospel to the people of India.

Colonialism and Christianity
Many continue to assert that European missionaries were merely the puppets of colonialists and empire builders. But William Carey’s story surely proves that this was by no means the whole truth.

Perhaps there were some hopeless, arrogant, religious manipulators who were actually serving money rather than God and who didn’t care for local culture. But I doubt that there were many. The fact is that this was a tough and notoriously uncomfortable assignment – with little money involved.

The reality is probably that many genuine missionaries were making the most of the opportunity to take the good news of Jesus Christ, promoting His kingdom, rather than promoting the British or other Empires.

And these good guys doubtless made the kind of cultural mistakes and faux pas that we still make today, in business globally, as well as in assessing and understanding other cultures.

That Carey was no destroyer of local language or culture will be seen in future posts. For now, though, it was a great relief for him just to be on the way.

They sailed at 3am on June 13, 1793

More next time…

To read from the beginning of William Carey’s story click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

I am clear that I am called to go!

John Newton, who told William Carey to take his chances with immigration!

‘I am clear that I am called to go!’

William Carey had already stirred up a new interest in world mission. He had already prompted the formation of a ‘Missionary Society’ which had begun to raise funds for world mission.

Now came the real test: who should go?

For Carey it was clear. He knew he had been called by God to go (George, Faithful Witness,IVP p.76).  What may seem strange to us is that his wife and family would not be going with him.

William: Yes. Dorothy: No!

He had a clear call to India – an ‘appointment’, he called it. But Dorothy was not keen to go, and only consented that their eldest son should go with him until he was able to establish a home there. Then, possibly, the rest of the family would follow.

So the original party was to be William, his eight year old son, Felix, and another minister, John Thomas. But all that was to change, as we shall see.

In a final service in London, Carey shared his dream of translating the Bible in to the local Indian languages. A printer, William Ward, was in the congregation and spoke with Carey afterwards. ‘You must come over and print it for us!’ said Carey. Seven years later he did just that.

Colonialists and Missionaries were not serving the same purpose

Carey had no official documentation or permission to preach in the British territories in India. In fact, the Empire kept missionaries out. The gospel inevitably leads to emancipation and while you could go as a chaplain to expats it was not at all easy to go as a church planter amongst locals. Empire and missionary work did not always go hand in hand – as we are often led to believe.

Newton on Carey: ‘He is an Apostle!
Carey went to the converted slaver and, now, Anglican Minister John Newton for advice.

‘What is the company [The British ‘East India Company’] should send us home on our arrival in Bengal?’ asked Carey. ‘Then conclude’, replied Newton, ‘that your Lord has nothing there for you to accomplish. But if He have, then no power on earth can hinder you.’ Not brilliant advice, and Carey sought to appeal to the Company before going. (George:82)

Newton was later to describe William Carey in glowing terms: ‘Such a man as Carey is more to me than bishop or archbishop: he is an apostle.’ (ibid)

Visas aren’t just a modern necessity
Carey urged Newton to try and get special permission from the East India Company for Carey’s work but he failed. William Wilberforce, who was working hard in the background to have the company’s policy towards evangelism changed, had not succeeded yet in adding the possibility of ‘religious improvement’ to the responsibilities of the company, thus clearing a way for church planters to go officially. It seemed they were unlikely to get on board any ship bound for India without the proper licence.

To read the next post, ‘Colonialism and Christian Mission’, click here

To read the first part of the William Carey Story click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

The Father of Modern Missions was a Calvinist

It may come as a surprise to those unaware of the influence of Reformed thinkers and pioneers but it’s true.

William Carey was a Calvinist.

To those who are familiar with church history, of course, this is not particularly surprising. There have been passionate, missional, church-planting pioneers and Evangelists on both sides of the theological debate: Reformed or Arminian.

The causes of the church’s lack of evangelistic zeal are usually found elsewhere – weak leadership, worldliness, lack of Holy Spirit power, unbelief, fear – and it is shameful that great and glorious doctrines are used as a kind of fig leaf.

Like most other Protestant missionaries of his day
Dr Thomas Schirrmacher writes, ‘Carey was a Protestant by conviction…The turning point, he believed, was reached by the Reformers.

‘He names especially Luther, Calvin, Melanchthon, Bucer and Peter Martyr. He [said, in ‘The Enquiry’, that]… missionaries must, among other things, be “of undoubted orthodoxy in their sentiments” [ie, Reformed].

‘Carey’s theology is not only unusual for modern tastes in its Postmillennialism, but also in its Calvinist soteriology, for many now believe that the doctrine of predestination extinguishes missionary effort rather than intensifying it.

‘Carey, like most other Protestant missionaries and missionary leaders of his day, agreed with the Calvinist view.’ (from an essay, ‘William Carey, Postmillennialism and the Theology of World Missions’)

Let Reformed Bloggers Rejoice!
So Carey was a Calvinist. Let all Reformed bloggers rejoice! Well, not so fast!

Carey’s passion wasn’t exhausted by writing intense, Scripture-filled blogs, letters to the editor, or even in crafting water-tight sermons that harmonise good doctrine and the need for missional churches.

No, he didn’t just preach well that others should go, he and his family left for India in 1793. Radical. Normal.

As a result of his ‘Expect Great Things’ sermon some friends gathered in 1792 in Kettering, England, formed the Baptist Missionary Society and raised just over thirteen pounds for worldwide evangelisation!

For the next part of the William Carey story click here

To read the first part of the William Carey story click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God

 

William Carey's Enquiry - an exhortation to world mission

 

In 1790 William Carey, agitated by the church’s lack of concern for global evangelisation, proposed the formation of a society for world mission.

Merely praying for the success of the gospel wasn’t enough – something further must be done: ‘means’ as they called them, must be used to bring the gospel to the world.

In 1792 Carey published his ‘Enquiry’ in pamphlet form, the full title being, ‘An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens.’

‘If the prophecies concerning the increase of Christ’s kingdom be true, and if what has been advanced, concerning the commission given by him to his disciples being obligatory on us, be just, it must be inferred that all Christians ought heartily to concur with God in promoting his glorious designs, for he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.’ (Carey in his ‘Enquiry’)

One biographer suggests it is ‘the first and still greatest missionary treatise in the English language.’ (George Smith, ‘The Life of William Carey, Shoemaker and Missionary’ writing in 1887)

You can read Carey’s Enquiry in full here

Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God

The publication was followed by an historic sermon at a gathering of Baptist ministers in Nottingham in 1792.

Carey preached from Isaiah 54, ‘Enlarge the place of thy tent…Spare not, lenthen thy cords…for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and they seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited. Fear not.’

The sermon was not written or published, but we are told that Carey predicted the restoration of the church and the dawn of a new era of missions. The church is, therefore, urged to go to the work of mission full of faith.

‘Expect great things! Attempt great things!’ cried Carey

The impact of a good sermon!

Earlier attempts by Carey to influence his Baptist colleagues had been unsuccessful ‘Sit down young man!’ he was told,  ‘You are an enthusiast!’

But this message, and the publication of the Enquiry, which outlined the need for missions and the responsibility of the churches, marked a new beginning.

It was agreed that a meeting would take place in Kettering to discuss the formation of a Missionary Society for the evangelisation of the world.

For the next part of the William Carey story click here

To read the first part of the William Carey story click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

Growing a Passion for World Mission

Title Page of Cook's Journal of his last voyage

Hardships at Home
In 1781, the 19 year old William Carey married 25 year old Dorothy Plackett and they lived in humble circumstances. They were married for 26 years and had seven children.

Theirs was a life of real challenges, the death of their two year old daughter, Ann, as well as the constant pressure of poverty.

William himself nearly died of a fever early in their married life. The sickness left him bald for the rest of his life. But they built a life together in service to Christ for the spread of the gospel.

In the years before they sailed to India, Carey pastored two Baptist churches, in Moulton and Leicester.

A further edition of Cook's Last Voyage (Queen's University, Ontario, Canada)

Cook’s Last Voyage
In 1783 an important book was published. It gained the attention of the English speaking world, and particularly William Carey.

Yorkshireman Captain James Cook was already as close to a ‘household name’ as you could get. The adventurer and explorer had been killed in Hawaii in 1779 and the Journal of his last voyages was published in 1783.

As Carey read the intriguing accounts of peoples from far off places and such different cultures he felt more than curiosity stirring in him. Cook’s journal was, he confesses, ‘the first thing that engaged my mind to think of missions.’ (quoted in Timothy George, Faithful Witness, IVP, p.20)

The Motive for Mission

Cook himself, wasn’t interested in promoting Christianity around the world. In fact, he disparagingly says of one particular people group, ‘No one would ever venture to introduce Christianity [here] because neither fame nor profit would offer the requisite inducement.’ (ibid p.21)

Cook’s statement reveals a spectacular misunderstanding of the apostolic impulse and is all the more ironic considering both William and Dorothy’s immense sacrifice in order to bring the gospel to India.

To read the next part of the William Carey story click here

To read the first part of the William Carey story click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

William Carey the Dissenter

William Carey is one of the great heroes of the Christian Faith.

He was born into a family who considered the Church of England to be the authorised church of the English people. But when he heard the gospel and started to read the Bible, he realised he needed to find out more. He began to be drawn to those called ‘Dissenters’.

Holy Dissent
His biographer, Timothy George writes, ‘The Dissenters of Hanoverian England had inherited a legacy of persecution and harassment. When the Act of Uniformity was passed in 1662 over 2000 ministers were expelled from their posts because they refused to declare ‘unfeigned assent’ to everything in the Book of Common Prayer and seek re-ordination from an Anglican bishop…

‘In those days the Clarendon Code imposed severe penalties  on those who could not conform to the established religion; John Bunyan languishing for 12 years in the Bedford jail; George Fox locked up at Scarborough Castle in a cell which was open to the wind and rain of the North Sea, so that “the water came over my bed and ran about the room”…

‘the Welsh Evangelist Vavasor Powell dying in the Fleet Prison in the 11th year of his incarceration there; sergeants disrupting services…;meeting houses burned to the ground; properties confiscated; ruinous fines exacted. Such memories lingered long in the Nonconformist conscience…

‘In 1719 Parliament passed a bill forbidding anyone who attended a Dissenting meeting from teaching, with three months in jail as the penalty’! (Timothy George, Faithful Witness, IVP, p.9)

Nevertheless, the young Carey began preaching amongst them. First, in a house-church in Earls Barton, Northamptonshire and then later as an ordained Dissenting Pastor in Moulton.

They were tough years for Carey and his new bride, but they were years of preparation.

To read the first part of the William Carey story click here

To read the next part of the William Carey Story click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

William Carey, Father of Modern Missions

 

Romanticised view of William Carey's childhood home (http://www.wmcarey.edu)

Small towns can play a huge role in Global history
Kettering is a small town just 80 or so miles northwest of London, England, and which dates back to Roman times. Chances are that nowadays you would just drive past it on your way to somewhere else.

But it was here, in this humble, quiet town that an event took place the ramifications of which have truly changed the world.

It was here in Kettering that the evangelical churches finally caught up with the Moravians and a new century of Christian missions would begin when William Carey and a few like minded friends raised thirteen pounds, two shillings and sixpence to reach the whole wide world with the gospel.

If the powerful activity of the Spirit in the 18th century had served to awaken the English speaking world to the claims of Christ then His continued outpouring in the 19th century propelled the gospel to many other nations.

Instead of being weakened by the growing tide of rationalism and unbelief amongst scholars and academics the church radically invested in mission.

The Father of Modern Missions
William Carey was born in 1761, right in the thick of the Great Awakening led by George Whitefield and John Wesley.

He was born, not too far from Kettering, in a village called Paulerspury in Northamptonshire.

His father was a poor schoolmaster who apprenticed him to a local shoemaker aged only 14. And so, William Carey became a shoemaker by trade.

Like so many other heroes in the unfolding story of the Christian Church, Carey received no tertiary education and did not go to University.

We’ll continue Carey’s story next time…

To read the first part of the William Carey Story click here

To read the next part of the William Carey Story click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

The Nineteenth Century Missionary Movement

Plaque outside the house in Kettering, England where Carey formed the Baptist Missionary Society

A culture-changing progression is observable:

In the 16th Century – the Reformation in Europe, with the rediscovery of the authority of the Bible as the basis for faith and practice. ‘You are justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law!’

In the 17th Century – the attempt by the Puritans to apply this rediscovery to all of life, and to restore the European church and society. ‘Do all to the glory of God!’

In the 18th Century – the evangelistic proclamation of this rediscovery to those outside the normal influence of the church. ‘You must be born again!’

In the 19th Century – the explosion of the message to nations beyond Europe, with thousands leaving Europe to take the gospel to those who have never heard it. ‘Go into all the world!’

In other words there was a rediscovery of the Bible as the authoritative guide for a relationship to God and each other, a thorough attempt to apply it pastorally, and then a Spirit empowered evangelistic proclamation of the gospel, first in Europe and America and then to the ends of the earth.

This progression gives us a general but helpful guide to place movements and leaders in their historical context. Of course, if you read previous posts, you’ll know that all of these various emphases have been happening all through church history, and with mighty demonstrations of the Spirit’s power, but it is not altogether inaccurate when considering Christianity in the 19th Century to speak of ‘the missionary movement’ or even ‘the missionary century’ as some do.

Nor is it altogether inaccurate to refer to one particular pioneer as ‘the father of modern missions’ as we turn our consideration to one of the most inspiring figures in church history, William Carey.

To read the next part of the William Carey Story click here

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

JC Ryle on How to Get Right with God

(Part Two of ‘Truths that Changed a Nation’)
JC Ryle, the Bishop of Liverpool in 19th century England was eager to see a revival of authentic Christianity in his own generation.

In the previous century England had witnessed such remarkable outpourings of the Holy Spirit and huge numbers of conversions. Ryle was hungry for a further move of God.

So he began looking back in order to gain insight about how to proceed. In the last post we saw the first three essential truths that the great Methodist leaders, Whitefield, Wesley and others, proclaimed. These were the authority of the Bible, the sinfulness of mankind and the necessity of Christ’s death on the cross for our salvation.

In this post we’ll look at the other essentials that Ryle believed led to such radical cultural transformation in 18th century England.

1. Justification by Faith
The 18th century Evangelists ‘told men that faith was the one thing needful…that the moment we do believe, we live and [can obtain] all Christ’s benefits.’

The Evangelists rejected the idea that merely being a member of a church meant you were somehow right with God.

Ryle says, ‘Everything – if you will believe, and the moment you believe; nothing – if you do not believe, was the very marrow of their preaching.’ (p.27)

2. ‘You Must be Born Again’
It’s not uncommon to meet people who believe that the emphasis on being ‘born again’ was somehow a 1970’s American religious phenomena.

But actually, as Ryle demonstrates, the preachers of the 1700’s emphasised this constantly. Of course, both the term ‘born again’ and the necessity to preach the new birth goes right back to Jesus Himself (see John chapter 3).

Ryle emphasises ‘heart conversion and a new creation by the Holy Spirit.’

‘They proclaimed everywhere to the crowds whom they addressed, ‘Ye must be born again.’

And this new birth which they so constantly asserted ‘was something that could be seen, discerned and known by its effects.’ (p.28)

3. A Changed Life
Ryle says that the 18th century leaders of the Great Awakening taught ‘the inseparable connection between true faith and personal holiness.’ (p.28)

They were not inclined to consider anyone a true convert unless there was a definite change in lifestyle. Merely saying you were saved but not changing your lifestyle choices would cause the leaders to question the reality of your faith. If there was no evidence of the ‘fruit of repentance’ then they did not consider that a person had received true saving grace.

4. God is both a God of Wrath and Love

This is without doubt a clear feature of Christian preaching throughout church history.

‘They knew nothing’, asserts Ryle, of ‘a heaven where holy and unholy…all find admission.’ They didn’t preach that everyone goes to heaven in the end.

‘Both about Heaven and Hell they used the utmost plainness of speech.

‘They never shrunk from declaring, in plainest terms, the certainty of God’s judgement and of wrath to come, if men persisted in impenitence and unbelief.

‘Yet, they never ceased to magnify the riches of God’s kindness and compassion, and to entreat all sinners to repent and turn to God before it was too late.’ (p.28)

Conclusion
These were the teachings of the great Evangelists: The trustworthiness of the Bible, the sinfulness of the human race, Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross, that we are justified not by works but by faith in Christ, and that a heart work – being born again – is absolutely necessary for salvation. This ‘heart change’ is a real change that affects every area of life. And that finally, God is a just Judge and a loving Father who is calling all people to come to Him for forgiveness.

Let us give good Bishop Ryle the last word:

‘These were the doctrines by which they turned England upside down, made ploughmen and colliers weep till their dirty faces were seamed with tears, arrested the attention of peers and philosophers, stormed the strongholds of Satan, plucked thousands like brands from the burning, and altered the character of the age…

‘The fact is undeniable: God blessed these truths…and what God has blessed it ill becomes man to despise.’ (p.28-29)

All quotes are from JC Ryle, Christian Leaders of the 18th Century, Banner of Truth edition.

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

Preachers Pelted with Dirt, a Cat and a Dead Dog

(Methodism and the Mob Part 5)

William Seward
William Seward was a wealthy supporter of the work that George Whitefield and Howell Harris were doing.

He also helped John Wesley with generous funding for the meeting place in Bristol, even though Wesley was assuming a leadership role there that Seward felt excluded Whitefield (See here for how Whitefield began the work in Bristol).

Seward had accompanied these preachers and witnessed both the joys and dangers of massive crowds.

In 1740 he travelled with Howell Harris in Wales and records several occasions when the crowds became violent.

Seward with Howell Harris
On Sept 9 he wrote, ‘We had been singing and praying and discoursing for half an hour when the mob began to be outrageous, and to pelt us…till at length I was struck with a stone upon my eye, which caused me so much anguish that I was forced to go away to the Inn.

‘Bro. Harris continued to discourse for some time afterward…I got my eye dressed and went to bed as soon as possible.

The next morning they went out again, preaching in the same place to the same crowds.

Stones, dirt, a cat and a dead dog
Seward writes, ‘We had continual showers of stones, walnuts, dirt, a cat and also a dead dog thrown at us…

‘I was struck on my forehead and under my right eye again, and also on my side with a stone.

‘A drum was ordered to be beat, which drowned [our] voices…the Book [the Bible] was all covered with dirt.

‘After Bro. Harris had done, I spoke a few words, but I found my call was more to suffer than to preach.’ (from William Seward, ‘Journal of a Voyage from Savannah to Philadelphia and from Philadelphia to England’ p.27)

Perhaps he should have backed down. Perhaps he should have let others do the preaching. Perhaps…

Seward would accompany Harris again in October, 1740 as Harris preached powerfully to hostile crowds. It would be the last time Seward would share in the struggle to bring Britain to Christ.

For the next installment click here

Also see: Methodism and the Mob Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Howell Harris Gets Beaten up While Preaching

(Methodism and the Mob, Part 3)

Bala, in Wales. Not exactly a holiday destination for Howell Harris

The Evangelist preaches, is resisted, rejected and then covered in sewerage and beaten ruthlessly.

Hugh Hughes, in his biography of Harris describes one scene in Bala, Wales, in 1741. Howell Harris, the great pioneer of outdoor preaching during the Great Awakening, received a beating at the hands of violent men and women.

Suffering for Christ
Hughes writes, ‘The women were as fiendish as the men, for they besmeared him with mire, while their companions belaboured him with their fists and clubs, inflicting such wounds that his path could be marked in the street by the crimson stains of his blood.’

‘The enemy continued to persecute him…striking him with sticks and with staves, until overcome with exhaustion, he fell to the ground…They still abused him, though prostrate…’ (Hugh J Hughes Life of Howell Harris, p.142-3, quoted in Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, Wakeman Press)

Empowered by the Spirit
Describing his resilience at another similar time of violent reaction, Harris wrote, ‘Had bullets been shot at me, I felt I should not move. Mob raged. Voice lifted up, and though by the power going with the words my head almost went to pieces, such was my zeal that I cried, ‘I’ll preach Christ till to pieces I fall!’ (ibid p.142)

Peter wrote, ‘But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.’ (1 Peter 4:13-14)

Certainly Harris was conscious of the power of the Holy Spirit resting upon him at such times. John Wesley also reports a similar experience of peace in the midst of sometimes violent storms.

While it may be difficult for us to imagine that the pleasure and power of God might rest upon us at a time of persecution, nevertheless those who have suffered prove the promise of Scripture to be true.

For the next installment click here

Methodism and the Mob Part 1, Part 2

© 2009 Lex Loizides

George Whitefield on the Word and the Spirit

George Whitefield preaching in 1749

During the whole period of the first Great Awakening in America and Europe the power of the Holy Spirit was an obvious feature.

A season of mighty power
The power of God was evidently touching those non-Christians who were attending the massive meetings. The power of God was also touching those who were repenting. And faithful believers were coming into a new experience of God’s love and guidance as a result of being filled with the Spirit.

Inevitably, and especially where those being influenced were new converts, this occasionally led to a lack of common sense and the usual application of wisdom.

George Whitefield, the great Evangelist of the movement was eager to provide counsel that would help those newly baptised into what appear to be essentially charismatic experiences.

Wise counsel from a man full of the Spirit
In a sermon based on Genesis 5:24 (‘And Enoch walked with God’) Whitefield, in seeking to explain how the child of God receives guidance, wrote the following:

‘In order to walk closely with God, his children must not only watch the motions of God’s providence without them, but the motions also of his blessed Spirit in their hearts.

‘As many as are the sons of God, are led by the Spirit of God’ (Romans 8:14), and give up themselves to be guided by the Holy Ghost, as a little child gives its hand to be led by a nurse or parent.

‘It is no doubt in this sense that we are to be converted, and become like little children. And though it is the quintessence of enthusiasm, to pretend to be guided by the Spirit without the written word; yet it is every Christian’s bounden duty to be guided by the Spirit in conjunction with the written word of God.

Led by the Spirit and guided by the Word
‘Watch, therefore, I pray you, O believers, the motions of God’s blessed Spirit in your souls, and always try the suggestions or impressions that you may at any time feel, by the unerring rule of God’s most holy word: and if they are not found to be agreeable to that, reject them as diabolical and delusive.

By observing this caution, you will steer a middle course between the two dangerous extremes many of this generation are in danger of running into; I mean, enthusiasm on the one hand, and…downright infidelity on the other.’
(George Whitefield, Walking with God, quoted by Iain Murray in Jonathan Edwards, Banner of Truth, p.248. The whole sermon is available here)

© 2009 Lex Loizides