Some Lines by William Cowper

William Cowper
William Cowper

We’re going back to the 18th century today, just briefly.

As I sat reading a selection of William Cowper’s poetry this morning I wondered how many people still read him. He is not a difficult poet and may be unfairly overlooked these days because he is overtly Christian.

The Poetry Foundation’s main article on him states, ‘William Cowper was the foremost poet of the generation between Alexander Pope and William Wordsworth and for several decades had probably the largest readership of any English poet.’[i]

Cowper was a contemporary of William Wilberforce and a friend of John Newton. He was too young to have seen much of the early years of Whitefield and Wesley’s preaching but was certainly impacted by the gospel message they preached.

His huge popularity as a poet existed not only because his Christian hymns were popular in the churches, but because of his notable skill as a poet.

I am reprinting here a section of his beautiful poem To Mary.

In their later years Mary Unwin and Cowper had been engaged and the love between them was very tender although they never married. He was at her side as her health declined in her final illness.

These verses take us right to her bedside. We see his devotion to her even though she can no longer communicate verbally, we share the thrill of her minute but definite responses to his love. No wonder Tennyson said that this poem was too touching, too moving, to be read out loud.

To Mary

Thy indistinct expressions seem
Like language utter’d in a dream;
Yet me they charm, whate’er the theme,
My Mary!

Thy silver locks, once auburn bright,
Are still more lovely in my sight
Than golden beams of orient light,
My Mary!

For could I view nor them nor thee,
What sight worth seeing could I see?
The sun would rise in vain for me,
My Mary!

Partakers of the sad decline,
Thy hands their little force resign;
Yet gently prest, press gently mine,
My Mary!

And then I feel that still I hold
A richer store ten thousandfold
Than misers fancy in their gold,
My Mary!

I suppose the ‘wow’ moment for me was the intensely touching lines, as Cowper sits by the bedside of his dying love.

‘Partakers of the sad decline,
Thy hands their little force resign;
Yet gently prest, press gently mine…’

It reminds me of a comment Billy Graham made about his wife Ruth when she was bedridden, how they could experience such ecstatic romance by simply staring into each other’s eyes for long periods of time and know their love was as complete and fulfilling as it could ever be.

Read Cowper’s lines again.

And maybe grab hold of some of his poetry from your local bookstore.

©2015 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

 

[i] http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/william-cowper

Take a Closer Look at the Claims of Christ

 

Take a Closer Look at the Claims of Christ. New on Kindle!
Take a Closer Look at the Claims of Christ. New on Kindle!

Take a Closer Look is an easy to use resource to help explain who Jesus is, why He came and how someone can begin following Him.

Included are many faith-inspiring verses from the Gospel of John, helpful questions, and a chapter which seeks to help the person envision what life may look like for them were they to become a follower of Christ.

It’s designed to be used one-on-one but is ideal for individual use.
Many have come to a lasting faith in Jesus through this study.

‘Take a Closer Look’ http://amzn.to/1ufMzys (US store)
‘Take a Closer Look’ http://amzn.to/1yzbjlk (UK store)

Dirk Jongkind
Dirk Jongkind

‘When John wrote his book about Jesus more than 1900 years ago, he wanted people to understand who this Jesus really was and why he deserves our trust and commitment. Lex Loizides takes the modern reader by the hand with exactly the same purpose as John had and explains who Jesus is using the words that John wrote down so long ago. If you want to know about Jesus then ‘Take a Closer Look’ is an excellent guide – it is faithful to the original sources.’
Dr. Dirk Jongkind, Research Fellow in New Testament Text and Language, St. Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge

Terry Virgo
Terry Virgo

‘When your curiosity is aroused and the light seems to be beckoning you out of darkness, how superb to have an outstanding aid like this which can, as it were, take you by the hand and lead you to the truth you’re beginning to long for.’
Terry Virgo, Founder of Newfrontiers

‘Take a Closer Look’ introduces you to Jesus. Reading the book is like meeting him for the first time. We hear him speak and our pre-conceived ideas are quickly adjusted to the real Jesus.
Gert Hijkoop, Pastor, Wijnstokgemeente, Berkel en Rodenrijs, Netherlands

Ian Galloway
Ian Galloway

Speaking as a busy pastor I totally recommend ‘Take a Closer Look’. I really enjoying doing them. I just love sitting down with people and seeing them start to engage personally with Jesus. The simplicity of the study, the focus on Jesus, and the ease with which it can be arranged make it a brilliant resource. Everyone should use this!
Ian Galloway, Pastor, City Church, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Samir Deokuliar
Samir Deokuliar

‘Take a Closer Look’ is a clear and crisp description of why one should consider Jesus. I have used this book (in Hindi) over the years to facilitate discussions in small groups. The claims and questions posed in the book are thought provoking and have helped healthy discussions. Highly recommended.
Samir Deokuliar, TV Presenter and Pastor, Dwaar, Delhi, India

Stephen van Rhyn
Stephen van Rhyn

I have found ‘Take a Closer Look’ to be a fantastic tool for introducing seekers to Christ and helping them cross the line of faith and follow Him. If you are looking for a relevant, Biblical and accessible study on Christ for seekers look no further.
Steve van Rhyn, Advance Network of Churches, Pastor, Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town, South Africa

Take a closer look is a great resource, that we have used in our church for a number of years, with success. It is particularly useful when you have an individual who is unclear on their faith, and you feel that what they need is a one-to-one short course over coffee. It is non-threatening, focusing on the gospel of John, and very accessible for young and old.
Matthew Clifton-Brown, Pastor, Kings Church Edinburgh, Scotland

One of the most important months of my life was going through ‘Take a Closer Look’ in the early 1990s. I knew nothing about Christianity, so understanding the basics was vital to making an informed decision. 20 years later I still have very fond memories of that life-defining time! I’d recommend ‘Take A Closer Look’ to anyone that wants to make their own choice about whether to accept Jesus’ claims.
Martin Cooper, Worship Leader, Songwriter, Teacher, British & Irish Modern Music Institute, UK

As a non-believing teenager unsure of what to make of Christianity, ‘Take a Closer Look’ (which I couldn’t put down and read in one sitting) gave me what I needed to make an informed decision. It is a clear explanation of what Jesus said about himself and his work, and what this means for our individual lives. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand what Jesus taught.
Vincent van Bever Donker, Oxford English Centre, Oxford 

I have used these lessons for people from different religious, educational and social backgrounds for over 15 years and found it very effective to lead them to Jesus Christ. I have found it a great one-on-one tool for a person interested in knowing Jesus. We have used it as a wonderful tool to help people open up as they seek to become Christians.
Joy-Anne Philip, Cochi, Kerala, India

Scriptural, practical, fruitful and flexible way of sharing Jesus with 1-10+ people at a time. Many lives have been transformed by this helpful tool.
Mike Sprenger, Evangelist, UK

‘Take a Closer Look’ is an excellent tool from the heart of an evangelist which will be a help and a blessing to all those who have a heart for the unsaved. Simple but profound.
Don Smith, veteran church planter, UK

‘Take a Closer Look’ is a helpful resource that helps me walk someone from objections to the faith to coming to faith in Christ.  It is short, accessible and yet proclaims the truth about Jesus powerfully. I trust that this new digital version will help equip believers to reach out to many more of their friends.
Gareth Bowley, Pastor, Oasis Church, Amazimtoti, South Africa

©2015 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

William and Catherine Booth: Mercy, Mission and Faith

William and Catherine Booth and their family
William and Catherine Booth and their family

Long before William Booth was known as the General of the Salvation Army he was known as a Methodist Evangelist. He was passionate, fiery, insistent on results.

And he remained an Evangelist until his death.

He seemed to know little embarrassment when dealing with the subject of hell (once famously saying he wished that preachers would get just five minutes at the gates of hell in order to arouse their compassion).

Mercy! Have you heard the word?
But he was also a preacher of Christian compassion:

‘Mercy! Have you heard the word? Have you felt its power? Mercy! Can you describe its hidden, unfathomable meaning? Mercy! Let the sound be borne on every breeze! Mercy! Shout it to the world around until there is not a sin-unpardoned, a pollution-spotted, a Hell-marked spirit unwashed, unsanctified! Until there is not a sign of the curse in existence, not a sorrow unsoothed, not a tear unwiped away! Until the world is flooded with salvation and all men are bathing in its life-giving streams!’[i]

He might well have become a popular local pastor, as the great CH Spurgeon became at about the same time. But Booth felt the same itinerating pull of his Methodist forefathers, who had said, ‘The whole world is now my parish!

My Horizon was smaller and needed less to fill it!
Reflecting in later years on the invitation to pastor a church, he wrote, ‘The Spalding people welcomed me as though I had been an angel from Heaven, providing me with every earthly blessing within their ability, and proposing that I should stay with them forever! They wanted me to marry [Catherine] right away, offered to furnish me a house, provide me with a horse to enable me more readily to get about the country, and proposed other things that they thought would please me. With them I spent the happiest eighteen months of my life. Of course my horizon was much more limited in those days than it is now, and consequently required less to fill it.’[ii]

After his marriage to Catherine Mumford in 1855, and his continued success as a traveling evangelist, his role amongst the Methodist new Connexion began to be debated by his peers.

Local Methodist pastors were not entirely happy with Booth riding into town, preaching up a storm, getting their congregants ‘saved’ and then disappearing in a cloud of glory. He needed to be brought into line.

The infighting is painful to read, but, in the end, the Methodists made it so uncomfortable for the Booths that they felt they had no option but to resign.

The Booths break away from Methodism
Catherine, writing to her parents, expressed their resolute determination to break free (there is, of course, an irony in this, as the Salvation Army later had to defend itself against charges of inflexibility):

‘I do not see any honourable course for us but to resign at once and risk all (if trusting in the Lord for our bread in order to do what we believe to be His will ought to be called a risk).’[iii]

The break finally came in 1861. At the final meeting where their future was to be decided, a compromise was offered to them but which was unacceptable to Booth. Catherine was seated in the gallery above the proceedings and when Booth took a glance upward to her, she called out ‘Never!’

Booth stood up and waved his hat towards the door, while shouts of ‘Order! Order!’ rang out. He walked across the chapel floor where he met his wife at the foot of the stairs to the gallery, embraced her, and then walked out of the meeting and into their future.

It was a future that held continued evangelistic fruit for them both, but one which later drew thousands of others into that fruitfulness. But more of that later…

©2014 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

[i] Harold Begbie, Life of William Booth: The Founder of the Salvation Army (2 vols. London: MacMillan, 1920) 1:92

[ii] ibid 1:133

[iii] ibid 1:250

Oxford Professor John Lennox in South Africa

This page includes 8 AUDIO LINKS AND 5 VIDEOS 

After a hugely successful first trip to Cape Town and Gauteng last year, Professor John Lennox returned in Sept 2014.

Professor John Lennox's Cape Town schedule
Professor John Lennox’s Cape Town schedule

 

Accompanied by his brother, Gilbert, John arrived to a beautiful day in Cape Town, lunching at the famous Kirstenbosch Gardens.

John Lennox Kirstenbosch

 

Both John and his brother are keen photographers and thoroughly enjoyed the amazing beauty of Cape Town.

John also enjoyed Cape Town hospitality at the Steenburg Estate in the evening.

Dinner with Hugo, Karen, Lex and Jo
Dinner with Hugo, Karen, Lex and Jo

 

Prof John Lennox at the University of Cape Town

John gave two lunchtime lectures to a packed lecture theatre on the subject ‘Is God a Delusion?’

Here’s the first lecture: ‘Is God a Delusion, Part One (UCT)’

 

'Is God a Delusion?' with John Lennox at UCT
‘Is God a Delusion?’ with John Lennox at UCT
The students were genuinely enjoying Prof Lennox's wit
The students were genuinely enjoying Prof Lennox’s wit

 

Continuing to explain outside the lecture theatre...
Continuing to explain outside the lecture theatre…

The crowds increased for the second lecture, so that I was totally unable to get pictures from a different angle!

Even before the lecture began it was obvious that this was a main event for UCT that day.
Even before the lecture began it was obvious that this was a main event for UCT that day.

 

More students streamed in, completely filling the stairs, standing at the back an sitting over the edges!
More students streamed in, completely filling the stairs, standing at the back and even sitting over the edges!

Here’s the second lecture: ‘Is God a Delusion, part two (UCT)’

 

Combined Jubilee/Common Ground ‘OneLife’ event

[AUDIO links below]

Well over 1000 people arrived to hear Prof Lennox at an event called ‘OneLife’ which is an event that seeks to help Christian engage their Christianity with their working life, breaking down a sacred/secular divide.

In the plenary session, John was given the title, ‘Thinking Christians in a Changing World’ (although he suggested he’d like to change it to ‘Changing Christians in a Thinking World’!).

Over 1000 people crammed into the Jubilee Centre to hear Prof Lennox
Over 1000 people crammed into the Jubilee Centre to hear Prof Lennox
John Lennox on 'Thinking Christians in a Changing World'
John Lennox on ‘Thinking Christians in a Changing World’

CLICK HERE to listen (or download) ‘Thinking Christians in a Changing World’

It was difficult to see how we could get more people in!
It was difficult to see how we could get more people in!

The audio/video will be available soon -  check back later

Prof Lennox also spoke to medical professionals on the challenge of bioethics
Prof Lennox also spoke to medical professionals on the challenge of bioethics

CLICK HERE to listen to (or download) ‘Bioethics: Challenges in the 21st Century’

 

Prof. Lennox at the Diocesan College (Bishops) in Rondebosch

As to with each of the meetings in which Prof Lennox spoke, there was both laughter and serious thinking on the part of the audience. After a gracious introduction by the new Headmaster Prof Lennox challenged the boys to be intellectually rigourous and follow where the evidence leads.

John arriving at Bishops
John arriving at Bishops
Prof Lennox speaking to over 600 boys and staff at Bishops
Prof Lennox speaking to over 600 boys and staff at Bishops

 

Relaxing in Cape Town with Gilbert and John Lennox
Relaxing in Cape Town with Gilbert and John Lennox

Following an email request, radio talk show host John Maytham was very keen to have John on his afternoon show. The result was less of an interview and more a frank exchange between two opposing positions. The interview lasted for just over 22 minutes and Prof Lennox felt it was one of the best he’d ever done. In the lead up to the interview Maythem mentions that there had been ‘huge interest’.

 

John Lennox being interviewed by John Maytham at Cape Talk Radio
John Lennox being interviewed by John Maytham at Cape Talk Radio
John Maytham with Prof John Lennox
John Maytham with Prof John Lennox

Is God a Delusion? Event in Fish Hoek
This event, hosted by Murray Anderson, was a combined churches event including King of Kings Baptist, Common Ground, St Peter’s and Tokai Community Church.

For AUDIO PART 1 CLICK HERE

For AUDIO PART 2 CLICK HERE

Prof Lennox answered the most popular objections to the Christian Faith drawn from an online survey.

Prof Lennox answers common objections to the Christian Faith
Prof Lennox answers common objections to the Christian Faith
Lennox fishhoek2
Prof Lennox in Fish Hoek

 

Prof Lennox addressed business leaders in Cape Town
One of the highlights of Prof Lennox’s Cape Town visit was a sold out breakfast for some of Cape Town’s most influential business leaders.

The breakfast was organised by Accelerate Cape Town and held at Deloitte’s.
John has spoken numerous times for the Said Business School in Oxford, as well as speaking for several multi-national corporations and companies. His subject was ‘Smart Cities: Smart Ethics’, and was followed by a Q&A.

Prof Lennox speaks to a group of business people drawn together by Accelerate Cape Town
Prof Lennox speaks to a group of business people drawn together by Accelerate Cape Town
Prof Lennox addresses business leaders in Cape Town
Prof Lennox addresses business leaders in Cape Town

 

Prof Lennox at Stellenbosch University
Once again Prof Lennox addressed an eager audience at Stellenbosch University on the subject ‘Should the New South Africa Embrace the New Atheism?’

Click on the image below to  hear the AUDIO 

Lennox Stellenbosch Advert

 

Prof Lennox addresses students at Stellenbosch University
Prof Lennox addresses students at Stellenbosch University

On Saturday 13th I hosted two Q&A sessions (of one hour each) with Prof Lennox, asking questions and objections ranging from the reliability of Scripture, the challenge of Reason v. Revelation; questions regarding the Bible and the ‘Big Bang'; the age of the universe, the age of the earth, and the standard evolutionary narrative. Some of his answers were controversial, as you’ll hear. Audience members were able to interrupt via twitter (which was both fun and taxing on the interviewer). Both sessions are included on a single file (58MB), at the moment, but well worth downloading so you can listen later.

To hear AUDIO of ‘The God Question’ interview click the image below

The God Question with Prof John Lennox
The God Question with Prof John Lennox
Hundreds turned out to hear Prof John Lennox answer tough questions
Hundreds turned out to hear Prof John Lennox answer tough questions
Lennox, with characteristic good humour, relished the opportunity to answer objections
Lennox, with characteristic good humour, relished the opportunity to answer objections
Prof Lennox answered several questions sent in via facebook & twitter
Prof Lennox answered several questions sent in via facebook & twitter

 

John also spoke at the multi-racial Jubilee Community Church in Cape Town

'In the beginning God...'
‘In the beginning God…’

9.30am – ‘In the beginning God…’ a look at issues arising from Genesis 1

LISTEN TO THE AUDIO OF ‘IN THE BEGINNING GOD…’

Prof Lennox and UCT Prof Kelly Chibale in conversation after lunch
Prof Lennox and UCT Prof Kelly Chibale in conversation after lunch

6.30am – ‘Let us make Man in Our image…’ a look at issues arising from Genesis 2 & 3

LISTEN TO THE AUDIO OF ‘LET US MAKE MAN IN OUR IMAGE…’

Prof John Lennox at Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town
Prof John Lennox at Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town

 

Prof Lennox at North West University, South Africa

_Foto1

Prof Lennox lecturing on God: Rendered Irrelevant? Has science buried God? to about 3500 people in the Amphitheater on the Potchefstroom campus of North West University. (15 Sept)

 

Prof Lennox at Oosterlig Church, Pretoria

Prof Lennox at Dialoog Church
Prof Lennox at Oosterlig Church

 

Prof Lennox at Moreleta Church, Pretoria

Prof Lennox at Moreleta Church, Pretoria
Prof Lennox at Moreleta Church, Pretoria

 

Debate with Eusebius McKaiser

Prof Lennox’s most widely publicised meeting in the Gauteng area was his discussion with radio talk show host Eusebius McKaiser.

PART ONE of the video is here:

PART TWO:

PART THREE:

 

RZIM SA Director Mahlatse Mashua, Prof Lennox and Eusebius McKaiser before the WITS discussion
RZIM SA Director Mahlatse Mashua, Prof Lennox and Eusebius McKaiser before the WITS discussion

 

 

© 2014 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

 

The Call to Witness and the Call to Preach

The young William Booth
The young William Booth

This passionate exhortation by William Booth has often been misquoted. At least certain punchy phrases have been lifted out of context.

In one sense he hasn’t helped himself by referring to all gospel-sharing as ‘preaching’. But it’s clear that he is differentiating between the general call on every Christian to witness to those who don’t know Christ and the specific call which some experience and which tends to lead them into and confirm them as public preachers and teachers of the Bible.

He is exasperated by the silence of ordinary, good Christians when it comes to evangelism.

While some phrases are certainly clumsy, let’s not miss the passion:

– We need to become aware of those who don’t yet realise that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).

– We need to have an appropriate understanding of eternal realities and the eternal consequences of someone’s rejection of Christ.

– We need to become ‘unselfish’ and start serving people evangelistically.

– If the gospel is true, love should compel us to initiate contact, communication, relationships.

– While there is a special call to vocational ‘ministry’ for some, we are all called to ‘preach’ the gospel. For some, even if they haven’t been specially ‘called to ministry’ they can still seek God for it (Booth was always looking for more leaders).

You may not be a Salvationist. You may not like aspects of Booth’s theology. But every Christian should feel stirred and sharpened by Booth’s words:

How can anybody with spiritual eyesight talk of having no call?
‘How can anybody with spiritual eyesight talk of having no call, when there are such multitudes around them who never hear a word about God, and never intend to; who can never hear, indeed, without the sort of preacher who will force himself upon them?

Are you spiritually healthy if you have no compassion?
‘Can a man keep right in his own soul, who can see all that, and yet stand waiting for a ‘call’ to preach? Would they wait so for a ‘call’ to help anyone escape from a burning building, or to snatch a sinking child from a watery grave?

Does not growth in grace, or even ordinary growth of intelligence, necessarily bring with it that deepened sense of eternal truths which must intensify the conviction of duty to the perishing world?

Does not an unselfish love, the love that goes out towards the unloving, demand of a truly loving soul immediate action for the salvation of the unloved?

And are there not persons who know that they possess special gifts, such as robust health, natural eloquence or power of voice, which specially make them responsible for doing something for souls?

If you’ve been called by God obey Him!
‘And yet I do not at all forget, that above and beyond all these things, there does come to some a special and direct call which it is particularly fatal to disregard, and peculiarly strengthening to enjoy and act upon.

I believe that there have been many eminently holy and useful men who never had such a call; but that does not at all prevent anyone from asking God for it, or blessing Him for His special kindness when He gives it.’[i]

More next time…

For the first post in this series on the Salvation Army click here

 

© 2014 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

 

 

[i] Harold Begbie, Life of William Booth: The Founder of the Salvation Army (2 vols. London: MacMillan, 1920) 1:84

William Booth: the balance between education and evangelism

William Booth the reader!
William Booth the reader!

When William Booth taught his fellow ‘soldiers’ in the Salvation Army certain key principles, one of those he emphasized continually was the importance of being able to genuinely influence people towards faith in Christ.

So far so good. Most Christian leaders would agree. We’re only playing if we’re only publishing.

CH Spurgeon, while coming from a different theological viewpoint from Booth, was also unapologetic about the need for results. Souls need to be saved.

And so Booth includes in his own story the fact that, certainly in the mid-19th Century, formal theological training didn’t help equip him in his evangelistic Mission.

Booth moves to the Methodist New Connexion
After Booth arrived in London in 1849 he joined a Methodist church and began preaching with some success.

Discouraged by the lack of missional intentionality, he joined the Methodist New Connexion, and was encouraged to seek ordination.

Booth at this time was sent to preach for churches that were losing numbers, and for whom it was felt little could be done. He’d go for two weeks at a time, preaching each evening with much success, sometimes drawing the positive attention of the local press.

There was no doubt that he was a gifted evangelist, but he had no formal training for ministry. He had not even completed High School let alone received a University education.

Booth was self-conscious about this deficiency and asked if he might study under a theologian within the New Methodist Connexion denomination. Surely theological training would help him in the mission.

Give me a chance
His prayer was, ‘Give me a chance of acquiring information, and of learning how more successfully to conduct this all important business of saving men to which Thou hast called me, and which lies so near my heart.’[i]

Disarmingly, Booth writes, ‘But instead of better qualifying me for the work of saving men, by imparting to me the knowledge necessary for this task I was set to study Latin, Greek, various sciences, and other subjects, which, as I saw at a glance, could little help me in the all-important work that lay before me…’[ii]

Nevertheless he kept studying until the day finally came when his tutor would hear and assess his preaching. Booth knew he would be evaluated on theological content and not necessarily evangelistic impact.

The occasion was a regular evening service in a church. And there were non-believers there. It was soon clear that this could be no practice run. In his mind the mission always trumps any ‘in-house’ priority, which in this instance, was his own future prospects.

Booth: ‘I saw him seated…at the end of the church…I realized that my future standing in his estimation, as well as my position would very much depend on the judgement he formed of me on that occasion…

I knew that my simple, practical style was altogether different from his own, and of the overwhelming majority of the preachers he was accustomed to approve…

I saw dying souls before me…
[But] I saw dying souls before me, the gates of Heaven wide open on the one hand, and the gates of Hell open on the other, while I saw Jesus Christ with His arms open between the two, crying out to all to come and be saved.

My whole soul was in favour of doing what it could to second the invitation of my Lord, and doing it that very night.

I cannot now remember much about the service, except the sight of my Professor, with his family around him, a proud, worldly daughter sitting at his side.

I can remember, however, that in my desire to impress the people with the fact that they could have Salvation there and then, if they would seek it, and, to illustrate their condition, I described a wreck on the ocean, with the affrighted people clinging to the masts between life and death, waving a flag of distress to those on shore, and, in response, the life-boat going off to the rescue.

And then I can remember how I reminded my hearers that they had suffered shipwreck on the ocean of time through their sins and rebellion; that they were sinking down to destruction, but that if they would only hoist the signal of distress Jesus Christ would send off the life-boat to their rescue.

Then, jumping on the seat at the back of the pulpit, I waved my pocket-handkerchief round and round my head to represent the signal of distress I wanted them to hoist, and closed with an appeal to those who wanted to be rescued to come at once, and in the presence of the audience, to the front of the auditorium. That night twenty-four knelt at the Saviour’s feet, and one of them was the proud daughter of my Professor.’[iii]

The brief but happy review
The next day Booth met with his tutor for the review.

‘My dear Sir,’ the tutor said, ‘I have only one thing to say to you, and that is, go on in the way you have begun, and God will bless you.’

Booth didn’t complete his studies with the New Methodist Connexion. He writes, ‘I had hardly settled down to my studies before I got into a red-hot Revival in a small London church where a remarkable work was done. In an account of this effort my name appeared in the church’s Magazine, and I was invited to conduct special efforts in other parts of the country.

This, I must confess, completely upset my plans once more, and I have not been able to find heart or time for either Greek or Latin from that day to this.’[iv]

Neither Booth, nor the Salvation Army were anti-education, but in terms of equipping men and women for evangelistic effectiveness, he was adamant that men and women should be appropriately equipped for effective ministry. And that meant a blend of standard education as well as specific equipping to bring people to faith in Christ.

An old Pentecostal preacher is quoted as saying, ‘In all yer learnin’, get the fire!’ Sound advice. Get the learning but get the skills too. And Booth would agree: Get the fire!

To read Booth’s impassioned plea for all Christians to witness click here

For the first post in the Salvation Army story click here

© 2014 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

 

[i] Quoted by George S Railton, General Booth, (St Albans: The Salvation Army Printing Works, 1912) p.41

[ii] ibid

[iii] ibid p 42

[iv] ibid p.43

Your City is Probably Surprisingly like 19th Century London

Artist's depiction of a 19th Century London Pawnbroker's shop front.
Artist’s depiction of a 19th Century London Pawnbroker’s shop front. Booth was an apprentice pawnbroker in London.

At 19 William Booth moved to London. It was 1849. Like many others from the rural areas, he needed to find work.

His sister and her family lived in London, but her drunken husband would not allow Booth to stay with them for any length of time.

‘He arrived in London as a seeker of work, the son of a poor and struggling mother in the provinces, with no influence, with no money, and with no friends.’ [i]

He was alone in a very crowded city, where poverty and sickness were on every side. As had been the case in Nottingham, his own experiences of personal need combined with his compassionate observation of the needs of others, would shape his future ministry.

Booth’s biographer, Harold Begbie gives us a description of London that is both vivid and powerful.

And before we press on too much further with the story of The Salvation Army and how they began to actually sought to solve some of these problems, let’s read Begbie’s account with our own cities in mind.

While there clearly are differences, aren’t his descriptions of mid-nineteenth century London unnervingly familiar to those of us living in the great cities of the world today?

And don’t we need some present-day William and Catherine Booths to rise up? Don’t we need many more modern-day Salvation Armys to get to work and engage with the pressing issues of the major cities of the world?

London in 1849
‘It is difficult for the modern mind to conceive truly of the England of that period. Humanitarianism, which has become with us, if not a passion and a religion, at least good manners, was then regarded as the misguided hobby of a few fussy and mischief-making philanthropists…

Little concern was shown by the churches or the chapels for the bodies of men. No shame was felt for such a term as ‘Ragged Schools.’ There was no system of national education, factory legislation permitted children to work for ten hours a day, there was no real inspection of these insanitary places, no idea of housing reform, no provision for poverty but the execrable Poor-House.

Few agencies existed for ministering to the physical needs of the poor, the mental needs of the uneducated, the spiritual needs of the sunken masses, the most elemental needs of perishing children…

The phrase ‘social conscience’ had not been invented; men were satisfied with, accepted as a God ordained system of human government, a state of individualism which trod millions underfoot for the enrichment of tens.’ [ii]

Booth’s response began with the somewhat awkward method of simply standing up and preaching to crowds, if he could gather them. Although our specific methodology may differ according to our context, as followers of Christ, the passionate proclamation of the gospel of Christ must also be central – as central as it was for Booth and the early Salvation Army.

But I jump ahead. For now, take a closer look at your city, your town. How can you reach the majority of the residents there with the gospel?

What initiatives are in place in your city to tackle poverty, vice, greed, homelessness, violence?

Let us know!

To read Booth on the balance between Education and Evangelism click here

For the first post in the Salvation Army series click here

[i] Harold Begbie, Life of William Booth: The Founder of the Salvation Army (2 vols. London: MacMillan, 1920) 1:77

[ii]  HB 1:74

© 2014 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

Zeal and Determination in the Life of Young William Booth

London in the 1870s
London in the 1870s

William Booth, Founder of the Salvation Army, was first and foremost an Evangelist; a preacher of the gospel.

He was famous for his untiring zeal. He described himself as red-hot and he wanted to reproduce red-hot evangelists, preaching the gospel and winning thousands to Christ. And it was this passion for evangelism that sustained his mission to serve the poor effectively (but more of that later).

Saved to Save!
Sarah Osborne (nee Butler), a close friend of the Booth family, gives this amazing description of him:

‘He was the most earnest and enthusiastic man I ever knew – he was really burning, really on fire to save souls. He used to say that we were saved to save. He could not stand people who said their souls were saved and who did nothing to save other people.’[i]

As a relatively new convert, he was determined to reach others with the good news he had found and began preaching in the streets and at small ‘cottage meetings’ in peoples homes.

Not Satisfied with a Few Responses and Positive Feedback
These early efforts did get some fruit but he was not satisfied.

He writes,

‘Oh, the stagnation into which I had settled down, the contentment of my mind with the love offered me at every turn by the people! I still aimed at the Salvation of the unconverted and the spiritual advance of my people, and still fought for these results. Indeed, I never fell below that.

And yet if the After-Meeting was well attended, and if one or two Penitents responded, I was content, and satisfied myself with that hackneyed excuse for so much unfruitful work, that I had ‘sown the seed.’ Having cast my bread on the waters, I persuaded myself that I must hope for its being found by and by.

But I heard of a Rev. Richard Poole who was moving about the country, and the stories told me of the results attending his services had aroused in me memories of the years gone by, when I thought little and cared less about the acceptability of my own performances, so long as I could drag the people from the jaws of Hell.

I resolved to go and hear him…When I had heard him preach from the text, ‘Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldst believe, thou shouldst see the salvation of God,’ and had observed the blessed results, I went to my own chamber – I remember that it was over a baker’s shop – and resolved that, regardless of man’s opinions, and my own gain or position, I would ever seek the one thing.

Whilst kneeling in that room, there came into my soul a fresh realisation of the greatness of the opportunity before me of leading men and women out of their miseries and their sin, and of my responsibility to go in for that with all my might.

In obedience to the heavenly vision, I made a consecration of the present and future, of all I had, and hoped to have, to the fulfilment of this mission, and I believe God accepted the offering.’[ii]

To read Booth’s description of 19th city-life (and similarities with the poor in cities today) click here

For the first post in the Booth/Salvation Army series click here

© 2014 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

 

[i] Harold Begbie, Life of William Booth: The Founder of the Salvation Army (2 vols. London: MacMillan, 1920) 1:49

[ii] Quoted by George S Railton, General Booth, (St Albans: The Salvation Army Printing Works, 1912) p.39-40

The thing about Gandhi…a review

Gandhi, the controversial biography
Gandhi, the controversial biography

A Review, with quotes, of Jad Adams’ biography of the much-loved Mohandas Gandhi.

This biography of one of the most iconic figures of the twentieth century is impossible to put down. It’s a fresh look at the man through his own writings and the testimony of those closest to him.

One aspect of the book, unsurprisingly, dominated the reviews: Gandhi’s risqué experiments in testing his own commitment to Brahmacharya (celibacy).  The claim is that the presence of the two young women who regularly slept in his bed was necessary in order to test that commitment and thus help preserve his spiritual power for the benefit of others.

Astonishing as that may sound, there’s much more to the book than that…

To read the review click here

© 2014 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

Evangelism with William Booth, in his own words

Clothing for the poor, circa 1849
An illustration of clothes distribution to England’s poor, circa 1849


Although William Booth’s conversion experience was relatively undramatic the results were not.

During a message to young Salvation Army officers Booth stirred them to action by describing his own early adventures in evangelism:

Surprising Success
‘God…led me out to work for Him, after a fashion which, considering my youth and inexperience, must be pronounced remarkable. While recovering from [an] illness, which left me far from strong, I received a note from a companion, Will Sansom, asking me to make haste and get well again, and help him in a Mission he had started in a slum part of the town. No sooner was I able to get about than I gladly joined him.

The Meetings we held were very remarkable for those days. We used to take out a chair into the street, and one of us mounting it would give out a hymn, which we then sang with the help of, at the most, three or four people. Then I would talk to the people, and invite them to come with us to a Meeting in one of the houses.

Hard Work as a Volunteer
How I worked in those days! Remember that I was only an apprentice lad of fifteen or sixteen. I used to leave [work] at 7 o’clock, or soon after, and go visiting the sick, then these street Meetings, and afterwards to some Meeting in a cottage, where we would often get some one saved.

After the Meeting I would often go to see some dying person, arriving home about midnight to rest all I could before rising next morning in time to reach my place of business at 7 A.M. That was sharp exercise!

Mobile devotionals
How I can remember rushing along the streets during my forty minutes’ dinner-time, reading the Bible or C. G. Finney’s Lectures on Revivals of Religion as I went, careful, too, not to be a minute late.

And at this time I was far from strong physically; but full of difficulties as those days were, they were nevertheless wonderful seasons of blessing, and left pleasant memories that endure to this hour.

‘Slow down, young man!’
The leading men of the church to which I belonged were afraid I was going too fast, and gave me plenty of cautions, quaking and fearing at my every new departure; but none gave me a word of encouragement.

And yet the Society of which for those six apprentice years I was a faithful member, was literally my heaven on earth. Truly, I thought then there was one God, that John Wesley was His prophet, and that the Methodists were His special people.

The church was at the time, I believe, one thousand members strong. Much as I loved them, however, I mingled but little with them, and had time for but few of their great gatherings, having chosen the Meadow Platts as my parish, because my heart then as now went out after the poorest of the poor.

My conversion made me into a Preacher of the Gospel
Thus my conversion made me, in a moment, a preacher of the Gospel. The idea never dawned on me that any line was to be drawn between one who had nothing else to do but preach and a saved apprentice lad who only wanted ‘to spread through all the earth abroad,’…the fame of our Saviour.

No professionals – we are all soldiers in Christ’s mission
I have lived, thank God, to witness the separation between layman and cleric become more and more obscured, and to see Jesus Christ’s idea of changing in a moment ignorant fishermen into fishers of men nearer and nearer realisation.

But I had to battle for ten of the best years of my youth against the barriers the Churches set up to prevent this natural following of the Lamb wherever He leads.

Resisting clerical pretence
At that time they all but compelled those who wished to minister to the souls of men to speak in unnatural language and tones, and adopt habits of mind and life which so completely separated them from the crowd as to make them into a sort of princely caste, whom the masses of every clime outwardly reverenced and inwardly despised.

Lad though I was, a group of new Converts and other earnest souls soon gathered around me, and greater things seemed to be ahead…’[i]

For the next post, on William Booth’s amazing zeal click here

For the first post in the Booth series click here

©2014 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] Quoted by George S Railton, General Booth, (St Albans: The Salvation Army Printing Works, 1912) p.16-18

William Booth’s Conversion and the Church’s resistance to the Poor

William Booth’s Conversion and the Church’s resistance to the Poor

Mother and Children, 1849
Mother and Children, 1849

While Booth was working in the ‘bondage of slavery’ as a pawnbroker’s apprentice in Nottingham, he gave his life to Christ.

Although many very dramatic conversions followed his preaching, Booth’s own conversion was fairly straightforward: sudden conviction of sin, repentance and faith in Christ, all in the space of an evening.

He had begun attending some Methodist meetings and, at about 11pm, walking home, he suddenly realised that he must surrender to the Christ the Methodists had been preaching so earnestly about.

The first evidence of his conversion was a confrontation with his stingy employer, Francis Eames. Eames, who sounds like a character right out of a Dickens novel, continued working his apprentices after midnight on Saturday into the early hours of Sunday morning (they were supposed to close at midnight).

The new convert immediately felt this was breaking the Sabbath and refused to work. He was sacked. However, Eames relented and soon restored his most reliable employee. But it was pitiable work.

First attempts at preaching
Booth now began to emulate his new-found hero, John Wesley. ‘There is one God’, he was later to say, tongue in cheek, ‘and John Wesley is His prophet!’ He knew instinctively that the gospel must be communicated urgently with those around him. He and a friend began preaching in the open air. He would stand on a barrel and preach to the two or three people who might listen, urging them to attend a nearby meeting.

Seeing a gang of men on their way to the pub, Booth called out to them, urging them to repent and stop wasting money on drink while their wives were waiting at home for them to bring food.

But he wasn’t merely scolding people for irresponsible behaviour, he was preaching Christ too. And when he began to get some converts from amongst the poor he found it difficult to convince them to come to church.

Finally, one Sunday, he would be resisted no longer and ushered a reluctant group of ragged-trousered followers into Broad Street Methodist Church. The effect was…well, awkward. The pastors may have had a commitment to evangelistic preaching, but they clearly weren’t ready to cross any cultural bridges to reach those around them who were poor.

Booth was called to a Deacon’s meeting at which he was told not to do that again. This probably wasn’t a huge surprise to him. He knew what Wesley could never have imagined: that the once revivalistic Methodist church in Nottingham had become respectable.[i]

For the next post in this series, on William Booth’s own early experiences in evangelism, click here

To read the first post in this series on The Salvation Army click here


[i] Much of the material here is found in Richard Collier’s excellent book, The General Next to God (Glasgow: Fontana, 1968)

The Making of a Social Reformer

Nottingham in the 1800s
Nottingham in the 1800s

William Booth’s Rough Start

It could have gone so well. His father, Samuel Booth, had made some money, quite a lot of money, and then lost some money, quite a lot of money.

His business ventures and investments (as a nail manufacturer and then builder) rose and fell and then, early into his second marriage, they crashed beyond recovery.

Samuel and his first wife, Sarah, had enjoyed some prosperity, living in a large house in a village outside Nottingham. But it didn’t last. After Sarah’s death, and the death of their only child five years later, Booth Sr. had to scale down.

But first he remarried. It doesn’t appear to have been a happy match. He was already sliding steadily downhill towards hardship. William describes his father as obsessed with making money. His mother, Mary, the daughter of a well-to-do farmer, was 16 years younger than Samuel and was 33 when they married.

The inevitable happened. They left the big house and moved to a relatively poor suburb of Nottingham, where William was born in April 1829.

William Booth was the only (surviving) boy of the family with one older sister and two younger sisters.

Their situation went from downsizing to considerable losses to outright ruin. Booth wrote, ‘bad times set in, heavy losses followed one on the heels of the other, making the early days a season of mortification and misery.’[i]

It would seem that both parents were somewhat ashamed of their situation, with few friends and few visitors to the family home.

There were brief moments of relief but Samuel was never able to lift his family to financial stability.

The exploitation of the poor - Behind a Pawnbroker's Counter
The vulnerability of the poor – Behind a Pawnbroker’s Counter

Out to work at 13

Although William had attended a good school, at the age of thirteen his father was no longer able to afford the school fees and he was sent to work as an apprentice to a pawnbroker. This experience of badly paid work, and particularly of seeing his employer profiting from the vulnerability of the poor had a profound effect on Booth.

He writes,

‘I had scarcely any income as an apprentice, and was so hard up when my father died, that I could do next to nothing to assist my dear mother and sisters, which was the cause of no little humiliation and grief.’

‘The system of apprenticeship in those days generally bound a lad for six or seven years. During this time he received little or no wages, and was required to slave from early morning to late evening upon the supposition that he was ‘being taught’ the business, which, if he had a good master, was probably true.

It was a severe but useful time of learning. My master was a Unitiarian – that is, he did not believe Christ was the Son of God and the Saviour of the world, but only the best of teachers; yet so little had he learned of Him that his heaven consisted in making money, strutting around with his gay wife, and regaling himself with worldly amusements.

At nineteen, the weary years of my apprenticeship came to an end. I had done my six years’ service, and was heartily glad to be free from the humiliating bondage they had proved.

I tried hard to find some kind of labour that would give me more liberty to carry out the aggressive ideas which I had by this time come to entertain as to saving the lost; but I failed. For twelve months I waited. Those months were among the most desolate of my life. No one took the slightest interest in me.

Failing to find employment in Nottingham, I had to move away.’[ii]

For the next post, on Booth’s conversion and the church’s resistance to his early converts click here

For the first part in this series on The Salvation Army click here

© 2013 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] Harold Begbie, Life of William Booth: The Founder of the Salvation Army (2 vols. London: MacMillan, 1920) 1:26

[ii] Quoted in George Railton, General Booth (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1912) p.5-6

Introducing the Salvation Army

Introducing the Salvation Army

Salvation Army Fundraising
The Salvation Army fundraising for good causes

Today we see them, usually around Christmas, ringing a bell and calling for cash donations into red buckets.

In the US they’re a not-for-profit we trust. They’re doing good. Serving those in need.
In the UK they’re held in affection as a kind of mix between the St. John’s Ambulance men and a village fete brass band playing the kind of tunes we imagine were popular in the 1940s. They’re faithful, and part of us.

Kindly people all. They don’t seem to be at war.

It’s amazing how words can lose their meaning through familiarity. Because those two words Salvation and Army were a perfect description for one of the most committed and self-sacrificing forces of evangelisation in the late 19th century. And their influence continues.

In this upcoming series of posts your faith is going to be stirred, your compassion aroused and your desire to do something about poverty in your city will resolve itself, I hope, into action.

The Salvation Army Crest
The Salvation Army Crest

We’ll see:

–  how the passion of the leading Evangelist of the Methodist churches in Britain led to thousands of conversions

–  how a commitment to evangelism led to the formation of a church planting movement

–  how the power of the Holy Spirit lifted people from poverty to leadership in their communities

–  how those who were largely unreached by the established churches were gathered and mobilized for global mission

–  how unemployment, starvation and disease were tackled head-on by Christians refusing to accept the status quo

–  how the latest technologies and musical innovations were harnessed for gospel proclamation

–  how tough, unbelieving communities were reached through creative, sometimes downright crazy, attention-getting gospel initiatives

–  how persecution from both rich and poor that led to violence and even martyrdom couldn’t stop the relentless love of a genuinely missional community

–  how a movement that began among a few drunks and no-hopers who mocked the message and threw rotten eggs at the messenger spread right across the globe

This is the story of Christ amongst the poor. This is the story of mercy triumphing over judgement. This is the story of blood and fire.

This is the story of The Salvation Army.

© 2013 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

Prominent Jewish Believers in Jesus Christ

In a couple of weeks time I will be addressing nearly 2000 people on the subject of Judaism. Having been invited to do so as someone keen to communicate the benefits of faith in Jesus Christ, I accepted the challenge (I am no expert!).

Of course I have been enjoying (and studying) the Hebrew Scriptures for nearly thirty years now and am very conscious that it is because of the world’s most influential Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, that I, along with millions of other Gentiles, have come to love the writings of Moses, the Psalms of David and the prophecies of Isaiah.

We have found Him!

As I did some additional background reading I came upon a fascinating list of influential Jews who declared their belief that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah.

The following examples may go some way to counter the argument that it is only ignorant or poorly educated Jews who believe that Jesus is the Messiah, or at least not those familiar with real Judaism.

It is a joy to know, indeed, that these Jews can say along with Philip and the first Jewish believers, ‘We have found him, of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote – Jesus of Nazareth!’ (John 1:45)

Obviously this is merely a partial list but it may be of real interest to others who are on a spiritual journey and are considering the claims of Christianity.

1506 – Alfonso de Zamora  –  Rabbi
Alfonso de Zamora, a Rabbi, publicly declared his faith in Messiah Jesus in 1506. Working with Paul Nunez Coronel and Alfonso d’Alcala, two other Jewish believers, he uses his knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic, Chaldean, and other languages to help develop a six-volume multilingual work known as the Polyglot Bible. He also writes a Hebrew grammar, a Hebrew dictionary, a dictionary of the Old Testament, and a treatise on Hebrew spelling.

1530 – Immanuel Tremellius - Hebrew Scholar, University Professor
Immanuel Tremellius came to faith in Messiah around 1530 and became Professor of Hebrew at Cambridge University in 1548. He later becomes Professor of Theology at Heidelberg, where he produces a Latin Old Testament that is published in Frankfurt in the 1570s and London in 1580. With Theodore Beza’s Latin New Testament attached to it, the Tremellius Bible is the Protestant contender against the Vulgate issued by Pope Sixtus V in a Reformation vs. Counter Reformation battle of Latin bibles.

1546 – Johannes Isaac  –  Hebrew Scholar, University Professor
Johannes Isaac came to faith in 1546. He became a professor of Hebrew at the University of Cologne.

1621 – Malachi ben Samuel  –   Polish Rabbi
Malachi ben Samuel, a Polish Rabbi, comes to faith in Messiah around 1621, several years after being impressed by a Yiddish translation of the New Testament. He is particularly surprised that marginal references to the Hebrew Scriptures are not distorted, as he had been told they would be. He writes, “My heart became full of doubt. No man can believe the pain and ache that assailed my heart. I had no rest day or night…. What should I do? To whom should I speak of these things?” He finally feels he has no choice but to believe.

1625 – Giovanni Jonas  –  Hebrew Scholar
Giovanni Jonas came to faith in Poland in 1625 and, working as a librarian, writes a Hebrew translation of the Gospels and a Hebrew-Chaldee lexicon.

1656 – Esdras Edzard – Hebrew Scholar
Esdras Edzard, who grew up studying Hebrew and the Talmud, and then studied in Leipzig, Wittenberg, and Basel, earns a doctorate and begins working among the Jews of Hamburg. He provides free instruction in Hebrew, helps the poor, and explains faith in Messiah to all. From 1671 to 1708 Edzard leads 148 Jewish people to faith. He emphasizes further study for those coming to faith, and almost all of those who joined him continue in faith.

1709 – John Xeres – Talmudic Scholar
John Xeres counteracts the slur that Jewish believers in Jesus are not well educated in Judaism by emphasizing his Talmudic studies. Others on the list of learned Jewish believers include Ludwig Compiegne de Veil, Friedrich Albrecht Augusti, Paul Weidner, Julius Conrad Otto, Johann Adam Gottfried, and more.

1722 – Rabbi Judah Monis
Rabbi Judah Monis, after becoming the first Jewish individual to receive a college degree in America (M.A., Harvard, 1720), publicly embraces faith in Messiah Jesus. In 1735 he publishes a Hebrew grammar, the first to be published in America.

1758 – Seelig Bunzlau – German Rabbi
Seelig Bunzlau, a revered German Rabbi, announces from the pulpit of his synagogue that he is has placed his faith in Messiah.

1781 – William Herschel – Scientist & Astronomer
William Herschel, a Jewish believer, using a telescope he designed and constructed, discovers the planet Uranus. Herschel also fixes the positions of 2,500 nebulas, of which only 103 had previously been known. He infers the existence of binary stars, and then identifies 209 such pairs of stars that revolve around a common center. He discovers the infrared rays of the sun, defines and explains the composition of the Milky Way, and makes many other discoveries.

1782 – Joseph von Sonnenfels, Distinguished Jurist
Joseph von Sonnenfels, a distinguished jurist in Vienna and a Jewish believer, lays out the principles for the Edict of Toleration regarding Jews that Austrian emperor Joseph II announces.

1809 – Joseph Samuel Frey – Hebrew teacher and Cantor
Joseph Samuel Frey, a Hebrew teacher and cantor, organizes the London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews. He later comes to the United States and continues efforts to organize Jewish believers.

1810 – August Neander (David Mendel) – Professor at the University of Berlin
August Neander (born David Mendel) becomes Professor of Church History at the University of Berlin, where the influential Friedrich Schleiermacher also teaches. One observer comments on the “sad and singular sight” of “Schleiermacher, a Christian by birth, inculcating in one lecture room with all the power of his mighty genius, those doctrines which led to the denial of the evangelical attributes of Jesus.” Meanwhile, in another room “Neander, by birth a Jew, preached and taught salvation through faith in Messiah the Son of God alone.” Neander writes many scholarly books, including the multivolume General History of the Christian Religion and Church. Before his death in 1850 he goes blind, but dictates notes for the last section of his church history on the last day of his life.

1822 – Isaac da Costa – Author & Defender of European Jewry
Isaac da Costa, his wife Hannah, and his friend Abraham Capadose come to faith in Holland. Da Costa becomes Holland’s leading poet and Capadose a leading physician; da Costa’s book, Accusations Against the Spirit of the Century, attacks the rationalistic materialism that is coming to dominate Holland and demands that Messiah again become the center of national life. Da Costa writes often of Messiah and also his Jewish heritage: “In the midst of the contempt and dislike of the world for the name of Jew I have ever gloried in it.” The Jewish Encyclopedia comments about him, “His character, no less than his genius, was respected by his contemporaries. To the end of his life he felt only reverence and love for his former co-religionists.”

1825 – Rabbi Michael Solomon Alexander – English Rabbi
Rabbi Michael Solomon Alexander comes to faith Messiah in 1825 after concluding that Rabbis had concealed the truth about Jesus; seven years later he becomes Professor of Hebrew and Rabbinical Literature at King’s College, London. His name comes first on the long list of those who signed a “protest of Jewish Christians in England” against the false accusation that Jews used Christian blood in Passover rites. When the British Parliament endows the position of Bishop of Jerusalem, the appointment goes to Alexander; in Jerusalem, he opens both an institution for the training of Jewish believers and a hospital for the sick Jewish residents of Jerusalem.

1826 – Felix Mendelssohn – Composer
Felix Mendelssohn, Jewish believer and grandson of the great Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, writes his overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He brings new public attention to Bach’s music, composes the Elijah and St. Paul oratorios, and arouses the resentment of anti-Semites by helping Jewish musicians. He composes the music to “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and harmonizes “Now Thank We All Our God,” among other hymns.

1844 – Joachim Raphael Biesenthal – 
Joachim Raphael Biesenthal, a Jewish believer,  begins 37 years of ministry within the Jewish communities of Germany. He uses the knowledge gained in Talmudic academies and while earning a doctorate at the University of Berlin to write commentaries on many New Testament books as well as a History of the Christian Church that shows the strong Jewishness of the early church.

1847 – Carl Paul Caspari – University Professor
Carl Paul Caspari, a Jewish believer, begins teaching at the University of Christiana in Norway. He writes commentaries on many Old Testament books and, at a time when Christianity is under attack, stands for orthodoxy and becomes known over the following 45 years as “the teacher of all Scandinavia.” He also writes an Arabic grammar that becomes a standard work.

1859 – David Gustav Hertz – Advocate for Judicial Reform
Lawyer David Gustav Hertz becomes a municipal official in Hamburg, Germany, and holds various positions over the next 45 years. He works for reform of the justice and prison systems at a time when doing so put an individual at risk from those with a vested interest in corruption. 

1863 – Daniel Landsmann, a Jerusalem Talmudic Scholar
Daniel Landsmann, a Jerusalem Talmudic scholar came to faith in 1863, is almost killed-but by his own people, angered that someone well educated in Jewish tradition should become a believer in Jesus. His faith in Messiah began when he finds upon the street a page in Hebrew torn from a book. He loves what he reads, and when he later finds out that it is the Sermon on the Mount, he thinks differently about Jesus than he did before. When he tells all that he believes Jesus is the Messiah, his wife leaves him, one fanatical group puts spikes in his hands, and another tries to bury him alive. He finally moves to New York City and, with a wealth of Talmudic knowledge and a humble spirit, moves many to consider Messiah.

1868 – Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister of England
Benjamin Disraeli, a Jewish believer, becomes Britain’s prime minister. Disraeli, both the Conservative Party leader and the author of many popular books, emphasizes Christianity’s dependence on Judaism: “In all church discussions we are apt to forget the second Testament is avowedly only a supplement. Jesus came to complete the ‘law and the prophets.’ Christianity is completed Judaism, or it is nothing. Christianity is incomprehensible without Judaism, as Judaism is incomplete without Christianity.” He hopes that Jews “will accept the whole of their religion instead of only the half of it, as they gradually grow more familiar with the true history and character of the New Testament.” Throughout his career in Parliament he very publicly attacks those with anti-Semitic views, often with biting wit, and shows himself to be a proud Zionist. In a statement to Queen Victoria, he said: “Your Majesty, I am the blank page between the Old Testament and the New”.

1870 – Isaac Salkinson, Hebrew Scholar
Isaac Salkinson of Vienna translates Milton’s Paradise Lost into Hebrew. Over the next 15 years he translates into Hebrew Othello, Romeo and Juliet, and then the Greek New Testament.

1877 – Joseph Schereschewsky, Scholar & Translator
Joseph Schereschewsky, a former Lithuanian Rabbinical student, is consecrated as the Episcopal Church’s Bishop of Shanghai. In 1879 he lays the cornerstone for St. John’s College, the first Protestant college in China. Regarded by the Academic community as one of the most learned Orientalists in the world, he also translates the Bible into both Mandarin and colloquial Chinese and stays at his translation tasks even though partially paralyzed and unable to speak.

1883 – Alfred Edersheim, Biblical Scholar
Alfred Edersheim finishes seven years of writing The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, which becomes the standard scholarly work in English for the next 100 years. Born in Austria, he serves as a minister in Scotland and a lecturer at Oxford. Four other major books of Biblical scholarship would flow from his pen.

1885 – Joseph Rabinowitz, Talmudic scholar and Lawyer
Talmudic scholar and lawyer Joseph Rabinowitz comes to faith in Messiah Jesus in 1885, and, through writings and lectures, begins influencing Russian Jews to become “Sons of the New Covenant.” He draws up a list of 12 articles of faith, patterned after Maimonides’s 13 principles, but proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah. He forms one of the early Messianic Congregations.

1892 – Leopold Cohn, Hungarian Rabbi
Leopold Cohn, a Hungarian Rabbi, comes to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. An outraged Jewish community forces him to flee, so he studies at divinity school in Scotland, emigrates to the United States with his family, and begins to hold meetings in a heavily Jewish section of Brooklyn that demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah. Later he opens a medical clinic and a kosher food kitchen, and delivers free coal to the Jewish poor. The outreach he started grew into “Chosen People Ministries”, an International organization.

1892 – Louis Meyer, Doctor & Surgeon
Louis Meyer, a Jewish Doctor & Surgeon and immigrant to Cincinnati from Germany, come to faith. He goes on to receive a degree from an evangelical Seminary in Pittsburgh. His scholarship is recognized and he becomes one of the editors of The Fundamentals, the 90 essays produced between 1910 and 1915 to explain the difference between Biblical faith and Liberal Protestantism.

1894 – David Ginsburg, Hebrew Scholar
An emigrant from Poland to England, David Ginsburg, publishes a scholarly work including (in 1894) The Massoretic-Critical Text of the Hebrew Bible.

1904 – Max Wertheimer, Reform Rabbi
Max Wertheimer, after serving for 10 years as a Rabbi in Dayton, Ohio, publicly declares his faith in Messiah.  He then goes to an evangelical seminary, eventually becoming a Pastor. He recalls, “I had tried to get some tangible comfort out of the Talmud, Mishnah, and Rabbinical doctrines, but found none that satisfied my soul’s hunger and longings.” In studying the New Testament, though, he sees that the Christian doctrines he had derided as illogical and un-Jewish are sensible and truly Jewish.

1909 – Isaac Lichtenstein, Chief Rabbi of Hungary
In 1909, Isaac Lichtenstein dies, leaving writings explaining how he read a copy of the New Testament after 40 years of work as a Rabbi in Hungary and was impressed by “the greatness, power, and glory of this book, formerly a sealed book to me. All seemed so new to me and yet it did me good like the sight of an old friend…. I had thought the New Testament to be impure, a source of pride, of selfishness, of hatred, and of the worst kind of violence, but as I opened it I felt myself peculiarly and wonderfully taken possession of. A sudden glory, a light flashed through my soul. I looked for thorns and found roses; I discovered pearls instead of pebbles; instead of hatred, love; instead of vengeance, forgiveness; instead of bondage, freedom.”

A letter to his son, a doctor, reports that “From every line in the New Testament, from every word, the Jewish spirit streamed forth light, life, power, endurance, faith, hope, love, charity, limitless and indestructible faith in God.” Others, hating the idea of a long-term Rabbi turning “renegade,” attack Lichtenstein. His reply: “I have been an honored Rabbi for the space of 40 years, and now, in my old age, I am treated by my friends as one possessed by an evil spirit, and by my enemies as an outcast. I am become a butt of mockers, who point the finger at me. But while I live I will stand on my tower, though I may stand there all alone. I will listen to the words of God.”

1913 – Arthur Kuldell, Messianic Jewish Leader
Arthur Kuldell convenes a gathering of Jewish believers in Pittsburgh who establish the “Hebrew Christian Alliance of America”. Kuldell explains, “The Alliance is not a lodge. It is not a society organized for the purpose of aiding its members to the exclusion of others. It is not here to defame and slander the Jew behind his back. It is an organization that breathes the spirit of Messiah. It is actuated by the tenderest love for Israel.”

1921 – Max Reich, Professor and Zionist
Max Reich, a Jewish believer and Professor of Biblical Studies combats anti-Jewish propaganda, writing that “the so-called ‘Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion’ was one of the basest forgeries ever fathered on the Jewish people. Jewish believers [in Messiah] will stand by their slandered nation at this time…. Jewish believers utterly detest the … unscrupulous Jew-haters, who remain anonymous, bent on stirring up racial strife and religious bigotry.”

1922 – Niels Bohr, Nobel Prize for Physics
Niels Bohr wins the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work on atomic structure. In 1939 he visits the United States and spreads the news that German scientists are working on splitting the atom. The United States responds with the Manhattan Project, from which the atomic bomb emerges. In 1942 he escapes from German-occupied Denmark via a fishing boat to Sweden, and leaves there by traveling in the empty bomb rack of a British military plane. He makes it to the United States and works on the atomic bomb at Los Alamos.

1927 – Henri Bergson, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature
Henri Bergson wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. The French philosopher wrote books including An Introduction to Metaphysics (which develops a theory of knowledge) and Creative Evolution (which concludes that Darwinian mechanisms cannot explain life’s expansiveness and creativity). During the 1920s Bergson becomes a believer in Jesus, and in his final book, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, describes Judeo-Christian understanding as the culmination of human social evolution. In 1937 he explains that his reflections led him to faith in Jesus, “in which I see the complete fulfillment of Judaism,” but he was reluctant to do anything that would separate him from his own Jewish people, because he was foreseeing “the formidable wave of anti-Semitism which is to sweep over the world. I wanted to remain among those who tomorrow will be persecuted.”

1930 – Haham Ephraim ben Joseph Eliakim, a Rabbi in Tiberias
The year 1930 saw the funeral of Haham Ephraim ben Joseph Eliakim, a Rabbi in Tiberias, Jewish Palestine, who after studying biblical prophecies believes that Jesus is the Messiah. Eliakim undergoes tremendous harassment from his former colleagues. He is buried in Jerusalem alongside a Christian Arab, with one reporter noting that “Jew and Arab were laid one beside the other, and Jews and Arabs were standing with bowed heads by the two open graves, touched and softened the one toward the others.”

1933 – Sir Leon Levison, Messianic Jewish Leader
Sir Leon Levison, founder and head of the International Hebrew Christian Alliance, rallies Jewish believers in 1933 to oppose Hitler. Levison states that there are 2.35 million Jews in Germany: 600,000 still identifying with Rabbinical Judaism and one and three-quarter million believers in Jesus of Jewish descent who go back to the second, third and fourth generation. Both groups, he notes, “are treated as Jews and are subject to vicious discrimination.” Jewish Christians also face discrimination from their own people: “If they apply to Jewish Relief agencies, they are told they must abandon their belief in Jesus.”

1938 – Morris Zeidman, Messianic Jewish Leader
Morris Zeidman of the “Hebrew Christian Alliance of America” appeals for help for the Jews and Jewish believers of Poland, Germany, and Austria, where “sorrow is turning into despair. They can see no hope, not a gleam of light or kindness anywhere…. We must help, if we have to sacrifice a meal a day. Surely those of us who eat three meals a day can afford to spare the price of one meal for our persecuted brethren in Central Europe.”   Zeidman was also well known for his relief work among the poor in Toronto and across Canada during the Depression.

1943 – Israel Zolli, Chief Rabbi of Rome
Israel Zolli served as Professor of Hebrew at the University of Padua from 1927 to 1938, then as Chief Rabbi of Rome. In that position he helps to save about 4,000 Roman Jews as the Nazis enter Rome. Posing as a structural engineer, he enters the Vatican and asks Pope Pius XII to protect Rome’s Jews. He offered himself as a hostage in return for the safety of the Jewish community. The pope makes churches, monasteries, convents, and the Vatican itself sanctuaries for them (though it may be argued that he did little for Jews outside Italy). Zolli publicly proclaims his faith in Messiah in 1945.  He said: “No one in the world ever tried to convert me . . . (my faith) was a slow evolution, altogether internal” 
Asked why he has “given up the synagogue for the church”, Zolli replies, “I have not given it up. Christianity is the completion of the synagogue, for the synagogue was a promise, and Christianity is the fulfillment of that promise”, “Once a Jew always a Jew”. When asked if he believes that Jesus is the Messiah, he says, “Yes, positively. I have believed it many years. And now I am so firmly convinced of the truth of it that I can face the whole world and defend my faith with the certainty and solidity of the mountains.”

As a result, Rabbinical Jewish leaders call him a heretic, excommunicate him, proclaim a fast of several days in atonement for his “treason,” and mourn him as one dead. Zolli responds, “When my wife and I embraced the church we lost everything we had in the world. We shall now have to look for work: and God will help us to find some”   Zolli would become a writer and teacher.

1951 – Karl Stern, University Professor and Neuropsychiatrist
Karl Stern, an emigrant from Nazi Germany to Canada, a noted neuropsychiatrist and Jewish believer, publishes his autobiography, The Pillar of Fire. One of his McGill University post-war Jewish students, Bernard Nathanson, who would go on to a Medical career, recalls him as “a great teacher; a riveting, even eloquent lecturer in a language not his own, and a brilliant contrarian spewing out original and daring ideas as reliably as Old Faithful. I conceived an epic case of hero-worship…. There was something indefinably serene and certain about him.” When Nathanson reads The Pillar of Fire, he realizes that Stern “possessed a secret I had been searching for all my life, the secret of the peace of Messiah.”

1953 – Dr. Boris Kornfeld, Medical Doctor, hero of the Gulag
Dr. Boris Kornfeld, imprisoned in a Soviet concentration camp for political reasons, talks with a devout Christian and comes to believe in Messiah. In his position as Doctor of the camp, he tries to help starving prisoners by refusing to sign papers that will send them to their deaths, and he reports to the camp commandant an orderly who is stealing food from prisoners. One day he talks at length about Messiah with a patient who has just been operated on for cancer. That night the orderly has his revenge and Dr. Kornfeld is murdered, but the patient ponders his words, becomes a Christian, and eventually writes about Kornfeld and conditions in the Gulag. The patient’s name: Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

1968 – Ernest Cassutto, Holocaust Survivor, Founder of Congregation of Jewish Believers
Ernest Cassutto, of Sephardic Jewish heritage, establishes Emmanuel Hebrew Christian Congregation near Baltimore, Maryland.
Casutto was a Holocaust survivor who had lost his parents and fiance during the war.

1974 – Howard Phillips, Chairman of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity
Howard Phillips, former chairman of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, founds the Conservative Caucus. While researching, he runs across biblical perspectives on public policy, and that leads to his coming to faith. He says, “I began to spend more time studying the Scripture, both Old and New Testament, and began to come to grips with the constantly mentioned subject of blood sacrifice as the basis for atonement for sin where God was concerned. The ultimate blood sacrifice for sin, obviously, is Jesus. I committed my life to Him as Lord and Savior” 

1976 – Dr. David Block, Professor of Applied Mathematics and Astronomy
Dr. David Block, a professor of Applied Mathematics and Astronomy in South Africa, becomes a believer in Messiah. He writes, “I’d listen in shul as the Rabbis expounded how God was a personal God and how God would speak to Moses, to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, and wonder how I fit into all of it. And by the time I entered university I became concerned over the fact that I had no assurance that God was indeed a personal God…. Where was the personality and the vibrancy of a God who could speak to David Block? If God is truly God, I reasoned, then why had he suddenly changed his character?”

A Christian colleague tells Block that a minister will be able to answer his questions; he reports, “My parents had taught me to seek answers where they may be found, and so I consented to meet with this Christian minister. [He] read to me from the New Testament book of Romans where Paul says that Yeshua (Jesus) is a stumbling block to Jewish people, but that those who would believe in Yeshua would never be ashamed. Suddenly it all became very clear to me: Yeshua had fulfilled the messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures, such as where the Messiah would be born and how he was to die…. I knew that Jesus was the Messiah and is the Messiah. And I surrendered my heart and my soul to Him that day.”

He concludes, “It might seem strange to some that a scientist and a Jew could come to faith in Jesus. But faith is never a leap into the dark. It is always based on evidence. That was how my whole search for God began. I looked through my telescope at Saturn and said to myself, Isn’t there a great God out there? The logical next step was to want to meet this Designer face-to-face.”

1982 – Andrew Mark Barron, Aerospace Engineer
Aerospace engineer Andrew Mark Barron, raised in Conservative Judaism, comes to faith in Messiah. He writes that in college “I believed God existed because of the phenomenal order to the universe, yet I felt human beings were far too miniscule for His notice.” Reading the New Testament helps him to see that God “constructed us with souls that can be fed only by His own hand. Believing God cares is not intellectual suicide; believing that He doesn’t care is spiritual starvation.”

1986 – Mortimer Adler, Professor at the University of Chicago
Mortimer Adler, author of numerous books on philosophical topics, becomes a Jewish believer at age 84. A long-time professor at the University of Chicago, he pushes for a “great books” and “great ideas” curriculum and writes popular works such as How to Read a Book (1940), The Common Sense of Politics (1971), and Six Great Ideas (1981). He writes an autobiography in 1977, Philosopher at Large, but writes another 15 years later (A Second Look in the Rearview Mirror: Further Autobiographical Reflections of a Philosopher at Large) that explains his coming to faith in Jesus. “We have a logical, consistent faith,” he says. “In fact, I believe [faith in Messiah] is the only logical, consistent faith in the world.” 

1990 – Bernard Nathanson, Medical Doctor
In the year 1969 Dr. Bernard Nathanson, former student of Karl Stern, a noted Neuropsychiatrist, runs the largest abortion clinic in the world, and co-founds the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Law. After being involved directly or indirectly in over 75,000 abortions (including one of his own child). In the late 1970s he does a complete turn-around and becomes a leading pro-life advocate and produces an effective video, The Silent Scream. Contact with Christian pro-life workers gets him thinking about the source of their dedication: “They prayed, they supported and encouraged each other, they sang hymns of joy…. They prayed for the unborn babies, for the confused and pregnant women, and for the doctors and nurses in the clinic…. And I wondered: How can these people give of themselves for a constituency that is (and always will be) mute, invisible, and unable to thank them?” Around 1990 Nathanson becomes a believer in Jesus.

1993 – Jay Sekulow, Attorney
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, successfully argues the Lambs Chapel case before the U.S. Supreme Court; the Court states that religious groups cannot be discriminated against in the use of public facilities made available to other groups. Sekulow appears before the Supreme Court numerous times in defense of religious freedom, and writes about his own religious liberation as he tried to understand the description of the “suffering servant” in chapter 53 of Isaiah: “I kept looking for a traditional Jewish explanation that would satisfy, but found none. The only plausible explanation seemed to be Jesus. My Christian friends were suggesting other passages for me to read, such as Daniel 9. As I read, my suspicion that Jesus might really be the Messiah was confirmed…. I’d always thought my cultural Judaism was sufficient, but in the course of studying about the Messiah who would die as a sin bearer, I realized that I needed a Messiah to do that for me.”

1997 – Lawrence Kudlow, Undersecretary of the Office of Management and Budget
Lawrence Kudlow expresses faith in Messiah after emerging from a battle with addiction. In the 1980s he served as undersecretary of US Office of Management and Budget. In 1994 The New York Times published a full-page article, “A Wall Street Star’s Agonizing Confession,” about Kudlow’s life and addiction to cocaine. He resigns from his $1-million-a-year job as chief economist at the Wall Street firm of Bear Stearns and later says, “As I hit bottom, I lost jobs, lost all income, lost friends, and very nearly lost my wife. I was willing to surrender and take it on faith that I had to change my life.”  I started searching for God.” Then, “All of a sudden it clicked, that . . . Jesus died for me, too.” Kudlow is now chief economist for CNBC and a frequent writer of articles that make the science of economics understandable to readers.

2001 – Richard Wurmbrand – Prisoner of the Nazis and Communists
Richard Wurmbrand, born into a Jewish home in Europe and founder of The Voice of the Martyrs, dies at age 91. After becoming a believer in Romania in 1936 and then a pastor, Wurmbrand and his wife are arrested several times by the Nazi government. He evangelizes Russian soldiers who are prisoners of war and does the same with Russian occupation forces after August, 1944. 
Communist leaders imprison Wurmbrand in 1948, subject him to physical and mental torture, threaten his family, and finally imprison his wife as well. She is released in 1953 and he in 1956, but he is re-arrested in 1959 and sentenced to 25 years for preaching Scriptures that are contrary to Communist doctrine. Political pressure from Western countries leads to his release in 1964. The Wurmbrand family leaves Romania in 1965 and begins informing the world about persecution of Christians in that country and elsewhere. By the mid-1980s The Voice of the Martyrs has offices in 30 countries and is working in 80 nations where Christians are threatened.

This selection compiled by Mottel Baleston.

Message of the Month Don Smith

Don and Stephanie Smith
Don and Stephanie Smith

Yes I know…the word ‘legend’ is over-used. Nevertheless, some people are legendary, notorious (in the best sense), outstanding, memorable. So I will use the word legend to describe this friend, mentor and Pastor, Don Smith.

Don was not only a highly determined, servant-hearted leader, but he was also a God-sent irritant to holiness in the life of the churches he led. He didn’t just want numbers, he wanted to see Christ-centred lives. And he is still soldiering on – in so-called retirement! He is passionate, sold-out for God, refreshingly working class, blunt, often challenging, always on the ball, seeking God’s glory and the good of the church. He was a skilled shepherd and was loved by those he served both in Hastings and Eastbourne in the UK.

Don Smith was one of the early leaders in the Newfrontiers group of churches
Don Smith was one of the early leaders in the Newfrontiers group of churches

Don was born in the London borough of Lewisham in 1940 (on the Downham council estate). He worked in a mental institution for several years until in the mid-1970s he and his wife Stephanie started a church group in a basement flat in Hastings, East Sussex. After three years the church were able to support him full-time and Kings Church Hastings grew to be one of the largest in the town. In 1989 he and a very small team launched Kings Church in Eastbourne a few miles away. Both those churches are affiliated to the Newfrontiers family of churches led by Terry Virgo and both grew to over 500 in a relatively short space of time. Though he has now technically retired from local church leadership, Don is still preaching and serving churches in the UK and Canada.

A young Don Smith in the early days of the Kings Church Eastbourne plant
A young Don Smith in the early days of the Kings Church Eastbourne plant

Don’s one-liners have also become legendary, with a facebook page devoted to them, and recently a friend compiled a highly edifying 7 and a half minutes of glorious Bible-saturated exhortation. This is classic Don Smith.

I hope you enjoy it! Click on the image below.

Don Smith on Youtube
Don Smith on Youtube

© 2013 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

Beginnings – a new resource for new believers (FREE 1st Chapter)

US edition
US edition

Helping those who’ve trusted Christ to implement change in their lives

A downloadable, easy to understand, follow-up study for anyone who’s just become a Christian!

‘A brilliant resource for new believers.’ Bryan Mowrey, Pastor, Jubilee Church, St. Louis, MO

Every new believer in Jesus Christ has questions and needs guidance

– What are my responsibilities as a follower of Jesus?

– How does this affect my relationships at work and at home?

– Do I join a local church?

– What aspects of my behaviour should change?

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UK edition
UK edition Now ONLY £2.99

In this much-needed and helpful study, the practical ‘first steps’ of the Christian Life are covered. Each chapter includes discussion questions and suggestions for further reading.

You no longer have to wait until you can get to a Christian bookstore to find follow-up material for someone who just gave their lives to Christ. You can download this affordable book onto both your devices and get going straight away – one on one!

What Pastors are saying about ‘Beginnings’

‘If “basics” refers to the mind-blowing, essential, central truths about Christianity, then this book is about the basics. Easy-to-read. Engaging. Clear. Fun. Inspirational. The concept of ‘read and discuss’ with a mentor is powerful.’ PJ Smyth, Pastor, Godfirst Church, Johannesburg, South Africa

‘Lex Loizides is a master communicator with a passion for bringing people into solid enjoyment of God’s good news. In ‘Beginnings’ he has provided an excellent tool kit for doing just that.’ Joel Virgo, Pastor, Church of Christ the King, Brighton, England

‘Lex has provided an easy accessible, biblical and practical book which will help many new Christians take important first steps as they move forward in their new life as a Christian.’ Steve Tibbert, Pastor, Kings Church, London

‘This book makes the perfect gift for anyone who just became a Christian.’ Adrian Warnock, Blogger and author of Raised with Christ

Topics include: The importance of the Bible, the central role of the local church, prayer and the Holy Spirit, baptism in water and breaking bread, life and pressure in the workplace and home, living life with a new mission.

Lex Loizides is a Pastor based at Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town and has nearly 30 years of ministerial experience. He has worked closely with local churches in many countries, helping them become more effective in evangelism. He is the author of several published hymns and is the author of the evangelistic study, ‘Take a Closer Look at the Claims of Christ’.

Click here for the first chapter FREE!

Click here to purchase from Amazon UK

Click here to purchase from Amazon US

CS Lewis, John Calvin and Michael Servetus

Collage of Calvin and Servetus
Collage of Calvin and Servetus

While the debate about Calvin’s culpability in connection with the death of the 16th century heretic Servetus continues to stir emotions, everyone is agreed that, heretic or not, he didn’t deserve to die.

Inevitably, those who affirm Calvin’s theological views express sympathy with his unenviable position, while those who dislike his doctrines seem almost eager to retell the story as compelling evidence to reject his teachings once and for all.

CS Lewis was not at all comfortable with what he called Calvin’s ‘dark answers’ in connection with predestination but he was at least an objective historian.

As he outlines some of the changes in belief that influenced the literature, he also discusses some of the consequences for departing from the accepted views – often persecution, even execution. The modern reader is appalled, but Lewis helps us understand the context of such brutality.

‘We must…take care not to assume that a sixteenth-century man who lived through these changes had necessarily felt himself, at any stage, confronted with the clear issue which would face a modern in the same circumstances.

A modern, ordered to profess or recant a religious belief under pain of death, knows that he is being tempted and that the government which so tempts him is a government of villains. But this background was lacking when the period of religious revolution began. No man claimed for himself or allowed to another the right of believing as he chose. All parties inherited from the Middle Ages the assumption that Christian man could live only in a theocratic polity which had both the right and the duty of enforcing true religion by persecution.

Those who resisted its authority did so not because they thought it had no right to impose doctrines but because they thought it was imposing the wrong ones. Those who were burned as heretics were often (and, on their premises, logically) eager to burn others on the same charge. When Calvin led the attack on Servetus which ended in his being burnt at Geneva, he was acting on accepted medieval principles.’[i]

More next time…

For the first post in this series on CS Lewis and his observations of 16th Century Christianity 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.39

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

CS Lewis on Predestination

English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama by CS Lewis
English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama by CS Lewis 

CS Lewis does not take a hostile view of predestination. He merely refuses to engage with what he calls its ‘darker’ side, and is skeptical of those who assert it apparently without feeling.

As you’ll see at the end of this post, he is far more comfortable declaring its pastoral strength to the believer and leave it there. I note also that both here and in his letters he uses Luther’s pastoral advice to provides assurance rather than allow a believer to sink into gloom.

Reformed Doctrine marked by joy and hope rather than heaviness
He writes, ‘It must be clearly understood that they [i.e. Protestant doctrines] were at first doctrines not of terror but of joy and hope: indeed, more than hope, fruition, for as Tyndale says, the converted man is already tasting eternal life.’

CS Lewis on Predestination
The doctrine of predestination, says the XVIIth Article[i], is ‘full of sweet, pleasant and unspeakable comfort to godly persons’.

But what of ungodly persons? Inside the original experience no such question arises. There are no generalizations. We are not building a system. When we begin to do so, very troublesome problems and very dark solutions will appear.

But these horrors, so familiar to the modern reader (and especially to the modern reader of fiction), are only by-products of the new theology. They are astonishingly absent from the thought of the first Protestants.

Relief and buoyancy are the characteristic notes. In a single sentence of the Tischreden[ii] Luther tosses the question aside for ever. Do you doubt whether you are elected to salvation? Then say your prayers, man, and you may conclude that you are. It is as easy as that.’[iii]

It is certainly true that modern novelists have written from a perspective of absolute abandonment, but is it true that the first Protestants didn’t wrestle with the apparent downside of the idea of predestination?

Your thoughts?

To read the next post in this series (regarding Lewis on Calvin and Joy) click here

For the first post from Lewis’s thoughts on Reformed Doctrine and the Puritans from English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama click here

©2013 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] Lewis is referring to The 39 Articles of Religion (1563), the doctrinal statement of the Church of England.

[ii] I.e., Table Talk – a collection of anecdotes, quotes and humourous sayings of Martin Luther recorded by some of his students

[iii] CS Lewis, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1954), pp 33-34

CS Lewis and the Puritans

CS Lewis at his desk
CS Lewis at his desk

What did CS Lewis think of the Puritans?
It is sometimes implied that Lewis leant as equally towards Catholic as Protestant doctrine. Some might wrongly assume that his views on hell and the afterlife (for those outside of the Christian faith) meant that he wasn’t familiar with Reformed teaching or the works of the Puritans.

But even a superficial reading of his masterpiece of literary criticism, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (excluding drama), plunges us straight into his well-formed opinions of the major influences on that century and the centuries that followed it.

His discussion of puritan and reformed thinking is not only easy to grasp but thoroughly enjoyable. Typical of Lewis.

Here are a few gems to whet your appetite…

A correct understanding of the goal of puritanism
‘The puritans were so called because they claimed to be purists or purifiers in ecclesiastical polity: not because they laid more emphasis than other Christians on ‘purity’ in the sense of chastity.’

A correct understanding of the nature of ‘puritan’ experience
‘We want, above all, to know what it felt like to be an early Protestant.

One thing is certain. It felt very unlike being a ‘puritan’ such as we meet in nineteenth-century fiction. Dickens’s Mrs. Clennam, trying to expiate her early sin by a long life of voluntary gloom, was doing exactly what the first Protestants would have forbidden her to do. They would have thought her whole conception of expiation papistical. On the Protestant view one could not, and by God’s mercy, need not, expiate one’s sins.’

Luther understood Paul correctly, according to CS Lewis
Luther understood Paul correctly, according to CS Lewis

Tyndale and Luther properly understood Paul’s doctrine of Justification by Faith and not by works
‘In the mind of a Tyndale or Luther, as in the mind of St. Paul himself, this theology was by no means an intellectual construction made in the interests of speculative thought. It springs directly out of a highly specialized religious experience; and all its affirmations, when separated from that context, become meaningless or else mean the opposite of what was intended…’

‘Catastrophic Conversion’ essential to the experience of joy and bliss
‘The experience is that of catastrophic conversion.

The man who has passed through it feels like one who has waked from a nightmare into ecstasy.

Like an accepted lover, he feels that he has done nothing, and never could have done anything, to deserve such astonishing happiness. Never again can he ‘crow from the dunghill of desert’.

All the initiative has been on God’s side; all has been free, unbounded grace. And all will continue to be free, unbounded grace.

His own puny and ridiculous efforts would be as helpless to retain the joy as they would have been to achieve it in the first place.

Fortunately they need not. Bliss is not for sale, cannot be earned.

‘Works’ have no ‘merit’, though of course faith, inevitably, even unconsciously, flows out into works of love at once.

He is not saved because he does works of love: he does works of love because he is saved.

It is faith alone that has saved him: faith bestowed by sheer gift. From this buoyant humility, this farewell to the self with all its good resolutions, anxiety, scruples, and motive-scratchings, all the Protestant doctrines originally sprang.

To read the next post (CS Lewis on Predestination) click here

To read a review of AN Wilson’s biography on Lewis click here

© 2013 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog