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.

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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 equally towards Catholic as Protestant doctrine. Some may assume that his thoughts on hell and the afterlife imply he was unimpressed with the theological emphasis of the works of the English puritans.

But in his academic masterpiece of literary criticism, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (excluding drama), he demonstrates a thorough, personally informed view of the major theological influences on that century and those that followed.

His discussion of puritan and reformed thinking is not only easy to grasp but thoroughly enjoyable. Typical 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 an experience of joy (or 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

Message of the Month Vishal Mangalwadi

Message of the Month – Vishal Mangalwadi

Vishal Mangalwadi

Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve had a kind of love affair with India for most of my adult life.

Nevertheless my admiration for Indian scholar Vishal Mangalwadi is anything but sentimental. I am genuinely impacted every time I hear him speak. It’s the same kind of impact I felt when I first read the works of Francis Schaeffer.

Somewhat guided by his notes (!), but also peppered with stunning digressions and off-the-cuff insights, his teaching energises me every single time.

Vishal's book about the role of the Bible in creating the West

He is currently working on a book about the central influence of the Bible in the development of the Western World, which, coming from an Eastern perspective, is intriguing.

This message is part of his material for that book. To be honest, I could have chosen any one of these messages but I thought the title alone might grab your interest.

The Message – Vishal Mangalwadi: ‘Why are some so rich while other are so poor?’

For more on Vishal Mangalwadi click here

Vishal’s stunning book ‘India – the Grand Experiment’

Other books for sale by Vishal

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

The Decline of Faith in England…PostPuritanism

Postpuritanism and the Decline of English Christianity

Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) was Britain’s foremost Puritan political leader and continues to be a controversial figure. Cromwell was primarily a soldier and politician.

He was certainly not without faults but was seeking to lead Britain into a period of moral advance and of Christian faith.

Cromwell‘s contribution to the evolution of democracy is significant.  He sought to curtail the whim or greed of the monarch, for the ultimate good of the people.  Having finally broken the absolute authority of the English Monarchy he was himself offered the crown by the English Parliament, which he refused.

Nevertheless, after his death with the Restoration of the Monarchy and the Act Of Uniformity in 1662 pre-Puritan and pre-Reformation influences returned. Cromwell’s body was dug up and posthumously executed! But the desire and the possibility of democracy had been established in puritan hearts – and was, indeed carried to the ‘New World’ by the Pilgrims.

Donald Drew, in a lecture entitled ‘England before and after John Wesley’ wrote the following:
‘Following the death of Cromwell and later that of his son Richard, Charles Stuart, the son of Charles I, returned from exile to become Charles II.

From the beginning of 1661, throughout his reign, punitive and vicious anti-puritan legislation reached the Statute Book…

These stabbed at the heart of Puritan legislation, religion, education and culture. Nearly one-fifth of all British clergy – those who opposed the Act of Uniformity – were expelled from the Church of England.

In their stead, cavalier place-seekers were installed. The overall result was the near extinction of biblical thinking and conduct amongst most clergy.

The strangulation of Puritanism and the suffocation by Deism had tragic consequences that expressed themselves during the first half of the eighteenth century.

A succession of archbishops and bishops lived luxuriously, neglected their duties, unashamedly solicited bishoprics and deaneries for themselves and their families. Parish clergy followed suit.’ (Quoted in Missionary Conspiracy, Letters to a Postmodern Hindu by Vishal Mangalwadi, Good Books, U.P. India p.260f)

It was at this time that many fled to the Netherlands and a brave company of believers set out for the ‘New World’ to form a country based on religious freedom, later to become the United States of America.

Those who didn’t flee could do little else than pray fervently for a mighty outpouring of the Spirit; indeed, for a Great Awakening to come.

And that’s when the story really picks up!

Read the next post, ‘The 18th Century Awakening in Europe and America’

For more on Cromwell visit http://www.olivercromwell.org

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Worry and Trust – Wisdom from the Past to Help you Today

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

The Bible encourages us not to worry. It’s a bit different from ‘Don’t worry – be happy’ because the source of our contentment is in the character and sovereignty of God. But still, we need to know the calming voice of God.

Philippians 4:6 says
‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’ (NIV)

Proverbs 12:25 says
‘Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down,
but a good word makes him glad.’ (ESV)

As we finish our brief look into Jeremiah Burroughs excellent work, ‘The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment’ I hope you will find ‘a good word’ which will lift you out of worry and into worship.

So let’s travel back three and a half centuries and see what the prevailing Christian counsel was for troubled souls then…

On Anxiety, or ‘Fretting’
‘When you are in a ship at sea which has all its sails spread with a full gale of wind, and is swiftly sailing, can you make it stand still by running up and down in the ship?

No more can you make the providence of God alter and change its course with your vexing and fretting; it will go on with power, do what you can.

Do but understand the power and efficacy of Providence [the planned and protective care of God] and it will be a mighty means helping you to learn this lesson of contentment.’ (p.112-113)

On Learning from Life’s Tough Experiences
‘I make no question but you find it so, that your worst voyages have proved your best.’ (p.214)

How a fretting disposition can lead us into further problems
‘Contentment delivers us from an abundance of temptations. Oh, the temptations that men of discontented spirits are subject to! The Devil loves to fish in troubled waters.’ (p.126)

On the Unreasonable Nature of Discontent
‘Has God converted you, and drawn you to his Son to cast your soul upon him for all your good, and yet you are discontented for the want of some little matter in a creature comfort?’ (p.142)

On not becoming Bitter with God when things don’t go well
‘Oh, my brethren…retain good thoughts of God, take heed of judging God to be a hard master, make good interpretations of his ways, and that is a special means to help you to contentment in all one’s course.’ (p.225)

On the Goodness of God in all of Life
‘A believer…is set apart to the end that God might manifest to all eternity what his infinite power is able to do to make a creature happy.’ (p.147)

God will look to you, and see you blessed if you are in the work God calls you to. (p.217)

On not becoming Materialistic
‘Be not inordinately taken up with the comforts of this world when you have them.’ (p.226)

Should the Believer be an Overcomer or a Worrier?
‘The spirit of a Christian should be a lion-like spirit; as Jesus Christ is the Lion of the tribe of Judah (so he is called) so we should manifest something of the lion-like spirit of Jesus Christ.’ (p.148)

Read the next post, ‘The Decline of Faith in England – PostPuritanism’

All quotations are taken from ‘The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment’, Banner of Truth edition, which you can purchase here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Wealth, Comfort and the Gospel – A Puritan Perspective

Wisdom from Old Times – Prosperity and Adversity from a Puritan Perspective

How focused should we be on material success and wealth? How focused should we be on eternity? Should the fluctuation of our material comforts have a significant influence on our experience of peace, or should we be able to set our hearts on the future grace to be revealed at Christ’s coming?

These are questions addressed in one of the most beautifully named Puritan books, ‘The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment’.

Jeremiah Burroughs
Jeremiah Burroughs

This short work was first published in 1648 by Jeremiah Burroughs. Burroughs was yet another mighty Puritan teacher/preacher educated at Emmanuel College at Cambridge University, England. After graduating, Burroughs served in churches in East Anglia, England and then in Rotterdam, Holland.

Some of his insights and comments are challenging. I don’t like some of them! But maybe it’s the ones I don’t like that should instruct me the most!

If you are facing difficult times at the moment then it may be that you will find strength and help in some of the wisdom from the 17th Century.

On God as the Source of true Peace
‘The good of my life and comforts and my happiness and my glory and my riches are more in God than in myself.’ (p.54)

‘If the children of God have their little taken from them, they can make up all their wants in God himself.’ (p.65)

‘Every comfort you have is a forerunner of those eternal mercies you shall have with God in Heaven.’ (p.59)

‘If you will only have contentment when God’s ways suit with your own ends, you can have it only now and then, but a self-denying man denies his own ends, and only looks at the ends of God and therein he is contented…The lesson of self-denial is the first lesson that Jesus Christ teaches men who are seeking contentment.’ (p.90-91)

On the Unchanging Nature of Human Desire
‘The world is infinitely deceived in thinking that contentment lies in having more than we already have.’ (p.45-46)

‘So if we come to understanding in the school of Christ we will not cry, ‘Why have I not got such wealth as others have?’, but, ‘The Lord sees that I am not able to manage it and I see it myself by knowing my own heart.’’ (p.102)

On how Affliction may Help and Prosperity may Hurt
‘You do not find one godly man who came out of an affliction worse than when he went into it; though for a while he was shaken, yet at last he was better for an affliction.
But a great many godly men, you find, have been worse for their prosperity.’ (p.50)

On Trusting God in Troubled Times
‘We must not have hearts hurrying up and down in trouble, discontent and vexing, but still and quiet hearts, if we [want to] receive mercy from the Lord. If a child throws and kicks up and down for a thing, you [will] not give it him when he cries so…

Even though, perhaps, you intend him to have what he cries for, you will not give it him till he is quiet, and comes, and stands still before you, and is contented without it, and then you will give it him. And truly so does the Lord deal with us.’ (p.124)

‘God is doing you good if you could see it, and if he is pleased to sanctify your affliction to break that hard heart of yours, and humble that proud spirit of yours, it would be the greatest mercy that you ever had in all your life.’ (p.181-2)

‘By contentment we come to give God the worship that is due to him.’ (p.119)

On the Bible as a Source of Comfort
‘There is no condition that a godly man or woman can be in, but there is some promise or other in the Scripture to help him in that condition.’ (p.69)

God has provided for us in His word and in Himself. In all the various trials we face we need to exercise faith in Him, either to be content in our need or to see the necessary breakthrough come.  As Burroughs says, there’s no circumstance in life that we face but that some passage of Scripture can speak to us and help us through.

Read the next post on ‘Worry, Trust and Wisdom from the Past to Help you Today’

All quotations are taken from ‘The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment’, Banner of Truth edition, which you can purchase here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Puritans on Hell and How to Avoid it

The English Puritans have a reputation. Within our popular culture, it’s not a good one!

These ‘Old Calvinists’ didn’t really hold back, and when they felt the souls of men and women were in danger. They cried, and called, and declared and wept – to try and turn people from sin to Christ.

Here is Ralph Venning again, urging his readers to change their beliefs and lifestyle. This is as ‘pure puritan’ as it gets, and while some of the statements are strong, they represent the passion of the Puritan preachers of the 17th century accurately.

venning
On the Weakness of Punishment over the Power of Sin
‘Even the flood, which washed away so many sinners, could not wash away sin; the same heart remains after the flood as before.’ (p.46)

On the Deceitfulness of Sin

‘[Sin] It is like the pleasure of the man who receives much money, but it is all counterfeit.’ (p.210)

On the Eternal Consequences of sin
‘Sin costs dear, but profits nothing. They make a bad purchase who buy their own damnation.’ (p.201)

On Hell
‘The torments themselves will be universal. It will not be merely one or two torments but all torments united. Hell is the place of torment itself (Luke 16.28). It is the centre of all punishments, sorrow and pain, wrath and vengeance, fire and darkness’ (p.84)

The Deceitfulness of Sin
‘Sin disappoints men; they have false joys but true miseries.’ (p.131)

On the Need to put our Trust in Jesus Christ
‘No matter how much you have, and how much you use it, [sin] will never satisfy, and therefore must vex you. No satisfaction, no profit! A man’s aim is satisfaction (Luke 12.19), but the eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear with hearing (Ecclesiastes 1.8). Now if these things cannot satisfy the senses (Ecclesiastes 6.7), much less can they satisfy the souls of men.’ (p.203)

‘Sin cannot fill up the boundless and infinite desire which is in the heart of man, but disappoints it.’ (p.207)

On the Goodness of God in the Gospel
‘The goodness of God leads you to repentance; he might have driven you into it by terrors, but he gently leads you…God waits to be gracious, and is patient…
He might have called and knocked at your door once and then no more, but he has stood and knocked and begged, and [has] given you space and means (Revelation 2.21; Luke 16.31)…If, then, you do not repent, it is a greater affront to God than was your former sin.

On Finding Salvation at last!
‘Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out’ (Acts 3.19); they shall be as if they had not been…God looks upon men, and…if anyone repents, he will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light (Job 33.27,28).
Indeed, God is not only merciful, but if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1.9). How this obliges us to repent!’ (p.218-219)

All quotes are taken from ‘The Plague of Plagues’ Banner of Truth edition, now published as ‘The Sinfulness of Sin’.

Read the next post on ‘Wealth, Comfort and the Gospel – from a Puritan Perspective’

You can purchase ‘The Sinfulness of Sin’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Puritans and Sin

Ralph Venning
Ralph Venning

The Main Problem of the Human Condition
Generally speaking, the puritans have been collectively dismissed as harsh and even obsessive in their views on personal morality! The very word ‘puritanical’ gives you the idea! But let’s not be too quick to write these guys off.

The puritans had a passion for the Bible, a passion for the Church and a passion for seeing the gospel impact every area of life.

They also had a frank view of the primary problem confronting mankind which they unashamedly declared to be sin.  To a puritan who was committed to Biblical thinking this was a clear as day.

Mankind’s primary internal problem was sin, their primary enemy was sin, and their most significant hindrance in his relationship to God was sin.

The solution to this problem was not to be found in a strict morality but in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross. He died for sin, taking the weight of the just penalty of sin upon Himself, for our benefit. He did this so that, by repentance and faith, we might be forgiven and reconciled to God.

The hostility between God and Man would end, and sin could be defeated at last. And because He overcame both sin and death, we too might live a life pleasing to God.

The Plague of Plagues
It’s not altogether surprising then, to find amongst a bookshelf of puritan writings a volume entitled ‘The Plague of Plagues’ (1669), a startling assault against sin and its damaging effects on mankind.

Indeed, Ralph Venning, its author states that he was writing against sin because sin ‘is against man’s good and happiness.’

Venning, like Brooks, was educated at Cambridge University and pastored in London. He, like Brooks and others, was fired from his position in the Church of England, and became a minister of an Independent Church in London.

Here are some edifying examples of Venning’s clarity on the subtle dangers of sin. In urging his hearers to decide for Christ and holiness, he also restores clarity to the essential nature of mankind’s struggle against God’s goodness.

‘It cannot but be extremely useful to let men see what sin is: how prodigiously vile, how deadly mischievous and therefore how monstrously ugly and odious a thing sin is.’ (p.18)

‘It [sin] gives out false reports of God and goodness.’ (p.35)

‘Shall I not plead for God and your soul, and entreat you to be on God’s side, and to depart from the tents of wickedness? Poor soul! Can you find it in your heart to hug and embrace such a monster as this? Will you love that which hates God, and which God hates? God forbid!’ (p.36)

‘Oh, look to yourself, for sin, notwithstanding all its flattering pretences, is against you, and seeks nothing less than your ruin and damnation.’ (p.37)

‘Sin in the Christian is ‘a self civil war.’ (p.43)

‘Sin is the burden of every good man’s soul.’ (p.126)

All quotes are taken from Ralph Venning, The Plague of Plagues, now published as ‘The Sinfulness of Sin’ (Banner of Truth).

Read the next post on, ‘The Puritans on Hell and How to Avoid it’

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Tender Care of the Puritan Pastor

heaven-on-earth

Perhaps we have become accustomed to rough preaching. Perhaps we don’t listen as carefully unless we are shocked by an abrasive style. Perhaps our senses are dull through the constant overload of information.

I invite you to come and bask in the warmth of the pastoral care of the much-loved Puritan Thomas Brooks. Let this first passage from his outstanding book, ‘Heaven on Earth’ enliven you to the treasures of puritan literature.

And if you are a leader in the church, perhaps these words will refresh you once again, in your high calling, and in God’s own love for His Bride.

Brooks’ opinion of Christian Believers
‘Beloved in our dearest Lord: You are those worthies of whom this world is not worthy. You are the princes that prevail with God. You are those excellent ones in whom is all Christ’s delight. You are His glory. You are His picked, culled, prime instruments which He will make use of to carry on His best and greatest work against His worst and greatest enemies in these later days. You are a seal upon Christ’s heart…You are the anointed of Christ…You have the greatest advantages and the choicest privileges to enable you to try truth, to taste truth, to apply truth, to defend truth…You have the next place to Christ in my heart…’ (from his introduction to ‘Heaven on Earth’)

On non-believers needing to be convinced of sin

‘Men must first see their sins, they must be sensible of their sins, before they can repent of their sins…Till he sees he is out of the way, he walks still on.’ (p.221)

‘The sweetest joys are from the sourest tears; penitent tears are the breeders of spiritual joy.’ (p.222)

On why the Christian loves Jesus

‘The true bred Christian loves Christ for Christ; he loves Christ for that internal and eternal worth that is in Him.’ (p.239)

On Prayer
‘As a painted fire is no fire, a dead man no man, so a cold prayer is no prayer…Cold prayers are as arrows without heads, as swords without edges, as birds without wings: they peirce not, they cut not, they fly not up to heaven. Cold prayers do always freeze before they reach to heaven.’ (p.261)

‘Christ hath a a full purse, a noble heart, and a liberal hand.’ (p.264)

‘The tears of the saints have such a kind of omnipotency in them, that God Himself cannot withstand them.’ (p.316)

On Final Perseverance
‘That ship will never be split upon the rocks, whose anchor is in Heaven.’ (p.282)

The supremacy of the Spirit in growth of the believer

‘Nothing makes the heart delight more in the love, study, practice, and growth of holiness, that in the glorious testimony of the Holy Spirit.’ (p.303)

All quotations and page references are taken from Heaven on Earth, Banner of Truth.

Read the next post on ‘The Puritans and Sin’

You can purchase ‘Heaven on Earth’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Puritan Call to Holiness

Thomas Brooks (1608-1680)

The 1666 Great Fire of London
The 1666 Great Fire of London

We continue the edifying journey into the thinking and theology of some of the great Puritan writers.

Thomas Brooks was educated at Cambridge, and pastored a London church. The church facility was the first church building to burn down in the Great Fire of London in 1666.

However, by that time Brooks had moved on. Like so many of his contemporary evangelicals he was removed for leadership by the Government in 1662 as a result of the Act of Uniformity. The Act was an attempt by Parliament to reverse Puritan influence and control leadership in the Church of England.

And so, with some 2000 other Puritan Pastors, the law of the land propelled him into ‘non-conformity’. Unlike Joseph Alleine, he was not imprisoned.

His first wife died in 1676 and he later remarried. An observer notes: ‘she spring-young, he winter-old’ (Alexander Grosart, Works of Brooks, Vol 1, p. 35, cited in ‘Meet The Puritans, by Dr. Joel Beeke and Randall J. Pederson).

He died in 1680 and was buried in a non-conformist cemetery.

On resisting sin

‘The pleasure and sweetness that follows victory over sin is a thousand times beyond that seeming sweetness that is in the gratifying of sin.’ (p.120)

On not grieving the Holy Spirit

‘You will not grieve you guests, your friends, but courteously and friendly entertain them; why then do you make so little conscience of grieving the Holy Spirit who alone can stamp the image of the Father upon you, and seal you up to life and glory?’  (p.153)

On continuing to be faithful to God

‘God is the same, and the commands of the gospel are the same, and therefore thy work is the same, whether it be night or day with thy soul, whether thou are under frowns or smiles, in the arms or at the feet of God.’ (p.81)

On wealth

‘As the bird hops from twig to twig, so do riches hop from man to man.’ (p.115)

On Faith
‘Faith brings an invisible God, and sets Him before the soul.’ (p.201)


All quotations and page references are taken from Heaven on Earth, Banner of Truth.

Read the next post, ‘The Tender Care of the Puritan Pastor’

You can purchase ‘Heaven on Earth’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Puritan Priorities – A Passion for Souls continued…

Joseph Alleine urges repentance and faith in Christ
Joseph Alleine urges repentance and faith in Christ

Joseph Alleine, one time Chaplain of Corpus Christi College at the University of Oxford, pleads with believers and non-believers alike. He urges believers to share the good news with those around them who as yet don’t understand the truth of the gospel. To those not yet safe, not yet at peace with God, he urges them to awake and seek God for His mercy in Jesus Christ.

It’s been a long time since a hero from Oxford sounded such a clear and distinct call. These quotes give us a good sample of Puritan Passion.

On the importance of Evangelism
‘Would it not grieve a person of any humanity, if in a time of raging plague,
he should have a remedy that would infallibly cure all the country
and recover the most hopeless patients,
and yet his friends and neighbours
should die by hundreds around him,
because they would not use it?’ (p.101)

On the need for a decision about whether to follow Christ
‘Set the world, with all its glory, and paint, and gallantry,
with all its pleasures and promotions, on the one hand;
and set God,
with all His infinite excellencies
and perfections on the other;
and see that you do deliberately make your choice.’ (p.108)

On Hell, and our need to escape it by trusting Christ
‘O how fearful would the cry be if God
should take off the covering from the mouth of hell,
and let the cry of the damned
ascend in all its terror among the children of men!

And of their moans and miseries,
this is the piercing, killing emphasis and burden:
‘For ever! For ever!’

As God liveth that made your soul,
you are but a few hours distant from this,
except you be converted.’ (P.132)

Next time we will hear from the great Puritan Pastor and physician of souls, Thomas Brooks.

(All quotes are taken from Joseph Alleine, ‘Alleine’s Alarm’, Banner of Truth Edition, 1978)

Read the next post, ‘The Puritan Call to Holiness’
You can Purchase Alleine’s Alarm, now titled ‘a Sure Guide to Heaven’, here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Puritan Priorities – A Passion for Souls

St Mary Magdalene, Taunton, where Joseph Alleine served
St Mary Magdalene, Taunton, where Joseph Alleine served

Inspirational Quotes from Puritan Works
I propose, over the next few posts to quote from those puritan authors who have had an impact on me.  This merely serves as an introduction and is by no means exhaustive.

Spurgeon’s description of the works of Puritan pastor Thomas Watson is in many ways characteristic of much Puritan literature:

‘There is a happy union of sound doctrine, heart-searching experience and practical wisdom throughout.’ (Introduction, A Body of Divinity, Thomas Watson, Banner of Truth)

And the mighty Evangelist of the 18th Century, George Whitefield, wrote in 1767, ‘For these thirty years past I have remarked that the more true and vital religion hath [increased] either at home or abroad, the more the good old Puritanical writings…have been called for.’
(Quoted in J.I Packer, A Quest for Godliness, The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, p.46 )

Joseph Alleine
Alleine (1634-1668) was chaplain of Corpus Christi College, Oxford University, and later served as assistant Pastor in Taunton, Somerset, England. He was also a keen evangelist. As with about a thousand other faithful Puritan pastors, he was fired and turned out of the Church of England in 1662, and was later imprisoned for continuing to preach the gospel. He died aged only 34.

These quotes are taken from his incredible book, ‘An Alarm Call to the Unconverted’ (BOT edition), which has recently been republished as ‘A Sure Guide to Heaven’. You can certainly feel his evangelistic passion in these few quotes, and they also provide a good example of puritan thinking and style.

Man like a choice instrument
‘Unconverted man is like a choice instrument that has every string broken or out of tune.’ (p. 52)

On the futility of religion to appease God
‘You can no more please God than one who, having unspeakably offended you, should bring you the most loathsome thing to pacify you; or having fallen into the mire, should think with his filthy embraces to reconcile you.’ (p. 55)

On continuing in sin
‘If you have a false peace continuing in your sins, it is not of God’s speaking, and therefore you may guess the author.’ (p.56)

‘To save men from the punishment, and not from the power of sin, were to do His work by halves, and be an imperfect Saviour.’ (p.65)

‘You cannot be married to Christ except you be divorced from sin.’ (p.107)

On the spiritual condition of those not yet made alive in Christ
‘In a word, he carries a dead soul in a living body, and his flesh is but the walking coffin of a corrupt mind that is twice dead.’ (p.82)

On preaching about Hell
‘I would not trouble you, nor torment you before the time with the thoughts of your eternal misery, but in order that you may make your escape.’ (P.100)

Read the next post here

You can purchase ‘A Sure Guide to Heaven’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Shaping the Culture – The Literary Legacy of Puritanism in English Life

English Literature
Exactly why has England produced such a feast of literature? Why does literature, plays, novels, books, poetry, journalism remain England’s primary artistic expression?

While acknowledging the massive influence of British creativity in the rock and pop scene since the 1960’s, it is still literature that is the primary artistic bestowal of the Brits to the English speaking world.

Jeremy Paxman, BBC journalist and author, in his brilliant and fascinating study of ‘the English’ suggests it was the impact of the Reformation which was then diligently applied, as we have seen already, by the Puritans that led to this phenomena.

paxman-on-english
Replacing the visual with the written word
He writes,
‘If this was the moment when the English cultural tradition cut itself off from the rest of Europe, you could not find a more striking signal of the new direction in which English creativity was to turn than the tearing down of altar screens and their replacement in many churches by bare boards listing the ten commandments.

Here, literally, was the replacement of the visual by the verbal…The English not only came to a new way of appreciating the Word, they came to an appreciation of words.

We cannot know whether there would ever have been an English Titian, Raphael of Michelangelo. But we are sure that the Reformation and its aftermath threw up William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, John Donne, John Bunyan and John Milton.

The literary tradition that followed them has become the most sustained and distinguished in the western world…the English certainly became a people obsessed with words…

The contrast [between their relative lack of English enthusiasm for great classical composers like Handel and Elgar] with the English love of words could not be starker.

It shows itself in the absurdly over-productive British publishing business, which turns our 100,000 new books a year – more than the entire American publishing industry.’ (Jeremy Paxman, ‘The English, A Portrait of a People’, Penguin, p.109, 110)

The Puritans in a very direct way influenced English culture around the preaching, teaching and reading of the gospel. And, at least in some measure, we have them to thank for the rich literary heritage England enjoys.

Read the next post, ‘Puritan Priorities – a Passion for Souls’

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Mighty Outpourings of the Spirit – Puritanism in Ireland

Carrickfergus, the home town of James Glendinning
Carrickfergus, the home town of James Glendinning

The breakout of passionate evangelistic preaching in the 1620’s in Ireland was accompanied by the power of the Spirit.

The ‘least gifted’ minister sparks a revival!
The eccentric puritan James Glendinning began preaching in Ulster and God seemed to touch the peoples’ hearts. The people began to respond despite Glendinning’s rough style (his sermons, we’re told, tended to focus primarily on the judgement and wrath of God).

One rather uncharitable author writes,
‘God often works by weak instruments, that the glory may be all His own. Of the ministers who had settled in Ulster, James Glendinning was the least gifted, yet God made use of him to begin the revival.’ (Matthew Kere, The Ulster Revival of the Seventeenth Century, 1859)

Glendinning was encouraged to relocate to a more remote place, and went to Oldstone near Antrim.

Andrew Stewart, an eye-witness of the awakening, described the preacher and the work in this way:

‘He was a man who would never have been chosen by a wise assembly of ministers, nor sent to begin a reformation in this land, yet this was the Lord’s choice to begin with him the admirable work of God, which I mention on purpose that all men may see how the glory is only the Lord’s, in making a holy nation in this profane land, and that it was not by might, nor by power, nor by man’s wisdom, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.’ (quoted by Kere)

‘Behold the success!’
Iain Murray also quotes the eye-witness Andrew Stewart’s report:
‘Behold the success! For the hearers finding themselves condemned by the mouth of God speaking in His word, fell into such anxiety and terror of conscience that they looked on themselves as altogether lost and damned;

and this work appeared not in one single person or two, but multitudes were brought to understand their way, and to cry out, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?’

I have seen them myself stricken into a swoon with the Word; yea, a dozen in one day carried out of doors as dead, so marvelous was the power of God smiting their hearts for sin…

And of these were…some of the boldest spirits, who formerly feared not with their swords to put a whole market town in a fray; yet in defence of their stubbornness cared not to lie in prison and in the stocks.’ (Iain Murray, The Puritan Hope, Banner of Truth, p.30)

‘The people had a vehement appetite for the Word…no day was long enough, no room large enough!’

Robert Blair, another contemporary witness wrote,
‘So mightily grew the Word of God, and His gracious work of conversion was now spread beyond the bounds of Down and Antrim, to the skirts of neighbouring counties, whence many came to the monthly meetings…

The Lord was pleased to bless His Word, the people had a vehement appetite for it that could not be satisfied: they hung upon the ministers, still desirous to have more; no day was long enough, no room large enough.’ (ibid. p.31)

These eye-witness testimonies show us that although the puritan movement was concerned with personal holiness, it was intentionally evangelistic. It was a ‘revival’ movement. In fact it was the fruit of Holy Spirit empowered evangelism that created sanctified lives.

The Christian preaching that laid such significant cultural foundations in Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the 17th Century was preaching accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Their goal was not only the individual sanctification of those already converted, but the transformation of the nation through gospel preaching, ie, through actually communicating convincingly with the non-believer.

Any impulse that over-focusses on sanctification to the detriment of actual evangelism is already adrift of the missional impulse of both Reformers and Puritans.

And the gracious Head of the Church, while changing us by grace, is still recruiting us into His mission to ‘seek and to save that which is lost.’ (Luke 19:10)

Read the next post, on ‘Shaping the Culture – the literary legacy of the Puritans’

You can purchase Iain Murray’s ‘The Puritan Hope’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Pentecostal Power of the Puritan Movement

The Church Building in Irvine, where Calvinist David Dickson ministered in the power of the Spirit
The Church Building in Irvine, where Calvinist David Dickson ministered in the power of the Spirit

Demonstrations of the Spirit’s Power
The central role of the power of the Holy Spirit was a key factor to the growth of the Evangelical Churches of the Puritan era.

This shouldn’t surprise us when we consider that Paul himself said, ‘My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.’ (1 Cor 2:4-5 NIV)

The power of the working of the Holy Spirit has always been God’s means of authenticating His gospel to the hearts of those who hear.

What is truly amazing for anyone who examines the statements of those who witnessed the immense popularity of the ‘new’ puritan movement is the similarity of the scenes with – wait for it – early Salvationism, or early Pentecostalism.

Evangelistic Orthodoxy
Although we understand that the activity of the Third Person of the Trinity is promised and therefore to be expected, His immediacy – when He breaks in – His breathtaking glory and descending power, amaze us and delight us and surprise us!

As we shall see in future posts about the 18th century, God seems to delight in pouring out His mighty Spirit in the evangelistic arena, thereby causing His word to triumph and large numbers of men and women to come to faith in Christ!

And, indeed, we’ll see that the power of the Spirit becomes a prominent and normative feature in the subsequent global spread of Christianity – and He still is, even today!

Robert Traill
Robert Traill

Puritanism in Pentecost!
Writing in 1682, Puritan preacher Robert Traill says,

‘Formerly a few lights [preachers] raised up in the nation did shine so as to scatter and dispel the darkness…in a little time;

yet now when there are more and more learned men amongst us, the darkness comes on apace?

Is it not because they were men filled with the Holy Ghost and with power; and many of us are only filled with light and knowledge…?’
(From Traill’s Works Vol 1, p.250, quoted by Iain Murray, The Puritan Hope, Banner of truth, p.2)

An outpouring of the Spirit in Irvine, Scotland under the ministry of David Dickson was described by locals as ‘the Stewarton Sickness’ as people were filled with the Spirit of God.

Robert Fleming, an eye witness, writes,
‘It was most remarkable, where it can be said (which diverse ministers and Christians yet alive can [testify to]) that for a considerable time, few Sabbaths did pass without some evidently converted, and some convincing proofs of the power of God accompanying His word;

yea, that many were so choked and taken by heart…the Spirit in such a measure convincing them of sin, in hearing of the Word they have been made to fall over, and thus carried out of the church, who after proved most solid and lively Christians…

Truly, this great spring–tide…was not of a short time, but for some years…[and] did advance from one place to another, which put a marvellous lustre [ie, brightness, glory] on these parts of the country, the savour whereof brought many from other parts of the land to see the truth of the same.’ (ibid p.28)

This kind of statement is absolutely typical of true revival. But I must pause for fear of writing too much.

There’s more. Read the next post, Mighty Outpourings of the Spirit in Puritan Ireland

You can purchase Iain Murray’s ‘The Puritan Hope’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Birth of Modern Revival – Puritan Preaching in Scotland

16th Century Scottish Reformer, John Knox
16th Century Scottish Reformer, John Knox

Iain Murray, in his classic, ‘The Puritan Hope’, points out that the Puritan era was a period of many local revivals. He writes,

‘Following as it did so closely upon the Reformation it is not surprising that the Puritan movement in England believed so firmly in revivals of religion as the great means by which the Church advances in the world.’ (The Puritan Hope, Iain Murray, Banner of Truth, p.3)

16th Century Breakthrough

In 1559 a general revival broke out in Scotland. The conversions were so rapid that John Knox wrote, ‘God did so multiply our number that it appeared as if men had rained from the clouds.’ (ibid p.5)

Describing the spiritual hunger of the Scottish people he adds, ‘Now forty days and more, hath God used my tongue in my native country, to the manifestation of His glory…The thirst of the poor people, as well as of the nobility here, is wondrous great…’ (ibid p.5)

One Scottish church historian writes ‘in Scotland the whole nation was converted by lump; and within ten years…there were not ten persons of quality to be found in it who did not profess the true reformed religion, and so it was among the commons in proportion. Lo! Here a nation born in one day!’ (James Kirkton, The Secret and True History of the Church of Scotland, p.21-22)

The promise of Revival in the Seventeenth Century

This amazing receptivity of the people to powerful gospel preaching did not die out in the century to follow. A fairly compelling example of what we might call ‘revival’, or at least ‘revivalistic, is captured by a description of a powerfully anointed sermon from 1630.

Arthur Fawcett quotes James Robe as saying,

‘The omission of our worthy Forefathers to transmit to posterity a full and circumstantial account of the conversion of 500 by one sermon at the Kirk of Shots in the year 1630…I have heard much complained of and lamented.’ (Arthur Fawcett, The Cambuslang revival, Banner of Truth p.5)

Clearly Scotland, in the generation following the mighty John Knox and the many other ‘Scots Worthies’, was ripe for the gospel. Multitudes were swept into the Kingdom of God and the culture of the nation was definitively shaped by the Bible.

For more on Revival click here

Read the next post, The Pentecostal Power of the Puritan Movement

You can purchase Iain Murray’s The Puritan Hope’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Puritans – A Passion for Truth

A Passion for Truth
Generally speaking, Puritanism can be described as an attempt to practically and pastorally apply the Biblical truths re-discovered by the Reformers to all areas of life.

In a sense, Puritanism was an inevitable result of the Reformation.  Having re-established the Bible as the guide for faith and practice rather than the rituals and superstitions of medieval priesthood, the Puritans wanted to restore the church along Biblical lines. A recurring phrase in puritan literature when any dispute is raised is ‘To the law and to the testimony!’ from Isaiah 8:20.

The rediscovery the great truths of Justification by Faith alone in Christ alone, and the new reality of the Priesthood of all Believers had radical implications for how the church should look. Many felt that they themselves had ‘turned from idols to serve the true and living God.’ (1 Thess 1:9).

This resulted in a desire to rid themselves of corruption in both church and society generally, as well as a specifically individualistic approach to holiness, pastoral care and evangelism.

These influences inevitably had an impact on the established church in England. And, just as importantly, in terms of later global impact, this passion produced thriving independent churches as the Puritan pastors pressed for more conformity to the New Testament and less emphasis on tradition.

Martyn Lloyd Jones put it like this:
[Puritanism]..’is a concern about the nature of the church.  It is a desire for full and complete reformation. It is something that started with objection to ceremonies and vestments but developed into a full doctrine of the church…The Puritan could no longer be satisfied with a partially reformed church but desired a fully Reformed church.’ (D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, The Puritans, Banner of Truth p.256)

A Passion for Godliness
Today, as we read the Puritan writings, it seems remarkable that such a movement was so popular. Their painstaking attention to detail is astonishing, especially in connection with personal inward holiness. They genuinely sought to live to the glory of God in all things. The Pastor became a physician of souls.

But even with the dangers of introspection and legalism, the Puritan leaders’ warmth of spirit and fervency in their pursuit of the presence of God in every area of life continued to prove that this was indeed a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit.

Next time we’ll have a brief look at Puritanism and revival and how the Holy Spirit began to enable some to bring the gospel with power to their generation.

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Puritans – Judgemental Joy-killers or Evangelical Nation Builders?

The much-loved puritan author, John Bunyan
The much-loved puritan author, John Bunyan

Almost any Dictionary of the English language will give you two definitions of the word Puritan.

The first should tell you that they were a group of English Christians in the late 16th and 17th Century who were convinced that the English Reformation was not effective enough and who wanted to bring about a true reformation, or restoration of the church along New Testament lines.

The second will say something like this (eg, the Oxford American Dictionary) ‘a person with censorious religious beliefs, especially about pleasure and sex’.

Censorious means ‘severely critical of others’ and is from the Latin ‘censor’, which meant, basically a judge (magistrate).

So that’s why there aren’t many Christians stepping forward and wanting to identify themselves as judgemental, severely critical, pleasure-denying ‘puritans’!

Re-learning words
But, as with the generally undeserved negative feelings the word ‘Calvinist’ provokes, so we need to re-learn this word ‘puritan’, even though we know that ‘puritanical’ is probably past saving.

NB The Compact Oxford English Dictionary has ‘self-indulgence’ rather than ‘pleasure’, which is more accurate as the puritans were not against pleasure as such (deriving pleasure from the creation, pleasure in the presence of God etc) but they certainly were negative about self-indulgence.

The wonderfully articulate Thomas Watson
The wonderfully articulate Thomas Watson

English Puritanism is important in Christian history because of the wider influence the Puritans had on the church in many nations especially in relation to the massive revivals of the 18th century and the missionary outreach of the 19th century.

So we will take a brief look at these ‘restorationists’, these radical reformers, who wanted to purify the church of every unscriptural trapping and fancy and bring the word of God to the people of England.

Read more in ‘Puritans and a passion for Truth’

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Radical Forerunners to the Reformation: The Waldensians

The Persecuted Waldensians


Unrest and a desire for change

Increasing unrest and desire for both political and spiritual liberty grew throughout the so-called ‘Dark Ages’, and the prayers of God’s children were finally and astonishingly answered in what has come to be called the Protestant Reformation.

J.H.Merle d’Aubigne in his moving and powerful work on the Reformation in England, in a chapter entitled ‘Christ Mightier than Druid Altars and Roman Swords’, writes:

‘Those heavenly powers which had lain dormant in the church since the first ages of Christianity, awoke from their slumber in the sixteenth century, and this awakening called the modern times into existence.’
(J.H. Merle d’Aubigne – The Reformation in England (Banner of Truth) Vol. 1 p.23)

The Waldensians (12th Century on)

About 1170 Peter Waldo (or, Valdes) employed a priest to translate the gospels into French.  As he and many others read the Scriptures they were converted and a great evangelising force was raised up by God.  They taught about the Christ of the Bible and planted many churches, quickly spreading from France to Italy and Germany.

The Waldensian church planters believed they were genuine apostles, and renounced lavish living for a life of devotion to Christ, evangelism and church planting. They rejected Roman Catholic superstitions. Essentially they became a mediaeval apostolic church planting movement!

At first the Roman church tolerated them but as their numbers and influence grew they were first pressurised to not read and teach the Bible privately, then savagely persecuted and executed.

In 1229, at the Council of Valencia, the Bible was forbidden to be read by any except priests and then only in Latin.  The notorious Inquisition began hunting the Waldensians down from the 1230’s onwards. Some of the Inquisitors report that illiterate poor Waldenses were able to recite large parts of the New Testament accurately from memory. They were a Bible people. (see Churchill, The Age of Knights, Authentic p.240)

The Waldensians were in deep trouble right up until the Reformation.  And even as late as the 17th century a cruel persecution overtook them in Western Piedmont in the Southern Alps.  It was only through the courageous and vigorous intervention of Oliver Cromwell and his threat of naval and military action that brought the persecution to a close. Cromwell also championed fund raising on their behalf, personally donating £2000 for their support.  (See S.M. Houghton – Sketches from Church History (Banner of Truth) p.64)

The dominant religious and political organisation of the day was seeking to suppress the Christian faith. Yet when ordinary people discovered the truth of the Bible in their own language lives were changed and churches were planted. The word of God is powerful and can have true and redemptive impact even in the most difficult situations.

You can purchase ‘The Reformation in England’ here

© 2008 Lex Loizides