One Hundred and Forty Years in Cape Town

An adventure in the world’s most beautiful city.[i]
In November 1875 three individuals met for prayer in Long Street, Cape Town. They wanted to start a church.

CH Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher
CH Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher

After getting some advice they wrote to CH Spurgeon in London, who had begun a Pastor’s training college, and asked if he could send someone to lead the church-planting initiative. Spurgeon responded warmly and selected William Hamilton.

Hamilton was clearly a leader amongst his peers and committed to evangelism. It was said of him, a ‘harmony between Calvinistic theology, evangelical activism, and Christian piety was a characteristic feature of Mr Hamilton’s ministry.’

On the basis of this faith-filled request from just three Christians, Hamilton got organised and set sail from London.

The first Baptist Union leaders in South Africa
The first Baptist Union leaders in South Africa

The first Baptists had arrived in 1820 and had begun congregations in Grahamstown and other places. William Hamilton’s arrival represented a possible breakthrough in Cape Town itself.

The man for Cape Town, William Hamilton
The man for Cape Town, William Hamilton

Three months at sea
After a three-month voyage, he arrived in Cape Town in November 1876 (a full year after Spurgeon received the letter of request). It’s difficult to imagine what a three-month journey by ship must have been like. But, considering missionary travels in the 19th century, we ought probably to be a little more gracious at the occasional forty-minute delay before our 12 hour flights to Europe.

Hamilton held a meeting on the 12th November in the Temperance Hall, Long Street which gathered 60 curious people.

Long Street, Cape town, c.1860
Long Street, Cape town, c.1860

The church was constituted on the 19th November 1876 when just nine people agreed to become members by signing this covenant statement:

‘We do hold that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be our only rule of faith and guidance. The Scriptures teach the doctrines of the Trinity, man’s fall, redemption by the substitution of the Son of God, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit; the final judgement of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; the eternal reward of the righteous and eternal punishment of the wicked. While God, in His sovereign mercy, can call whom he will, the world is invited to embrace the Gospel.
The Church of Christ, as set forth in the New Testament, is composed of those who trust alone to Christ for salvation, profess His name before the world, and obey the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
We shall endeavour to the utmost of our ability to further the cause of God among us by fervent prayer, diligent attendance on the means of grace, pecuniary assistance in support of the Ministry, and by trying to get others to attend the house of God.’

Sunday Services
Soon the church grew and Hamilton was formally appointed as Pastor.
Regular prayer meetings were held in a ‘portrait saloon’ in Caledon St, and Sunday services were started in the Oddfellows’ Hall in Plein Street.

Plein Street, Cape Town, c.1870
Plein Street, Cape Town, c.1870

Fruitfulness in evangelism
Hamilton’s evangelistic zeal bore much fruit in Cape Town. Twenty-six conversions were reported as having taken place at one evening meeting.

After a few years the church had grown to such an extent that they were able to build their first church facility. The site they chose was in Wale Street. The construction of the building took a while but was finally completed in 1882. I had discovered this building before relocating to Cape Town in my copy of Spurgeon’s The Sword and the Trowel.

Like Spurgeon's sermons, the Sword and the Trowel was bound into annual volumes
Like Spurgeon’s sermons, the Sword and the Trowel was bound into annual volumes

Here is Spurgeon’s announcement of the completion of the Wale Street building:

Wale Street Baptist Church, an engraving printed in Spurgeon's the Sword and the Trowel
Wale Street Baptist Church, an engraving printed in Spurgeon’s the Sword and the Trowel

The text, written by Spurgeon, reads: ‘Most of our readers must be familiar with the story of Mr. Hamilton’s work in Cape Town; for our pages have often contained notices of his self-denying and arduous labours. Leaving the Pastors’ College in 1876, he accepted an invitation from a small company of baptized believers, who desired to form a church upon what they considered the principles of the New Testament. For some years, in various halls and with varying success, the work was prosecuted with great vigour; and at last on March 9th, 1882, the pastor had the inexpressible delight of preaching in the new chapel, of which an engraving is given above.’

Wale Street, Cape Town, c.1880. Hamilton's building is clearly visible on the left.
Wale Street, Cape Town, c.1880. Hamilton’s building is clearly visible on the left.
The Wale Street church building by local artist Desmond Martin

Spurgeon later said of Hamilton, ‘He has accomplished marvels, and has often made our heart to sing for joy.’ [ii]
It was also said of him, ‘He was quite something new in the religious world of the Cape. He was unconventional both in dress and manner, and of boundless zeal and energy. He got quickly to work, and found quite a number of people interested in his mission.’ [iii]

Wale Street before and after...
Wale Street before and after…

Hamilton not only preached in the city centre but also in the suburbs.

As I searched in the National Archives, at the National Library and online, not only did I discover Hamilton’s amazing story, but also that it was his preaching that led to formation of Wynberg Baptist Church. That was of particular interest because in 1983 a number of idealistic young people from Wynberg Baptist Church launched out and began what was to become Jubilee Community Church.

So, in a very real sense – in a manner where you can trace a direct connection – the roots of both Jubilee Community Church and Cape Town Baptist Church go back to the pioneer evangelist William Hamilton.

More growth
The congregation outgrew the Wale Street building and, in the middle of the last century, moved to a site that stretches between Kloof and Orange Street where they enjoyed decades of fruitful ministry until falling somewhat into decline. The pastor and congregation reached out to the leadership of Jubilee to see if we could join hands and enter a new season of revitalisation and growth. Amazingly, the collaboration has worked and has become a story of unity, peace and strength which we trust will benefit the city.

Re-united
The continuity of our history, the strength of two churches coming, as it were, back together; of 140 years of faithful prayer and evangelism, should give us an awareness of the faithfulness of God, and a momentum that is from God. The strong encouragements we have received from former members of the two Baptist congregations that met on this site have been overwhelming. The present congregation feels as though we are being carried by generations of prayers, of faith, of giving, of longing.
We are not merely having a go at something in the city-centre. God is at work!

Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town
Jubilee Community Church, Kloof Street/Orange Street, Cape Town

This is a new beginning. We are trusting God to enable us to renovate the larger auditorium space and grow beyond our current 180-200 or so up to a significant size that will be a blessing to the city and a testimony to God’s grace.

Spurgeon wrote to Hamilton several times. As far as we know, no letter of has been preserved. But I found a line from one of Spurgeon’s letters which simply said, ‘My heart is thoroughly with your work.’

Buhle reads during the Good Friday service, 2017
Part of the congregation that gathered for our Good Friday service, 2017

But this is not a story about dead heroes. Paul reminds us that one plants, another waters, but it is God who gives the growth. And it’s God who has preserved this city-centre space for the preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, on the 19th November 2016 – the 140th anniversary – we gave thanks, because we’re not only part of a current expression of the church in Cape Town, we’re also joining with one hundred and forty years of history in our city, and we’re joyfully aligning ourselves with the faithfulness of a gracious God.

©2016 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

[i] https://www.goodthingsguy.com/environment/cape-town/
http://www.southafrica.net/blog/en/posts/entry/Cape-Town-voted-the-Worlds-best-city-here-are-22-reasons-why
[
ii] Sword and Trowel vol. 1885
[iii] http://zalookup.com/library/books/TheHistoryOfTheBaptistChurchIinSouthAfrica.pdf

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

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

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

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

C.S. Lewis ‘humbled’ by A.N. Wilson – a book review

Lewis cover

A review of Wilson’s biography.

Wilson claims, ‘There are those readers who are so uplifted by the sublimity of Lewis at his best as a writer that they assume that he was himself a sublime being, devoid of blemishes.’

C.S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis

In this review I examine some of Wilson’s claims and comments as well as including fascinating material about Lewis’s ‘reluctant convert’ comment, the animosity between Lewis and John Betjeman, the conversations with J.R.R. Tolkien which finally led to his conversion and his resistance to the modern poets including T.S. Eliot.

If you’ve not read anything about Lewis’s life the review also serves as an introduction to one of the most inspiring Christian writers of the 20th century.

To read the review click here

© 2013 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

Remember the Poor by Simon Pettit

Remember the Poor

Simon Pettit

At an international leader’s conference hosted in the UK in 1998 an unsuspecting network of churches was about to undergo a powerful and lasting shift.

It was a moment that has left a younger generation of leaders saying, as one wrote to me, ‘I wasn’t there to hear Simon’s sermon, but I sometimes feel like I was, such is the ongoing legacy of that one message.’

It was a sermon that re-focussed the outreach of the Newfrontiers family of churches, and has generated conferences, think tanks, and a myriad of local church initiatives across the world.

It effectively united so-called ‘social ministries’ to the apostolic and evangelistic priority of a church-planting movement.

Simon Pettit preaching in Blantyre, Malawi

Simon Pettit and his family left England in 1990 for Cape Town, South Africa to lead the team at Jubilee Community Church. He served in South Africa and Africa for 15 years, before his sudden death from a heart attack in 2005.

This message comes from those years of living and learning in a context of contrasting wealth and poverty. He quickly realised that the church cannot merely preach a message of hope but must directly engage with the needs of the poor.

Some, while not doubting the need to serve the poor, questioned whether Simon’s exegesis of Gal 2:10 was correct. Did the apostles in Jerusalem intend a general care for the poor or were they only referring to the poor in Jerusalem? A fine answer has been given to that question here.

Simon’s legacy is not confined to one church, of course, but to the whole family of Newfrontiers churches. However, the multi-racial Jubilee Community Church in Cape Town, the local church where he learnt and taught, and which has continued to remember the poor in so many ways, remains the jewel in his crown.

Many of us still share the pain of losing Simon, not only in Jubilee, and South Africa, but also in Africa and in many other parts of the world. We feel Simon’s sudden departure was the loss of a genuine father in the faith.

I hope the inclusion of this message will stir you to ‘remember the poor’ where you are.

 

For audio you can listen or download here

Simon joking around just before speaking at City of God Church, Accra, Ghana

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

A Short History of the Evangelistic Appeal part 1

Billy Graham’s final evangelistic meeting at the LA Coliseum, 1963. This meeting remains the largest ever attendance of the venue, at 134,254. An evangelistic appeal (or ‘altar call’) followed the sermon.

In terms of a qualified defence of the practice, I have written on this subject elsewhere. I certainly acknowledge the danger of presumption and of giving a false impression as to the nature of the spiritual work done in a person who has responded to the gospel message by ‘going forward’[1]

It is often asserted that Charles Finney is the dastardly inventor of this religious device, which has had both the staunchly Reformed and the weak-of-faith irritated by its popularity and reluctant to employ it at the end of their messages.

That Finney is the originator of this overwhelmingly popular form of response is apparently enough for some Reformed pastors to reject it outright. Tut tut.

But author Iain Murray, a friend of Dr Lloyd-Jones and a keen historian of revival, has unintentionally come to Finney’s rescue.

Revival and Results
In Revival and Revivalism, Murray discusses the dangers of emotionalism. Strange things happen in genuine revivals: people fall down, overcome with the power of the Holy Spirit.[2]

But, when such things take place, there begins a dynamic in which such outward displays of religious excitement can become indicators of success, and preachers eager to see a response to their preaching, or, worse, driven by an ambition to be known as powerful, can fall into the trap of encouraging such responses.

These elements, he argues, were fully at work during the Kentucky Camp Meetings in the early 19th Century, noting menacingly that some ‘went the full distance into delusion’[3]. Nevertheless he credits the Kentucky revival and the Second Great Awakening in America generally as ‘giving men the Bible as their guide instead of the goddess Reason whose reign had begun in France.’[4]

The old Calvinism under threat
In the context of these developments he raises the problem of Calvinism’s loosening hold on the prevailing theology of evangelicals. Although the late 18th century revivals had begun primarily amongst Calvinists, new opinions were gaining ground. The first American Methodist magazine was bullishly titled ‘The Arminian Magazine’.

The opinion of those Methodists who were vigourously engaged in the work of evangelisation was that the Calvinists had a tendency to slow things down and get in the way.

If the revival in Kentucky had given a boost to the Christian cause generally it was at the expense of the old Reformed doctrinal unity.

Here Murray charges the Methodists with being ‘overbalanced on an experience-centred Christianity, and too ready to exalt zeal above knowledge.’[5]

Mass Evangelism, Organized Campaigns, Lots of Singing, Presumption

An appeal at one of Billy Graham’s 1979 evangelistic meetings in Sydney

Thus several regrettable outcomes: ‘the Methodists…came to believe that the organization of mass meetings was a very effective part of evangelism. Emotion engendered by numbers and mass singing, repeated over several days, was conducive to securing a response. Results could thus be multiplied, even guaranteed.’

The Calvinists, by contrast, according to Murray, ‘using their Bibles rather than any knowledge of psychology, saw from the New Testament that no technique could produce conversions.’[6]

That the Methodists were then doing what Whitefield had done a generation before (organize mass meetings), and what all believers shall do one day (ie, sing songs of worship to Jesus Christ in a massive, massive crowd cf Rev 7:9-10) is of little consequence to Murray: he is setting the stage for the still irritatingly prevalent ‘altar call’.

How do you know what’s happening?
At first it was difficult to tell who was being actually converted. Should they count the ones who fell down as converted? Obviously not. Murray omits the fact that even Whitefield tended to consider the general weeping of one of the mass congregations as a good indicator, even explicitly mentioning the broken emotional responses of Bristol miners as a sign of their repentance.

The whole connection between Kentucky emotionalism and the evangelistic appeal is tenuous anyhow as no ‘altar calls’ happened there anyway.[7]

The first modern appeals
Nevertheless here it is: Murray has pinpointed what may well be the first instance of the evangelistic appeal (and it wasn’t Finney): ‘Before the end of the eighteenth century, in some congregations of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the innovation had been introduced of inviting ‘mourners’ to come to the front, metaphorically, ‘to the altar’.

‘Jesse Lee recorded in his journal for 31 October 1798: ‘At Paup’s Meeting House Mr Asbury preached on Eph 5:25, 26, 27…I exhorted, and the power of the Lord was among us…John Easter proclaimed aloud, “I have not a doubt but God will convert a soul today”. The preachers then requested all that were under conviction to come together. Several men and women came and fell upon their knees, and the preachers for some time kept singing and exhorting the mourners…two or three found peace.’’

Murray gives a further example: ‘In 1801 another Methodist in Delaware reported: ‘After prayer I called upon the persons in distress to come forward and look to the Lord to convert their souls. Numbers came forward.’’[8]

As a Christian who joyfully embraces Reformed theology I struggle to see the problem with that example.

What do you think?

More next time…

For the first part in the Charles Finney Story click here

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[1] NB. In the US the appeal is still referred to by the archaic sounding term ‘altar call’. The term ‘evangelistic appeal’ also has problems, of course, considering that the actual appeal is contained in the message itself.

[2] ‘The phenomenon of hearers falling prostrate during a service or crying out in anguish is nor uncommon at the outset of revivals.’ Revival and Revivalism, Iain Murray, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth 1994) p.163

[3] ibid p.170

[4] ibid p.174

[5] ibid p.183

[6] ibid p.184

[7] He says later, ‘There were no ‘altar calls’ in the early great communion services and camp meetings in the Kentucky revival but, with the impetus that high emotion imparted to the immediate and the visible, it was a short step to its introduction by the Methodists.’ P. 186 Thus he reveals the weakness of his historical argument.

[8] Ibid p.185

Interview footage of Martyn Lloyd Jones – and FREE sermons!

The cover of the MLJ memorial edition of The Banner of Truth magazine, May 1981

What has continually struck me about Martyn Lloyd-Jones, since first discovering him in the 80s, is the note of authority in his preaching. Not fundamentalism. Not arrogance. Not self-promoting bravado. Not self-centred supernatural experience. Authority – and particularly the authority of the Biblical text itself.

He spoke with such conviction in his generation, that, even allowing for some areas of disagreement, his message still strikes a clear note, and pierces the conscience today!

I find his preaching encouraging and uplifting, and inclusive:

‘It seems to me that the great trouble in the church today is that she’s not reaching the working classes. The majority of the members of our church were working class men.’ D Martyn Lloyd-Jones on his ministry years in Aberavon, Wales (from one of the interviews on this video).

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones was loved by rich and poor, and acknowledged as making a significant contribution to the spiritual life of Great Britain.

The Queen greeting Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones

So the message this month is not really a message, but some video footage which traces his early ministry and introduction to London, interspersed with some television footage (you can spot a young Joan Bakewell in the mix too!)

Enjoy! Click on the photo below

Martyn Lloyd-Jones' television interview

or paste this into your browser:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=TolCoC_44AQ
Free Sermons!
The Martyn Lloyd-Jones Recording Trust has just announced that it is making its complete MLJ library available online free of charge (free registration).
Click either of the links below for your store:
http://www.mlj.org.uk/shop

http://www.mlj-usa.com/audiolibrary

There is a wealth of material there so don’t waste time!
Read Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ comments on Evangelist Howell Harris here

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

The Most Cooperative Servant Organisation in History

 Ralph Winter on Hudson Taylor

The hugely respected Missiologist Ralph Winter (with friends)

Ralph Winter, the renowned missiologist wrote of J Hudson Taylor:

‘God honoured him because his gaze was fixed upon the world’s least-reached peoples…

The China Inland Mission – the most co-operative servant organisation yet to appear – eventually served in one way or another over 6000 missionaries, predominantly in the interior of China.’ [i]

Other great missionaries also sought to encourage the Chinese to accept the ancient faith of the Christians like the radical (if rather impulsive) C.T. Studd and the appropriately named Canadian Jonathan Goforth. Goforth saw awakenings and revivals in the villages, and helped train and release many local Chinese leaders.

Roger Steer adds a personal note, ‘Just after Taylor died, a young Chinese evangelist looked upon his body and summed up Taylor’s most important legacy: “Dear and venerable pastor, we too are your little children. You opened for us the road to heaven. We do not want to bring you back, but we will follow you.” ‘[ii]

Today, China is arguably experiencing the greatest revival of church history. Reports from several sources describe hundreds of thousands coming to Christ with amazing miracles, signs and wonders along with persecution (Here are recent news item from the BBC, Fox News).

The so called ‘house churches’ in China seem unstoppable, even in the face of terrible cruelties and reports of human rights abuses on the part of the authorities.

News of very young leaders planting huge churches and very old women evangelising thousands reach us constantly and many of those from our churches who have visited the underground church leadership have been lastingly changed.

The estimates of those converted to the Christian faith in the last few decades range from between 75 and 100 million converts. The Guardian Newspaper in the UK ran an article that predicted that within 30 years China’s Christians will number no less than 400 million.

Pic: Ralph D Winter

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i]  Ralph Winter, Perspectives of the World Christian Movement, p.172

[ii] Roger Steer, Christian History magazine Issue 52, Vol. XV, No. 4, Page 10

The God Delusion Debate

Message of the Month – The God Delusion Debate

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

In 2010 I hosted two big screen video debates between Oxford University Professors John Lennox and Richard Dawkins. Hundreds of non-churched folk as well as members of various churches attended. There was very real interest.

I had already met John Lennox in Oxford although I was, at that time, unfamiliar with his work as a speaker. Having lunched with John, and having listened to several hours of Richard Dawkins in various contexts I was beginning to feel a little guilty that I hadn’t actually read The God Delusion.

Making Money from Religion
I’m not suggesting you buy a new copy of the book. Richard Dawkins has already made a massive amount of money from religion. Rather, if you want to read it, go and benefit your local second-hand book store by purchasing it there.

This is not a review of the book. I am not going to focus on how Dawkins misses the mark because he doesn’t have a clear grasp of key issues etc. Others have said those things already. I will point you to the Lennox/Dawkins debate.

But I do want to make a few comments which I hope will be helpful:

1. An Extended Rant. I genuinely enjoyed reading The God Delusion. It’s not often that a book keeps me completely engaged from beginning to end. There are maybe two sections that I felt should have been edited down, but this is, essentially, an extended rant and it’s fun to listen!

2. Not faith-shaking. I was surprised that there are no power punches in The God Delusion. There’s nothing here that shakes the Christian faith. Perhaps I was naive, but I had expected something more formidable. There are lots of little jabs and digs – but no substantial intellectual obstacles presented. So reading the book is more like being back in the sixth-form common room arguing about Christianity with your school mates. Digs, pokes – yes, lots of them – but certainly no knock-out punch.

3. Dodgy Examples. Irritating for the discerning reader and perhaps deceptive for those who don’t spot them are the occasions where Dawkins acknowledges that the research/item/example he is giving is probably not conclusive/trustworthy yet he goes right ahead and uses it anyway. He does this a lot. In one case he even gives a footnote saying ‘It is unclear whether the story is true’ but still uses it as a ‘typical’ example of how Christians behave. It’s all carefully worded so he escapes the charge of deliberately deceiving but my guess is that many readers gloss over the ‘this may be unverified research but…’ qualifier and get straight to the example he then uses.

4. ‘Raised Consciousness’ a delusion? Also slightly alarming, or comical, depending on your mood, are Dawkins’ suggestions that those who accept Darwinian evolution, and particularly biologists, have had their consciousness ‘raised’. And that some, particularly those poor physicists who concede that the fine tuning of the universe might suggest some ‘intelligence’, have yet to have their consciousness raised! In fact, this is his response to those who are sceptical of the so-called multiverse theory: ‘People who think that have not had their consciousness raised by natural selection.’ (p.175) Cheeky banana!

5. Shot by Both Sides. Those Christians attempting to syncretise evolutionary theory with Genesis, and hoping it might win them some intellectual credibility with non-believers will be disappointed by the response of this famous non-believer. They are given no respect whatsoever by Darwin’s most loyal devotee. He apparently does not believe your consciousness has been raised far enough and understandably (from his perspective) suggests that the literal death of Jesus for a symbolic sin by an allegorical, non-historical Adam is ‘barking mad’.

So, you can see how this is an entertaining book.

The God Delusion Debate between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox

The message I am recommending in connection with the book is The God Delusion Debate between John Lennox and Richard Dawkins, filmed by The Fixed Point Foundation.

It’s over 2 hours long but it is superb, and a great resource for churches to use to generate civil discussion around some of these issues. John Lennox is brilliant.

Fixed Point also have several other filmed debates on sale. Amazingly, they have provided this full-length video free of charge!

Here’s the link: The God Delusion Debate

I also enclose a few quotes from book reviews of The God Delusion, for your entertainment

TGD review snippets

‘This big, colourful book is mostly tendentious tosh.’ – The Independent, UK
‘Despite his pious promise not to attack soft targets, that is precisely what he does, at some length.’ – The Independent, UK

The London Review of Books review was entitled ‘Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching’ and begins by saying, ‘Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.’

Dawkins ‘can scarcely bring himself to concede that a single human benefit has flowed from religious faith, a view which is as a priori improbable as it is empirically false.’

Antony Flew, the British philosopher and former atheist wrote,

‘What is much more remarkable than that economic achievement [from The God Delusion sales] is that the contents – or rather lack of contents – of this book show Dawkins himself to have become what he and his fellow secularists typically believe to be an impossibility: namely, a secularist bigot.’

In referring to Dawkins’ references to Einstein, Flew writes, ‘(I find it hard to write with restraint about this obscurantist refusal on the part of Dawkins) he makes no mention of Einstein’s most relevant report: namely, that the integrated complexity of the world of physics has led him to believe that there must be a Divine Intelligence behind it.’

‘This whole business makes all too clear that Dawkins is not interested in the truth as such but is primarily concerned to discredit an ideological opponent by any available means.’

Click here for the complete transcript of Flew’s response, and which includes a rebuttal to Dawkins disgraceful claim that certain Universities are not ‘proper universities’ conferring ‘real degrees’.

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides

Message of the Month Tom Woodward and David Berlinski

Tom Woodward

Tom Woodward is President of the CS Lewis Society in Florida, USA, and is Research Professor of Theology at Trinity College.

Tom hosts a radio show called ‘Darwin or Design’ and interviews scientists and apologists who are involved in a growing trend amongst academics to openly criticise the Darwinian theory of evolution (macro-evolution).

David Berlinski

David Berlisnki is one of the coolest Academics you’ll encounter. He resists the idea that science speaks with a uniform voice on the issue and is outspoken in his criticism of Darwinism. He decries ‘the glaring inadequacy of so much that passes as scientific discourse today.’ He appeared, relaxed and authoritative, in the movie ‘Expelled – No Intelligence Allowed’.

Berlinski is an academic philosopher, author and is an agnostic, not a Christian.

Dawkins on Berlinski

Even though Berlinski rejects the Darwinian theory of macro evolution, Richard Dawkins did him the honour of acknowledging that ‘David Berlinski…is certainly not ignorant, stupid or insane.  He denies that he is a creationist, but claims strong scientific arguments against evolution.’

I enjoyed this interview, especially as Tom Woodward tries to get evangelistic with Berlisnki and Berlinski just waves the moment aside: ‘I cannot give my assent to those doctrines. It’s a flat out point of scepticism.’

That certainly strengthens the assertion that not all Intelligent Design Theorists are Christians, or Creationists etc.

This is a fascinating interview which should at the very least make us think.

Go to the interview in itunes (Click on Track 8:David Berlinski): Tom Woodward and David Berlinski

For more on David Berlinski click here

For Tom’s Radio Show click here

For an article by Tom Woodward in Christianity Today click here

Enjoy!

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

THE POETS’ QUESTION

The Poets' Question in Oxford - with John Carson and Lex Loizides

The Poets’ Question is an enjoyable presentation of superb poetry and spiritual inquiry and a great event for friends who love literature.

It debuted in Cape Town, South Africa in 2010, was first presented in the UK at Queen’s College, Oxford and then in Norwich. The next performance will be in Birmingham, England on Wednesday 16th November. Enquire here for details.

British actor John Carson reads selections from WB Yeats, TS Eliot, Stevie Smith, Robert Frost, John Crowe Ransom and Dylan Thomas.

Lex Loizides invites us to consider some of the most popular modern poems, and examines the relationship between the poets’ expressions of longing and the possibility of spiritual truth. The presentation is a fine blend of literary insight and Lex’s own personal journey towards authentic and intellectually satisfying spirituality, and represents a contribution to literary apologetics.

For photos, information and to read what people are saying about The Poets’ Question click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

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

Up Close and Personal with Nelson Mandela’s Defence Lawyer

George Bizos' stunning autobiography, 'Odyssey to Freedom'

‘Early in the afternoon of 11 July 1963, a fine winter’s day, the telephone rang in my chambers.

‘I heard a coin drop into the call box and then the muffled voice of Harold Wolpe. He named a corner in the city centre and asked me to meet him there.
‘Our meeting place was outside a bookshop and I found him staring intently into the window at the books on display.

‘He didn’t turn round when I greeted him but pointed at a book.

‘We stood side by side, facing away from the pedestrians while he whispered that the leadership of the ANC had been arrested at its Rivonia headquarters and that he was going into hiding.

‘He handed me a file, asked me to find some excuse for his absence from court, and to report what had happened to his brother-in-law and partner, James Kantor.

‘I was not to see Wolpe again until he returned from exile almost thirty years later.’ (p.204)

In his autobiography ‘Odyssey to Freedom’, Nelson Mandela’s defence lawyer takes us on a journey on the inside of the legal processes and secret ANC meetings that ultimately led to democracy in South Africa. It is a tremendous story of how one modern day ‘Daniel’ helped influence a nation towards freedom.

Full the full book review and article on xenophobia, and how we, as Christians, should regard foreigners in our home countries click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

John Lennon: The Life by Philip Norman. A Review.

John Lennon by Philip Norman (HarperCollins)
John Lennon by Philip Norman (HarperCollins)

From their first LP in 1963 to ‘Let it Be’, released only 7 years later in 1970, the Beatles made a huge impact on both popular music and popular culture in the UK and the US.

This riveting biography takes us into the life of John Lennon, one of modern culture’s most celebrated icons. In this review we’ll touch on his infamous ‘We’re more popular than Jesus’ statement (and his lesser known but equally worthy classic: ‘Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary.’), as well as looking at his life as a son, husband and father, his song writing brilliance with Paul Macartney, the Beatles rise to fame and the famous trip to India.

Philip Norman has written a wonderfully readable book. The review includes several quotes with references. Click here for the whole review.

(C) 2009 Lex Loizides

The Holy Spirit and Authority in Preaching (MLJ on Harris part 4)

Howell Harris
Howell Harris

We’ve been spending some time looking at the conversion experience of the Welsh Evangelist Howell Harris.

Harris, through his tireless evangelistic work is credited with being the founder of Welsh Calvinistic Methodism. He also, through his example, helped launch George Whitefield and the Wesley brothers’ ministry of preaching in the fields.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (also a Welshman) spoke about him at the Puritan Conference in London in 1973 and emphasised not only Harris’ conversion but also the fact that he received ‘a baptism of power’ in the Holy Spirit. Lloyd-Jones believed this was the key to his evangelistic success.

Indeed, thousands came to Christ. The power of the Spirit in Harris’ life affected not only his willingness to speak but also his effectiveness in speaking. He talked about ‘the authority’ of God coming upon him and moving the hearers.  He would wait for the ‘authority’ to come and then speak with greater freedom and power.

Lloyd-Jones last sermon

Lloyd-Jones also was deeply concerned for this subjective but vital aspect in his own preaching. The preached word was to come with authority.

I have friends who were at Barcombe Baptist Chapel, in East Sussex and heard Lloyd-Jones deliver his very last sermon. One told me how the Doctor started slowly and seemed to get going with some difficulty. But then, wondrously, it was as though a sudden power came upon him, that energised him and electrified the congregation. Suddenly all were awake and alert: God was speaking with authority through a man. Lloyd-Jones felt that in Harris’ case (where he would sense ‘the authority’ and then speak spontaneously without any notes or preparation and with powerful effect) it was close to the gift of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 12.

A first-hand gospel

For Harris, as well as Lloyd-Jones, this was a deeply prized token of God’s presence and favour both for him and his hearers. It had the effect of making the gospel ‘first-hand’, fresh, and immediately powerful.

Harris, describes this immediacy. He was more concerned with preaching an experienced Christ and the Spirit enabled him to do so: ‘That which I experienced, proved, and felt and saw and heard of the Word of Life, that also I proclaim.’ (quoted by MLJ in Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans and their Successors, Banner of Truth Edition p.296)

A bold man dies much loved by the people he served

Wales mourned when Harris died. A truly great and much loved hero had gone to glory. 20,000 people were present! The Countess of Huntingdon attended and wrote of the emotion that was too strong to suppress:

‘But amidst the sorrow and tears of the audience that thronged the building an interruption took place. The officiating clergyman, being unable to proceed on account of his emotion, handed the Prayer Book to another – that does not often happen – but the second clergyman also lost self-control and passed the book to a third, when he again by reason of the same cause was unable to go on; and thus in silence were the remains of the great man laid to rest in the chancel in the Parish Church at Talgarth, and in the same grave in which his wife had been buried a few years before’. (quoted by MLJ, ibid, p.301)

What about us?

Oh my dear friend, are you a Christian? Then go to God and be filled with the Holy Spirit. If you need to find a church near you try here as one option.

Have you been baptised in the Spirit? Why did you think it was just for you? There are multitudes all around you who do not know Christ. Are you going to leave them as you travel on your way to heaven? Are you not going to be stirred by God to get up and do something for Him that will help people find their way to Christ?

How long O Lord, before you pour out your Spirit once more upon your people and turn our nations to you?

To read part one of Lloyd-Jones on Howell Harris click here

To read the next post in this series click here

You can purchase ‘The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Power of the Spirit and Mission

(Lloyd-Jones on Howell Harris part 3)

In his lecture on Howell Harris, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the great evangelical Bible teacher, argued that an experience of the Holy Spirit’s power was the key to Harris’ effectiveness in the 18th century ‘Great Awakening’.

It was this ‘baptism of fire’ that spurred Harris on to reach others with the gospel of Christ.

Here, he continues to argue his point effectively, whilst applying it to the reader with stinging relevance!

The Baptism of the Spirit as the Stimulus to Effective Evangelism

‘This is what created within [Howell Harris] a compassion for the lost. This is what urged him to go out and to tell the people about their condition and do something about them. His concern for the lost and the perishing was the consuming passion of his soul.

I would make this comment at this point. Is not that always the crucial test which we must apply to those who claim to have received the baptism of the Spirit?

The crucial test is the concern for souls, compassion for the lost. That was the great characteristic of our Lord. He saw the people as ‘sheep without a shepherd’. He ‘had compassion upon them’; and the man who is filled with the Spirit in this way is like his Lord.

His outstanding characteristic is his compassion for the lost; his concern for them was the test of ‘the baptism of the Spirit’.’

The power of the Spirit leads to mission not self-indulgence

Lloyd-Jones continues, ‘It does not lead to an inward looking, self-indulgent, church movement that turns in on itself and spends its time reciting and even boasting at times of experiences. It always leads to this concern for others…

The baptism of or with the Spirit shows itself primarily by giving its recipients a great evangelistic concern.’ (Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans and their Successors, Banner of Truth Edition p.292-3)

Oh that we could placard that statement over every church that claims an experience of the Holy Spirit!

To read Part One of Lloyd-Jones on Howell Harris click here

To read the Part Four click here

You can purchase ‘The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Holy Spirit, Howell Harris and Martyn Lloyd-Jones (MLJ on Harris part 2)

Martyn Lloyd Jones, 'The Puritans and Their Successors' (1st edition)
Martyn Lloyd Jones, 'The Puritans and Their Successors' (1st edition)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones believed that Howell Harris was one of the most extraordinary preachers in the history of the church. He deeply admired the evangelistic passion that characterised Harris’ life. Here, we continue to listen to the ‘Doctor’ as he was affectionately called, as he outlines what he considers to be the source of that passion. (Page numbers refer to Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans and their Successors, Banner of Truth Edition)

On Harris’ Baptism in the Spirit

Describing Harris’ experience some three weeks after his conversion, which we have already considered, Lloyd-Jones calls it ‘that crucial experience’.

‘To me, this is the key to the understanding of Howell Harris, as it is the key to the understanding of Revival.’ (p.290)

He goes on, ‘as I have always understood this man’s story, and as I still understand it more and more, you cannot explain him or understand him, or what happened through him, except in the light of this crucial experience of June 18th…What was it? To me, there is only one expression to use. It was the expression used by these men themselves and by their successors. It was a baptism ‘of fire’ or a ‘baptism of power’.’

The Doctor continues, ‘What I would emphasize particularly is that Harris was already converted, had already received forgiveness of sins, and he knew that he had it, and had been dancing in joy. But it was now just over three weeks later that he received this crucial experience which turned him into a flaming Evangelist.’ (p.290)

On Harris’ continuing experience of the Spirit as an example to us

Having recounted that Harris essentially celebrated this experience each year, he also emphasises how Harris was not content to merely rest in that one experience of the Spirit’s power but went on to seek more of Him.

‘This to him was the turning point, the crucial event that made him an Evangelist. It is essential to an understanding of Revival. We can further demonstrate this by showing that he had several repetitions of this experience…he also had similar experiences.’

Lloyd-Jones writes, ‘Another extract from his diary says, ‘In private society till two in the morning like a drunken man. Could say nothing but glory, glory for a long time.’ (p.292)

‘May 1749, ‘The Lord came, overpowering me with love like a mighty torrent that I could not withstand or reason against or doubt.’ (p.292)

‘Even in his ‘dying testimony’ as it is called, he says ‘that we are not to speak of what we have had from the Lord, but what we now have afresh from Him.’ This was of great concern to him. This great vital experience could be repeated…’ (p.293)

Has Lloyd-Jones become over-excited? Has the Doctor embraced some terrible Charismatic or Pentecostal doctrine? Or is he fully aware of the argument he is making and its implications. He explains emphatically:

‘There is always this distinction between receiving forgiveness of sins and receiving the Holy Ghost.’ (p. 292)

So, back in 1973 when he delivered the lecture from which I have quoted, Lloyd-Jones knew exactly what he was saying and why he was saying it.

He wanted us to learn from Harris that we might encounter the power of God as Harris did, in order that we might influence our generation as Harris did.

To read part one of Lloyd-Jones on Howell Harris click here

To read the next post in this series click here

You can purchase ‘The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Lloyd-Jones on Howell Harris part 1

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors

‘Harris is one of the great heroic figures in the Christian Church, and his story is truly an astonishing one.’ Lloyd-Jones (1973)

Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones was the greatest evangelical teachers of the 20th Century. Few would argue with that. His powerful and faithful teaching ministry both in Wales (1927-1938) and later in London (1939-1968) has continued to inspire leaders and movements around the world.

Leading evangelical preachers such as J.I. Packer and Terry Virgo were powerfully impacted by his passionate expository style of preaching. His was a voice of authority and certainty in an increasingly wishy-washy church context.

In 1950 Packer and others urged Lloyd-Jones to begin a regular teaching conference on the importance of the Puritans and the Puritan movement. Papers were delivered followed by robust discussion chaired (and adjudicated?) by Lloyd-Jones himself.

Lloyd-Jones lectured on many subjects during the conferences (called first, The Puritan and, later, The Westminster Conference).

In 1959 he preached on ‘Revival: An historical and Theological Survey’, in 1964 on ‘John Calvin and George Whitefield’, in 1972 on ‘John Knox – The Founder of Puritanism’ and in 1973 on ‘Howell Harris and Revival’.

It is to this particular lecture that we now turn our attention. We’ve seen something of Harris’ amazing influence in Wales and we shall go on to see his continuing influence in England through the preaching methods of George Whitefield (Harris also pastored Whitefield’s London church in his absence). But what does ‘The Doctor’, as Lloyd-Jones was affectionately called, say of Harris?

Lloyd-Jones’ excellent lectures have been published by the Banner of Truth Trust (the publishing company he helped form) under the title ‘The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors’. Page numbers refer to that edition.

On Harris’ conversion

Lloyd-Jones mentions the phrase that was to have such an impact on Harris. He had been in church when, during an announcement for communion, the Minister had said, ‘If you are not fit to take Communion you are not fit to pray, and if you are not fit to pray you are not fit to live, and if you are not fit to live you are not fit to die.’

Lloyd-Jones remarks, ‘These words hit this thoughtless schoolmaster with great force…I emphasise this incident because it reminds us of one of the amazing things about being a servant of God. You can bring people to conviction of sin even through an announcement! You never know what God is going to use; your asides are sometimes more important than your prepared statements.’ (p.285)

On the descending of the Spirit as a definition of Revival

Of particular interest is that Lloyd-Jones emphasises Harris’ encounter with the Holy Spirit as the key experience of his ministry.

This is typical of Lloyd-Jones who was frankly fed up of what he saw as a misunderstanding of the dynamic role of the Holy Spirit which was then prevalent amongst Reformed teachers and preachers. Happily, things have normalised in our day but it was different then and a post conversion experience of the Spirit needed to be constantly emphasised.

Lloyd-Jones writes, ‘What is revival?  Revival is an outpouring of the Spirit of God. It is a kind of repetition of Pentecost. It is the Spirit descending upon people.

This needs to be emphasised in this present age. For we have been told so much recently by some that every man at regeneration receives the baptism of the Spirit, and all he has to do after that is to surrender to what he has already.

But revival does not come as a result of a man surrendering to what he already has; it is the Spirit being poured upon him, descending upon him, as happened on the day of Pentecost.’ (p.289)

To read the Part Two click here

You can purchase ‘The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Review of ‘Betjeman’ by A.N. Wilson

A.N. Wilson's biography of John Betjeman
A.N. Wilson's biography of John Betjeman

John Betjeman was a much loved modern poet whose unashamed ‘Englishness’ and chummy loyalty to the Church of England won him a place in many English hearts. His light and amusing poetry made him a popular hit giving him access (and sales) where other more serious poets stayed on the fringes of popular culture. He was tutored briefly by CS Lewis, was a keen lover of church architecture (including Edward Irving’s London church buildings) and a muddle of emotions and guilt when it came to relationships.

Read the full review here

Lost for Words – a tough week for John Humphrys

(from June 09 – but still relevant!)

John Humphrys, respected journalist and host of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme found himself verbally scrambling twice this week.

Those of us who appreciated his timely and humourous book, Lost for Words certainly felt for him.

First of all, on Thursday during a live interview with a Conservative MP, Humphrys was surprised to be asked how much he earned. The Times said he ‘stuttered’. Fair enough. Lost for words. We get it. No biggie.

But on Friday he was struggling again, and couldn’t find just the right good word when a naughty one came out instead.

Although he apologised for it, he also exonerated himself on two counts:

Firstly, he claimed it was a technical error, by mistakenly using one consonant instead of another. No, seriously! According to the Telegraph he said, ‘it came out slightly differently and had a ‘b’ at the front instead of an ‘r’ i.e. rollicking), and secondly he brought in the star witness, Professor of English Literature (University College, London), John Sutherland to submit convincing evidence that the mistakenly pronounced word was nevertheless ‘entirely innocent.’

Has this particular word therefore officially passed into general innocent usage? Also, as with many of these public apologies, do the words ‘an apology’ mean anything beyond the suggestion of moral weakness in those who feel they may require one?

One of the most surprising assertions in Lost for Words is that journalists themselves are the ‘guardians’ of language. I must admit, although I greatly enjoyed the book, and have recommended it, I had to laugh. I had wondered what the poets, novelists, playwrights, preachers and – even – English professors might think of that.

His appeal to a Professor of English in this instance may reveal that he is no longer as certain, and we can breathe a sigh of relief that journalists are not, thankfully, our linguistic guardians after all.

The moral of this story for anyone regularly involved in public speaking is surely the statement in the Book of Proverbs 10:19 ‘When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.’

I am not suggesting that Humphrys admission/denial of transgression is so serious, but simply that even the most experienced communicators get lost for words, get tangled.

The funniest instance of this I ever heard was from Simon Pettit, a pastor, who, when conducting a wedding gave out this mind-boggling spoonerism: ‘We are here today to witness Gareth and Nadine being joyfully loined in holy matrimony!’ The congregation tried, but could not repress their laughter for long until Simon was forced to ask, ‘Why are they laughing?’

Being lost for words can produce embarrassed silence, an outburst of laughter or the need for a humble apology all in one week, one day, even in one conversation! Maybe we shouldn’t be too hard on good Mr. Humphrys after all.

A review of Humphrys’ ‘Lost for Words’ can be read here
You can also purchase ‘Lost for Words’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides