A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre

A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre

CS Lewis talked about the quest to gain access to the ‘inner ring’, something he was unable to do at Oxford due to the snobbery of the English establishment, and the embarrassment Lewis caused fellow academics by writing about the devil as though he were a real being.[i] As you gain entrance to one ring, you discover yet another further in which holds yet more influence. Every effort is made to progress to the inner rings. Entrance becomes more costly. You can forfeit your soul as you gain the world. Once inside each ring, you strengthen its walls so that it remains difficult for others to enter (one UK pastor was telling me of South African émigrés to England who, having scrambled to get British passports and residency, are now solidly and immovably pro-Brexit). 

Of course for outsiders like Lewis, slowly earning your way to an inner ring may not only take years but may turn out to be a hollow promise after all. But the nature of the old British establishment was that if you were born into the right family, went to the right school, had the right kind of accent and bearing, you could skip all those tawdry outer rings and accelerate right to the centre of things where commoners rarely, if ever, appear. The inner rings are inevitably smaller, and fewer people share the high-octane experience of access to key decisions and key information.

What MI6, the UK’s secret intelligence organisation, hadn’t bargained for was that once their trusted men were in the inner ring it was practically the only place they could let their guard down and share their experiences without fear of a snooping ear. And boy did they offload. Here were brothers, comrades, co-spies in a world where no one else knew their true work, not even their wives. And, from the 1930s through to the early 1960s, one man in particular – charming, intelligent, a veritable Bond – was picking them clean of every detail, every initiative, and every name. 

Kim Philby

Entrance into the UK spy organisation’s inner rings was surprisingly easy for Kim Philby. He simply asked a friend of his father’s to recommend him. ‘I know their people!’ was recommendation enough. In the 1940s the old boy network was considered as sound as a pound. A typical Eton old boy was as British as you could be. But it was at Cambridge that Philby first encountered the vision of a communist society. And it was an idealistic vision that held his loyalty for the remainder of his life. In fact he was so devoted to this ideal that he gave uncritical obedience to his KGB handlers from first to last. Philby’s beliefs as a student were well known, but when the Soviets recruited him they advised him not to join the Communist Party but rather to appear to grow out of that youthful phase and adopt more right-wing views. He obeyed, and became the KGB’s most senior operative; one who infiltrated the British security system to the highest levels. Philby, the Eton and Cambridge old boy, who loved cricket and was a thoroughly good egg, was ushered into the inner ring, and became the most notorious spy of his generation. He was so thoroughly British that the British refused to doubt him, and the KGB refused to trust him.

As Ben Macintyre describes in this highly readable account of Philby’s adventures, he actually became head of the UK’s anti-Soviet division – an almost unbelievable feat. The most senior Soviet spy in Britain became the head of the Britain’s anti-Soviet operations. And the information Philby was sending to the Soviet Union was so thorough and so accurate that the KGB began to be suspicious of him and had him followed.

After two other well-to-do Cambridge recruits were exposed as Soviet spies and defected, the spotlight fell (accurately) on Philby. He must have tipped them off. The CIA in America was certain of it. MI5 (British security service) and MI6 (British foreign intelligence service) had differing views on Philby. MI5 were convinced he had been a double-agent. MI6 thought those horrible people at MI5 were just slandering him, and had nothing concrete against him. And so, as an old boy truly in the security of a tightening inner ring, Philby was exonerated and declared to be so in Parliament by fellow-Etonian, Harold Macmillan. Incredibly, a few years later he was working for MI6 again.

Kim Philby speaking to journalists after Macmillan

Of course, it all finally caught up with him, and he was probably (Macintyre, and others infer) allowed to escape to Moscow where he received by the Soviet authorities. It was hardly a hero’s welcome for a lifetime or risk and deceit. He was kept at arms length. He lived in a small flat, avidly reading through old cricket games in old copies of the Times when he was able to get them, desperate of news from home. A humbling isolated end. A Briton in exile.

Philby’s betrayal, not only of country, but of friends, was intensely difficult to process by those who were closest to him. They were left devastated by his defection when the watertight evidence was revealed. We’re told Nicholas Elliot, in MI6, never fully recovered from the shock of it all. His closest friend was working for the Communists. He re-lived whole segments of his life with a new perspective. The realisation that he had spilled the beans on numerous activities which was relayed to the Soviet Union must have been unbearable to him. And the American James Angleton, another close friend, nearly destroyed the CIA through increasingly invasive internal witch-hunts prompted by the post-Philby paranoia. 

Suave, sophisticated, well educated, gracious, the quintessential British gentleman, Kim Philby deceived them all. And all for an ideal it seems he didn’t care to review beyond his earlier infatuation with it. Somehow he looked past Stalin’s crimes and doggedly held on to a pristine ideal. He looked past the ruthless disappearance of KGB handlers who were suddenly under suspicion, and kept looking for the communist dream. He didn’t live to see the fall of it all along with the Berlin Wall in 1989. 

As a result of his winnowing work he frustrated numerous cold-war operations, sent hundreds of agents to their deaths, and told a gazillion bare-faced lies, not least of which were his declarations of innocence in his mother’s flat before a crowd of reporters after Macmillan’s statement in the House of Commons. You can see footage of that and of him speaking in the USSR here

‘Meet it is I set it down that one may smile, and smile, and be a villain’, said Hamlet. Macintyre’s superbly readable account of the secret world of high-class spies has certainly been one of my most engaging reads of this year, and is a subject which continues to fascinate. Surely it’s time for a film version.

Ben Macintyre, A Spy Among Friends. Published in the UK by Bloomsbury.

[i] See AN Wilson here
© 2019 Lex Loizides

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Frederick Douglass – escaped, freed, and vindicated

Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln

Douglass began teaching other slaves to read in clandestine Sunday School settings, one of which was violently broken up when the slave-owners discovered it. Eventually, disguised as a sailor, he made his daring escape to the northern states and won a tenuous freedom as a fugitive slave. Soon his incredible speaking gifts and his story made him a key player in the abolitionist movement in America. Preaching from church to church, and speaking from meeting to meeting he quickly became one of America’s most famous orators. In fact, scepticism that he was the real deal was a spur to autobiography: an audience member stated that Douglass could not possibly have accomplished such learning and oratorical skill because he recognised him as the former slave Fred Bailey. Douglass thanked his self-contradicting opponent for inadvertently verifying his story and began work on his Narrative.
He travelled to Ireland, England, and Scotland commanding enthusiastic crowds. Several British abolitionists organised payment to Thomas Auld, Douglass’s legal ‘owner’, to release him permanently from slavery. This payment of £150 was obviously controversial for some of the abolitionists but for Douglass it legally ensured his freedom on American soil.

Douglass and Lincoln
In America he vigorously campaigned against slavery, launched and edited a newspaper, and continued to expose and rebuke the hypocrisy of religious slaveholders.
Douglass’ story is of immense importance in itself, apart from his critique of the American church. Read ‘What America Owes to Frederick Douglass’ here
He was so influential that Lincoln invited him to the White House on several occasions as advisor during the Civil War. When Douglass attended Lincoln’s second inauguration he wrote, ‘I had for some time looked upon myself as a man, but now in this multitude of the elite of the land, I felt myself a man among men.’ When Douglass met Lincoln at the reception afterwards (after being temporarily blocked by security) they discussed the inauguration speech. Lincoln told him ‘There is no man in the country whose opinion I value more than yours.’ [i]

In the post-war period he worked for the full civil rights of freed slaves, as well as supporting women’s rights in the US. He later served in a variety of positions for the US government as a member of the Republican Party. You can read more about his life and work in David Blight’s excellent biography Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, Simon & Schuster (Oct 2018).

Biblical Christianity enables us to critique and reject error
Douglass was careful to draw a distinction between the Christianity of the Bible and the practices of those who called themselves Christian in pre-emancipation America. It was the gobsmacking (and, frankly, terrifying) blindness of some Christians of that period that spurred me to include Douglass’s story in the Church History Review even though he’s not an evangelist or church leader. Having finished the first version of his autobiography, Douglass wrote:

‘I find, since reading over the foregoing Narrative, that I have, in several instances, spoken in such a tone and manner, respecting religion, as may possibly lead those unacquainted with my religious views to suppose me an opponent of all religion. To remove the liability of such misapprehension, I deem it proper to append the following brief explanation. What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference—so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.’ [ii]

Post-civil war America and the African American Struggle
On an historical and sociological note, British academic Ali Rattansi, surveying the post-civil war period wrote,
‘The historical and continuing impact of racism on African American lives is hard to exaggerate. As some have remarked, for several centuries after the forced arrival of blacks from Africa as slaves from the 17th century onwards, they had to suffer under a system of affirmative action for whites. The formal emancipation of the slaves resulted only in an extraordinarily lop-sided playing field on which it was impossible for the blacks to enjoy equal opportunities without serious redress and redistribution to counter generations of cumulative inequality. The latter never occurred.
African Americans freed from slavery found the post-emancipation US a hostile and dangerous country with entrenched inequalities and high levels of official and unofficial opposition to black advancement. To take one telling example, from the 1860s to the 1930s, under the Federal Homestead Act the American government allocated at low or no cost some 246 million acres of land for farm homesteads, much of it taken from Native Americans, to about 1.5 million people, almost entirely from the white population…Many blacks found themselves having to labour in the same plantations and fields as before, and their segregated schools, housing, and other facilities had a level of resources well below those enjoyed by the white population.’ [iii]

[i] The Washington Post here
[ii] Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, 1845, p. 71  (Dover Thrift Edition, 1995)
[iii] Ali Rattansi, Racism, A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: 2007 OUP) p.143-4

For the first post in this series on Frederick Douglass click here

©2019 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader – John Maxwell (a review)

John Maxwell’s The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader

I’ll be honest with you. I don’t usually like this kind of book. Everything within me recoils at ‘The 12 Indistinguishable Keys to Success’, ‘The 32 Incomprehensible Laws of Leadership’, or ‘The 7 Insufferable Characteristics of a Winner’. 

But we have a free library at Jubilee where people drop a book and take a book and I check the shelves once a week to make sure no Watchtower publication sneaks in unnoticed. And my son-in-law, a mild-mannered, gifted administrator, gave me a few books for the library including this one. Easy to read, with short chapters largely dealing with the character of a leader, I thought I would read it before adding it to the collection.

And now I’m recommending it! It has some features which could put you off. So better to consider those up front. This is a ‘90s book written for the US market. So it is very ‘American’ in that kind of celebratory way that can grate on some readers. This comes through primarily in the illustrations of against-all-the-odds achievers in sport, business, war, although there are non-US characters in there too.  But is there really anything wrong with Maxwell drawing primarily from his own context? A second drawback for some Pastors might be that Maxwell doesn’t open a passage of Scripture and expound it (we might be grateful for that), nor does it include many specific church-related illustrations. But, seriously, we read lots of those books. You may already be a good preacher, or counsellor; this book is to help you become a better leader. 

I was challenged and helped by both the content and structure of the book. Maxwell’s insistence that you actually examine yourself and your leadership style as you progress through the material is excellent. Each chapter takes a leadership quality, illustrates how that quality has helped a leader move forward, gives three or four reasons why this quality is indispensable for you and those you lead, and then gives several practical applications to your own life so you can assess where you are and make improvements. It’s not just theory; it’s practical. It’s the good stuff that we need.

Some of the leadership qualities are: Character, Charisma, Communication, Competence, Discernment, Generosity, Initiative, Listening, Problem Solving, Relationships, Self-Discipline, Serving, Teachability. 

OK. Some quotes to whet your appetite (excuse the generic masculine pronouns)
Crisis doesn’t necessarily make character, but it certainly does reveal it.
Unaddressed cracks in character only get deeper and more destructive with time.
Quote from Charles Schwab: ‘I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greateer effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.’
When it comes to charisma, the bottom line is othermindedness.
Good leaders, the kind that people want to follow, do more than conduct business when they interact with followers. They take the time to get a feel for who each one is as a person…If you’re in the habit of listening only to the facts and not the person who expresses them, change your focus – and really listen.
More than 50 percent of all CEOs of Fortune 500 companies had C or C- averages in college…And more than 50 percent of all millionaire entrepreneurs never finished college.
The truth is that you can never lead something you don’t care passionately about.
Insecure leaders are dangerous – to themselves, their followers, and the organizations they lead – because a leadership position amplifies personal flaws.
An insecure leader [is] someone who cannot genuinely celebrate his people’s victories.
Learn to walk slowly through the crowd…The next time you attend a function with a number of clients, colleagues, or employees, make it your goal to connect with others by circulating among them and talking to people. Focus on each person you meet. Learn his name if you don’t know it already. Make your agenda getting to know each person’s needs, wants, and desires. Then later when you go home, make a note to yourself to do something beneficial for half a dozen of those people.
If what you did yesterday still looks big to you, you haven’t done much today.
Quote from Ray Kroc: ‘As long as you’re green, you’re growing. As soon as you’re ripe, you start to rot.’

The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John Maxwell, Nelson Business

©2019 Lex Loizides

CS Lewis on White Supremacy; F Douglass on White Brutality

Frederick Douglass

Lessons in Digging
When my wife and I first moved to South Africa we employed a gardener. This was a new thing for us. In the UK and the USA I was the one who struggled with the lawnmower. In South Africa you employed people to do that. We became aware that there was a kind of emotionally remote relationship to gardeners, cleaners and so on. It felt different than just employer/employee. The difference was more pronounced. And it was racial. I have never heard of a white cleaner, or gardener in this part of the world.
One day, between the digging and the weeding, I asked our gardener what his interests were, or if he had studied. He said he used to have a keen interest in history. My face lit up! This was a great connection!
‘Oh! I also enjoy history! I’m fascinated by different periods of the past.’
‘No, but I hate history,’ he replied, looking toward me, ‘I don’t enjoy history at all.’
‘But why? How can you hate ‘history’?’ said Mr Stupid.
‘It made me angry. Very, very angry. So I stopped. I had to stop reading it.’

CS Lewis on White Supremacy

Christian scholar CS Lewis

CS Lewis, in the excellent collection Christian Reflections, writes tellingly when he seeks to apply some of the ‘cursings’ we find in the Psalms. WARNING! This never-quoted section in Lewis’s writings may shock you:

‘I am inclined to think that we had better look unflinchingly at the work we have done; like puppies, we must have ‘our noses rubbed in it’. A man, now penitent, who has once seduced and abandoned a girl and then lost sight of her, had better not avert his eyes from the crude realities of the life she may now be living. For the same reason we ought to read the psalms that curse the oppressor; read them with fear. Who knows what imprecations of the same sort have been uttered against ourselves? What prayers have Red men, and Black, and Brown and Yellow, sent up against us to their gods or sometimes to God Himself? All over the earth the White Man’s offence ‘smells to heaven’: massacres, broken treaties, theft, kidnappings, enslavement, deportation, floggings, beatings-up, rape, insult, mockery, and odious hypocrisy make up that smell.’ [1]

I understand that it is quite natural for me, as a white man, not to want ‘my nose rubbed in it’, yet I don’t see how I can assist, support, or generate change in my context without at least attempting to understand, and to feel, something of the struggle and pain of others.
Frederick Douglass, both in his autobiography and in speeches, hits out not only at white slave owners but at a complicit church. He doesn’t hold back. He doesn’t write off true Christianity; he doubts whether the church, in his experience, was practising real Christianity. He writes:

‘I assert most unhesitatingly, that the religion of the south is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes,—a justifier of the most appalling barbarity,—a sanctifier of the most hateful frauds,—and a dark shelter under, which the darkest, foulest, grossest, and most infernal deeds of slaveholders find the strongest protection.
Were I to be again reduced to the chains of slavery, next to that enslavement, I should regard being the slave of a religious master the greatest calamity that could befall me. For of all slaveholders with whom I have ever met, religious slaveholders are the worst. I have ever found them the meanest and basest, the most cruel and cowardly, of all others.
It was my unhappy lot not only to belong to a religious slaveholder, but to live in a community of such religionists. Very near Mr. Freeland lived the Rev. Daniel Weeden, and in the same neighborhood lived the Rev. Rigby Hopkins. These were members and ministers in the Reformed Methodist Church. Mr. Weeden owned, among others, a woman slave, whose name I have forgotten. This woman’s back, for weeks, was kept literally raw, made so by the lash of this merciless, religious wretch … His maxim was, Behave well or behave ill, it is the duty of a master occasionally to whip a slave, to remind him of his master’s authority. Such was his theory, and such his practice.’ [2]

These things are surely not easy for anyone to process. Acknowledging the terrible crimes of history ought not push us away from the Christian faith, properly understood and applied. That’s not Douglass’s point. He appeals for genuine Christianity to rebuke the counterfeit.
And as we consider these things, we should ask questions of our own processes and practices today. Acknowledging our history or our bias should help Christian believers reapply the historic gospel, with all its liberating power through faith in Jesus Christ, to our own lives and churches. The gospel should convict us, humble us, and then renew our minds, liberating us from both shame and anger. Coming to the cross of Christ, acknowledging and repenting of our sin, will enable us to receive empowering grace, the grace to be changed personally, and the grace to persevere until we accomplish genuine change around us:
‘Let your Kingdom come, let your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’

To read the next post in this series, on how religious legalism made the slaveholders even more vindictive, click here
For the first post in this series on Frederick Douglass click here

[1] CS Lewis, Christian Reflections, The Psalms, (1981 Glasgow: Fount/Collins) p.153
[2] Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, 1845, p.46  (Dover Thrift Edition, 1995)

©2019 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

AN Wilson on CS Lewis

CS Lewis by AN Wilson
CS Lewis by AN Wilson

[Also of interest: CS Lewis on the Puritans, and CS LEWIS: THE POET]

CS Lewis and John Betjeman
When I picked up A.N. Wilson’s highly readable C.S. Lewis – A Biography I thought Lewis might get a little rough treatment. That’s because I’d already seen how Wilson dealt with him in his biography of John Betjeman.

It’s true that Lewis and Betjeman couldn’t stand each other, but it wasn’t entirely Lewis’s fault. Lewis, a young man, had become a Tutor of English at Magdalen College, Oxford. Betjeman was one of his first difficult students. To Betjeman Lewis seemed overly serious, unimaginative and hard. To Lewis Betjeman appeared affected, unintelligent and lazy, regularly failing to hand in essays on time. In fact, on one occasion Lewis was pleasantly surprised by Betjeman submitting a decent essay and looked forward to the tutorial. He later wrote in his diary, ‘I soon discovered [the essay] to be a pure fake, for he knew nothing about the work when we began to talk. I wish I could get rid of the idle prig.’[i]

He did eventually, and possibly unnecessarily. Betjeman never forgave him and, in letters written years later, referred to Lewis as ‘my old enemy’.

His career
Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast on November 29, 1898 and died on November 22, 1963. Although bright, he hated school and was moved from place to place until his father finally agreed to have him privately tutored. After gaining a triple first at Oxford he became Tutor of English Literature and Language at Magdalen, Oxford, a position he held for nearly 30 years. Shockingly, he was never made Professor until he was invited by Cambridge University to take the Chair of Medieval English Literature where he served until retirement.

A British postage stamp featuring Lewis's Narnia characters
A British postage stamp featuring Lewis’s Narnia characters

His literary ambition was to be a poet, but he is best known for the Narnia Chronicles a series of children’s books. Through the influence of friends such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and others he moved from atheism to theism and finally to Christianity. He wrote some of the most influential Christian books of the 20th Century and was the central member of an influential literary circle called ‘The Inklings’.

A.N. Wilson’s C.S. Lewis – the best bad biography I’ve read!
It’s a speedy, engaging, infuriating read. Wilson is rightly peeved by attempts to ‘canonize’ Lewis. ‘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.’ Even though that is an exaggeration one can understand Wilson’s desire to describe the man more realistically. There’s a difference, however, between bringing a man back down to earth and burying him.

After reading Wilson I also read an earlier Lewis biography to get a little balance. Wilson refers to (and draws heavily from) Green and Hooper’s biography from the early 70s. Undeniably less well written, I didn’t, however, find it gushing with hero-worship. Surprised by Joy although frustrating for different reasons, is also essential reading.

Why is ANW’s biography of Lewis ‘bad’?
Where to begin? First of all, it must be said that since writing about Lewis, A.N. Wilson has had a change of heart about Christianity itself, and has moved from atheism to the Christian Faith. This does, in some degree, temper our response to what appears to be one of his aims in the biography: to discredit Christianity itself. This constant sneering disrupted my enjoyment of the book, like an irritating fly.

From the cover endorsements to Wilson’s clunky misunderstanding of ‘A Grief Observed’ (Lewis’s most authentic, mature expression of belief was doubt, supposedly) the reader senses a quiet celebration that this is the book that humiliates Lewis and his faith. With a silent nod and smile, we can breathe a sigh of relief, congratulate Wilson and go back to our skepticism unscathed: Lewis has been put in his place.

My copy is the Harper Perennial 2005 edition (which I understand includes some revisions based on reader’s reactions to the first edition of 1990). Before this, I don’t recall ever seeing the cover of a biography which says more about the biographer than the subject:
‘Wilson’s biography is probably the best imaginable…he is a brilliant biographer.’ Anthony Burgess (front cover).
‘The more biography Wilson writes, the better he gets – this life of CS Lewis is his best yet. It’s a vivacious and compassionate book. Wilson’s range of interests makes him an ideal match for the subject.’ Andrew Motion
‘It seems fitting that AN Wilson should have written the definitive biography of Lewis, and it is a superb job.’ John Bayley

The fact that the cover endorsements are primarily about Wilson’s literary skill, rather than Lewis’s, should be a clue: this is a take-down!

But enough of covers. It’s an odd thing to be forced to ask yourself a series of distracting questions as you move through the book: Does the biographer respect the subject?

Cover of the first edition of 'Mere Christianity'
Cover of the first edition of ‘Mere Christianity’

Did he understand the nature of religious conversion and its implications? Does he understand the role and limitations of Christian apologetics?

He exposes the jealousies and nastiness of CSL’s peers but is ANW himself entirely free from such nastiness given that he appears to support their criticisms?

Why the persistent schoolboy name-calling, likening CSL to a low-class ‘police court solicitor’ (a disrespectful mocking of CSL’s father’s occupation)? Yet, even schoolboys have an opportunity to respond. Lewis has no ability to respond.

While there may be some debate about the nature of CSL’s relationship to Mrs. Moore in the early days, are we to believe that CS Lewis cherished being both a domestic and sexual masochist? You needn’t be a Freudian scholar to have a few chuckles at some of Wilson’s psychoanalytical observations.

The bigger question is if Wilson is so repelled by Lewis’s Christianity and by Lewis as a personality, then why on earth write a biography of him? May we ask for a proper revision?

What we have here is a gossipy attempt to cut the puffed-up Lewis down. Positively tabloid my good man! It just makes Wilson appear pompous and mean-spirited.

In an attempt at balance, Wilson writes, ‘Insufferably annoying as he may have been in life, there was also something glorious about him.’[ii] Seriously? Glorious?

C.S. Lewis at his desk
C.S. Lewis at his desk

Lewis’s Reluctant Conversion
It may have struck you as odd that Lewis is usually quoted as describing his conversion negatively. He says that in 1929 he ‘gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed; perhaps that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.’[iii]

But actually, as both ANW and Green/Hooper helpfully point out, this was an intellectual assent to theism, not his decision to follow Jesus Christ which came about two years later. Wilson adds that Lewis, at the time, was emphasizing his unwillingness to accept any high sounding ‘divine call’ which might undermine him.

He still considered himself a ‘prodigal’ looking for any opportunity to escape the inevitable. Green/Hooper write of Lewis’s 1929 experience, ‘This conversion was, however, to theism pure and simple, and not to Christianity. He knew nothing about the incarnation at this stage.’[iv]

The young J.R.R. Tolkien
The young J.R.R. Tolkien

Lewis, Tolkien and Dyson
Although in his autobiography Surprised by Joy Lewis only touches on the events surrounding his Christian conversion Green/Hooper describe it in some detail:
‘Lewis was still thinking about myth and resurrection when, on Saturday evening (19 September 1931), he invited Tolkien and Hugo Dyson to dine with him at Magdalen. Probably none of them had any idea what a momentous impact this night’s conversation would have to Lewis…In Lewis’s rooms they talked about Christianity till 3.00am when Tolkien left to go home. After seeing him through the little postern door that opens on to Magdalen Bridge, Lewis and Dyson continued the discussion for another hour, walking up and down the cloister of New Buildings…On Monday, 28 September, Lewis and Warren [his brother] took a picnic lunch to Whipsnade Zoo…But something happened to Lewis on the way to Whipsnade for, as he says in Surprised by Joy: ‘When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did…It was…like when a man, after a long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake.’
A few days later (1 October) Lewis wound up a long letter to Arthur Greeves with the news: ‘I have just passed on from believing in God to definitely believing in Christ…My long night talk with Dyson and Tolkien had a good deal to do with it.’[v]

Lewis on ‘Low Church’ and ‘High Church’
Lewis was not a so-called ‘high church’ Anglican. In fact, he was forthright on this point. ‘I’m not…what you call high. To me the real distinction is not high and low, but between religion with a real supernaturalism and Salvationism on the one hand, and all watered down modernist versions on the other.’[vi]

Lewis on Adam as an Historical Figure
On one evening, fellow academic Helen Gardner was dining with Lewis and a number of others at Lewis’s home. Wilson writes:

‘Conversation at the table turned on the interesting question of whom, after death, those present should most look forward to meeting. One person suggested he would like to meet Shakespeare; another said St. Paul.
‘But you, Jack,’ said the friends (or, as Helen Gardner felt, the disciples), ‘who would be your choice?’
‘Oh I have no difficulty in deciding,’ said Lewis. ‘I want to meet Adam.’ He went on to explain why, very much in the terms outlined in A Preface to ‘Paradise Lost’, where he wrote: ‘Adam was, from the first, a man in knowledge as well as in stature. He alone of all men ‘had been in Eden, in the garden of God.’…He had ‘breathed the aether and was accustomed to converse with God ‘face to face’.
Be that as it may, Adam is not likely, if she has anything to do with it, to converse with Helen Gardner. She ventured to say so. Even, she told Lewis, if there really were, historically, someone whom we could name as ‘the first man’, he would be a Neanderthal ape-like figure, whose conversation she could not conceive of finding interesting.
A stony silence fell on the dinner table. Then Lewis said gruffly, ‘I see we have a Darwinian in our midst.’’[vii]

The inclusion of this incident may be intended to make Lewis appear either misogynistic, self-serving, rude, a fundamentalist or all of the above. The point, though, is that Lewis did consider Adam to be a real historical figure.

T.S. Eliot
T.S. Eliot

C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, and J.R.R Tolkein
There are numerous other small points of interest like this one. Lewis’s resistance to modern poetry alienated him from the emerging generation of poets. His own relative failure as a poet, especially as a narrative poet, even after publishing two books of poetry, was a source of sadness to him. And indeed, for those of us who have actually put in the hours to read every published poem by Lewis, we concur that he wasn’t a success (although there are a few brilliant pieces).

Some may, however, sympathise with him when considering the work of the modernists’ leading light T.S. Eliot. Lewis wrote:

‘For twenty years I’ve stared my level best
To see if evening – any evening – would suggest
A patient etherized upon a table;
In vain. I simply wasn’t able.’[viii]

Wilson also describes such fascinating moments as when CSL and Tolkien decide they’ve had enough of the popular novels being published and made a commitment to each other that they will write ‘better’ books: ‘I’m afraid we shall have to try and write some ourselves!’ What a result!

C.S. Lewis – never Professor of English at Oxford
Is it not strange that Lewis never became a Professor at Oxford?
Wilson gives us the reason:
‘It could be said that Lewis was exiled, in some sense, for his refusal to toe the line. It was not his failure to be a good graduate supervisor which cost him the Oxford chair, it was Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters.[ix]

In 1954, however, Cambridge established a new ‘Chair’ of English and Lewis was invited, and accepted the position: Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature. His lectures were sensationally popular.

Wilson also suggests that modern admirers of Lewis would be shocked to discover that he smoked.
Wilson also suggests that modern admirers of Lewis would be shocked to discover that he smoked (and even drank)!

Other Biographers
Towards the end of Wilson’s book, apart from a somewhat rushed feel, there is an attempt to undermine other biographers and historians of Lewis. Hooper is dismissed as unreliable. Wheaton College is snubbed with characteristic upper-class English pomposity: It’s not a real University is it, after all? Once again, we hear the persistent drone undermining Lewis’s Christianity: it’s that pesky fly again.

There is much to enjoy in Wilson’s biography but so much that is disappointing. In a book so littered with uncharitable moments, perhaps Wilson’s final paragraph gives a typical example: ‘Those who knew Lewis in the days of his flesh might suppose that he would chiefly be remembered as a vigorously intelligent university teacher and critic who also wrote some children’s stories.’

So that’s it then! Lewis, phenomenally popular during his own lifetime and an inspiration to thousands of Christian intellectuals, is triumphantly minimised and dismissed: not a Professor, not a best-selling author, just a ‘university teacher who wrote children’s stories’.

It’s time for a better CS Lewis Biography
To coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Lewis’s death in 2013, when he was  honoured in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, Alister McGrath released a new biography of Lewis.  For a review in Christianity Today check here. Readers of that biography may still feel we need something more like Wilson in style and more like Hooper in appreciation. But that’s another story.

© 2013/2019 Lex Loizides / Church History Review


[i] John Betjeman, Letters Volume One (London: Miverva, 1995), p.17

[ii] A.N. Wilson, C.S. Lewis A Biography (London: Harper Perennial, 2005), p. 252

[iii] ibid, p.110 (from ‘Surprised by Joy’)

[iv] Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper, C.S. Lewis A Biography (Glasgow: Fount/Collins, 1979), p. 103

[v] ibid. p.116

[vi] ANW, p.174

[vii] ibid, p.210

[viii] ibid, p. 263

[ix] ibid, p. 246

The Importance of Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

One of the aims of the Church History Review is to enable the reader to enter history, to provide a door through which you can discover lessons from the past to help you today. We’re inspired by those who have, through faith and patience, overcome almost impossible obstacles.

When I was in the USA earlier this year I stayed in a southern state and wanted to read more of its history. I found a little second-hand bookstore and spent some pleasant hours searching through the shelves for poetry and biography from the area. Like many in the UK in the 1970s, my family had eagerly watched each episode of Alex Haley’s Roots TV series. I was also aware that some former American slaves had written their biographies and discovered this bookstore had two or three. Their stories, told in such close and honest detail, are deeply shocking. I have only been in one significant car accident. As I pulled out onto a main road a speeding driver who wasn’t concentrating smashed into the back of my car. He hit me so hard the back of my driver’s seat broke, and the car was written off. Reading these narratives, particularly the one I will focus on in the next few posts, was a similar kind of experience. You might not want to be exposed to such a jarring experience, but let me urge you to read on for at least the following reasons:

history – I want to know what was actually going on.
understanding – autobiography (as with poetry) helps me connect with another person’s experience. It informs my humanity. It can change my perspective and behaviour.
context – I felt, as I read Douglass’ story, that I gained a fuller understanding of the USA itself – missing puzzle pieces fell into place; and actually not only the US picture, but any postcolonial or mutli-cultural context.
Christian instruction – as we’ll see, Douglass had a strong and justified critique of the failure of the church to apply the gospel to issues of racism

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery on a plantation in Maryland before the American Civil War. In 1838 when he was twenty he made a dangerous and daring escape and became an influential speaker in the growing abolitionist movement in the North. His first book was the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave published in 1845 and from which the following extracts are taken:

My father was a white man. He was admitted to be such by all I ever heard speak of my parentage. The opinion was also whispered that my master was my father; but of the correctness of this opinion, I know nothing; the means of knowing was withheld from me. 

My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant—before I knew her as my mother. It is a common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age. Frequently, before the child has reached its twelfth month, its mother is taken from it, and hired out on some farm a considerable distance off, and the child is placed under the care of an old woman, too old for field labor. For what this separation is done, I do not know, unless it be to hinder the development of the child’s affection toward its mother, and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child. This is the inevitable result.

I never saw my mother, to know her as such, more than four or five times in my life; and each of these times was very short in duration, and at night. She was hired by a Mr. Stewart, who lived about twelve miles from my home. She made her journeys to see me in the night, travelling the whole distance on foot, after the performance of her day’s work. She was a field hand, and a whipping is the penalty of not being in the field at sunrise, unless a slave has special permission from his or her master to the contrary—a permission which they seldom get, and one that gives to him that gives it the proud name of being a kind master.

I do not recollect of ever seeing my mother by the light of day. She was with me in the night. She would lie down with me, and get me to sleep, but long before I waked she was gone. Very little communication ever took place between us. Death soon ended what little we could have while she lived, and with it her hardships and suffering. She died when I was about seven years old, on one of my master’s farms, near Lee’s Mill. I was not allowed to be present during her illness, at her death, or burial. She was gone long before I knew any thing about it. Never having enjoyed, to any considerable extent, her soothing presence, her tender and watchful care…’ [i]

To continue reading click here

[i] Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, 1845, p.2 (Dover Thrift Edition, 1995)

©2018 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

What are you living for? by William Booth

William Booth relaxing

Salvation Army scraps (part three)
The modern (post-modern, post-post-modern) quest for purpose continues to generate a myriad of insightful seminars, ‘life-coaches’, book deals, promo guest appearances, wellness plans and disciplines. Many seem to benefit from these moments, and even Christians make their selections from the wisdom buffet and serve up motivational quotes on social media. All well and good. But for the Christian, is there not already in place, already embedded in the very nature of the thing, a driving, momentous cause propelling them forward?
A little decoration, a little flourish here and there, is no doubt good if you have the main structure in place, but if you’re trying to live on flourishes instead of building on a solid foundation you may one day be shattered by a storm. Or end up merely numb, desperately trying to find excitement surrounded by a seemingly inexhaustible collection of useless trinkets.
Leaders like William Booth stir us because they bring us back to the essential stuff. We need that. I really am trying to finish this series on Booth and the Salvation Army with this post of quotes, the first of which states Christian purpose powerfully.

Booth on Purpose in Life
‘What are you living for? What is the deep secret purpose that controls and fashions your existence? What do you eat and drink for? What is the end of your marrying and giving in marriage – your money-making and toilings and plannings? Is it the salvation of souls, the overthrow of the kingdom of evil and the setting up of the kingdom of God? I am not censorious. If I know my own heart, it is full of yearning for the happiness of all men…[but] I must push this question. Have you the assurance that the ruling passion of your life is the same as that which brought Christ to the manger, led Him to fight the foul fiend of Hell in the wilderness, bore Him onward on the back of suffering and tears and ignominy and shame, sustained Him in drinking the cup of anguish and enduring the baptism of blood, bore Him through Gethsemane, nailed Him to the Cross of Calvary and enabled Him in triumph to open the gate of the Kingdom? Is that what you are living for? If not, you may be religious – a very proper person amongst religionists – but I don’t see how you can be a Christian.’ [i]

Booth in 1911 (the year before his death): ‘The helping of the wretched, and the saving them out of the earthly, hellish conditions in which such multitudes live, and the saving of souls of the people in larger numbers, and the organizing them when they are saved for still further victories, is the dream of almost every hour of my life.’ [ii]

Booth on the need for courageous leadership
‘Heroism is, comparatively speaking, out of fashion here. In fact, there is no call for it. The milk-and-water type of man, who neither creates enthusiasm nor rouses opposition, is a model leader of modern religion. Nothing is to be done that is contrary to the taste or liking of anybody else.’ [iii]

William Booth


The Salvation Army and women’s rights

Woman has won her place in The Army. She has won a very wonderful place in the world by means of The Army. It may be worth while to remark here that, though seldom acknowledged, there is little doubt that the women of The Army have played a part in the general emancipation of woman which we see to be going on in the Western nations. In the political struggle, The Army, of course, has taken no part, but in the higher realms of the fight, the hand of the Salvation woman, both Officer and Soldier, has helped to carry the banner to victory. The women who marched at the head of the little bands of despised Salvationists in years gone by were accustoming the public mind to the spectacle of woman in command, of woman taking an active unshrinking share in public duty, and overcoming by the grace of God her supposed inferiorities. Thus we may truly say that we were opening a door through which women might carry the Message of Love and Life to multitudes who would never receive it save from a woman’s lips. That door will never again be shut. (italics in the original) [iv]

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

[i] The War Cry, Feb 21, 1885. Quoted in The Founder Speaks Again (London: Salvationist Publishing and Supplies, 1960), p.59-60
[ii] Harold Begbie, Life of William Booth: The Founder of the Salvation Army (2 vols. London: MacMillan, 1920) 2, p.306
[iii] The Founder Speaks Again (London: Salvationist Publishing and Supplies, 1960), p.176
[iv] Quoted in Bramwell Booth, Echoes and Memories (London: Hodder and Stoughton 1925), p.172

©2018 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

William Booth to Winston Churchill: ‘You are not converted!’

William Booth

Salvation Army Scraps (part one)
I’m surrounded by odds and ends. Details too important to leave out. I’m not so keen on very short posts (as you, dear reader, already know), and don’t want to split all this into bits. So here are some riveting, powerful, juicy scraps fallen from the table of the Salvation Army’s early history. Enjoy!

Was William Booth’s multi-site church the largest church in Victorian London?
Richard Collier writes, ‘One week-night London survey of this era [1882] tallied almost 17000 worshipping in Army barracks, as against 11000 in ordinary churches.’ It’s certainly true that no-one gathered a larger crowd than CH Spurgeon with his dynamic evangelistic and Calvinistic preaching. He was seeing 5000 in each Sunday meeting, and much larger crowds at special events. But the Salvation Army were organised much like the multi-site churches of today, with a distinct leadership over the whole, but individual leaders breaking through into new territory across the city. If we consider a multi-site church as being the largest church in a town or city we may, perhaps, have to review our opinion that Spurgeon had the world’s largest church of the day. [i]

Booth on the Russian Revolution
‘The news of the Russian Revolutionary Upheaval, with its scenes of bloodshed and disorder, has upset me terribly…To what will it lead and where will it end? O my God, my God, what an awful suffering state this world has come to, notwithstanding all that has been done for it during the 2,000 years that have passed since Jesus Christ shed His Blood on its behalf! How feeble and powerless all our efforts have been. I was awfully depressed yesterday – but there is no alternative but to push on. If we cannot remove the mountains of misery we can move some of the little hills.’ [ii]

Winston Churchill

William Booth to Churchill: ‘You’re not converted!’
On meeting with Winston Churchill (then, Home Secretary) in 1910 where Booth had outlined the Salvation Army’s strategy for helping those in British prisons: ‘We parted in the most genial manner – Mr Chruchill saying with a smile, “Am I converted?” We had talked much about conversion from our standpoint.
“No,” I said, “I am afraid you are not converted, but I think you are convicted.”
He added something about my seeing what was in him. To which I replied, “What I am most concerned about it not what is in you at the present, but what I can see of the possibilities of the future.” [iii]

To read the next post, and stories of miraculous healings taking place in the Salvation Army, click here
For the first post in this series on the Salvation Army click here

[i] Richard Collier, The General Next to God (Glasgow: Fontana/Collins 1965) p.90
[ii] Harold Begbie, Life of William Booth: The Founder of the Salvation Army (2 vols. London: MacMillan, 1920) 2:213
[iii] ibid 2:299

© 2018 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

The Skeleton Army

Opposition. Violence. Persecution.

The Skeleton Army

When Christianity begins to actually take hold – to decisively win the hearts of ordinary men and women – there is usually a violent backlash. Persecution is not something sensible Christians seek, but even the briefest glimpse of those times when the church has been very successful evangelistically will reveal the presence of a cultural kick-back.

The violent persecutions of the church by Diocletian in the early 4th Century, the martyrs before, during and after the Reformation period, the mobs that attacked Whitefield and Wesley, the persecution today of churches forced ‘underground’, are all examples of this phenomena. When the main body of a population begin to embrace Christianity in significant numbers there’s a reaction.

The same is true in the history of the Salvation Army. At first there were a few individuals throwing eggs and disrupting open air meetings, but soon there was an organised effort against the evangelists. The dreaded Skeleton Army, so called, violently attacked the Salvationists in order to stop them preaching the gospel. The assaults were persistent and extremely violent as the following accounts illustrate:

Arnold Begbie: ‘Perhaps the worst of the riots was that which occurred at Sheffield…when a Procession led by General and Mrs Booth was attacked by a numerous and savage multitude armed with sticks and stones. The procession arrived at its destination with bruised and bleeding faces, with ton and mud-bespattered garments, cheering the General who had passed unscathed through the rabble.
‘Now’s the time,’ he said, regarding his ragged, wounded and excited followers, ‘to get your photographs taken.’
Riots occurred at Bath, Guildford, Arbroath, Forfar, and many other places. In twelve months, it is recorded, 669 Salvationists, of whom 251 were women, were ‘knocked down, kicked, or brutally assaulted.’ Fifty-six buildings of The Army were stormed and partially wrecked. Eighty-six Salvationists, fifteen of them women, were thrown into prison. From one end of the kingdom to the other, this effort to break up The Army was carried on in a most shameless fashion under the very eyes of the law, the mob attacking the Salvationists, the police arresting the Salvationists, the magistrates sentencing the Salvationists.’[i]

Richard Collier: ‘But molestation wasn’t confined to the streets…At Plymouth, Devon, forty men armed with brimming chamber pots stormed the hall to drench James Dowdle, “The Saved Railway Guard,” with urine. Time and again meetings were closed down in wild confusion…Even 1,500 police doing extra duty every Sunday seemed powerless to protect Booth’s troops.
Neither age nor sex proved a barrier, for the mobs were out for blood. In Northampton, one blackguard tried to knife a passing lassie; Wolverhampton thugs flung lime in a Salvationist child’s eyes. At Hastings, Mrs. Susannah Beaty, one of Booth’s first converts on Mile End Waste, became  The Army’s first martyr…Reeling under a fire of rocks and putrid fish, she was kicked deliberately in the womb and left for dead in a dark alley of the Old Town. [ii]

Humphrey Wallis:No Salvationist defended himself or herself by physical force. Knocked down, kicked, struck, reviled, reported guilty of bestial behaviour, accused of blasphemy and unprintable acts in their Meetings, they took refuge in the reply, ‘God bless you,’ and in prayer for their assailants. Elijah [Cadman], who had been so ‘handy with the gloves,’ and experienced such rough handling that a few of his brother-Officers hinted he liked persecution, had never raised a finger for himself or Army protection. More than his share of mud, stones, dead rats, and cats found their billets on or around him. He led a march in the slums waving a stik with one hand, and carrying a dead rat by its tail in the other; he had caught the rat as it flew to its aim…A live cat was thrown at him. ‘The live one was worse than all the dead ones; for the live one, poor thing, hung on. People wondered why we carried those dead rats and cats with us. It did seem silly. But, don’t you see, if we had left ‘em where they fell the mob would have had ‘em again, and thrown ‘em at us again, and one swat in the eye per one dead rat is enough,’ said he.’ [iii]

Roy Hattersley: ‘Throughout England opposition to the Salvation Army was growing fast. The Skeleton Armies – founded in Exeter and Weston-super-Mare for the specific purpose of breaking up Salvation Army meetings – began to set up branches throughout the south of England. Although the Armies had no formal structure or high command, the groups that came together had four common features – the backing of the breweries, the sympathy of the magistrates, the conservative attitude of the local population and the relatively small size of the towns in which the ‘skeletons’ operated.
Without the breweries the Skeleton Armies would have been nothing. In one of his many angry memoranda to the Home Secretary, William Booth wrote:
In nearly every town where there has been any opposition we have been able to trace it more or less to the direct instigation and often the open leadership of either Brewers or Publicans or their EMPLOYEES. The plan adopted is by treating or otherwise inciting gangs of roughs.’ [iv]

To read the next post, and hear William Booth preach, click here
For the first post in this series on the Salvation Army click here

[i] Harold Begbie, Life of William Booth: The Founder of the Salvation Army (2 vols. London: MacMillan, 1920) 2:2
[ii] Richard Collier, The General Next to God (Glasgow: Fontana/Collins 1965) p.94
[iii] Humphrey Wallis, The Happy Warrior (London: Salvationist Publishing, 1928), p.90
[iv] Roy Hattersley, Blood and Fire (London: Abacus, 2000), p.273

©2017 Lex Loizides – Church History Review

A Zulu Apostle – Mbambo Matunjwa

A Zulu Apostle – title page

On the 22nd Nov 1891 Allister Smith and four Salvation Army volunteers arrived at the Amatikulu River in Natal. After several days of visiting peoples’ homes they organised a series of evangelistic meetings.

On the first night Smith preached the gospel and although they had decided not to make an appeal for responses after the first sermon, he couldn’t help himself, and asked, ‘Are there any here who will give themselves today to this God who gave His only Son to die for us?’

Immediately, a young Zulu warrior stood to his feet and declared, ‘I am willing!’ After he prayed with Smith and gave his life to the Lord he went back into the crowd and urged his best friend to do the same.

His name was Mbambo Matunjwa. In a relatively short time he became a respected young preacher of the gospel. Within a few years he was winning hundreds to Christ and was gradually promoted through the ranks of the Salvation Army until he became a Major.

Suffering in service and in war
Matunjwa’s story is a deeply challenging one. His father was the chef to Prince Sitegu, and experienced both the favour and the dangers of serving in the royal court. After a sickness had swept through the royal family a sangoma was called in to determine if any foul play had taken place. The cause was determined to be malicious and four of Matunjwa’s family were slaughtered as a result of the sangoma’s finding. He wrote, ‘This is my earliest recollection – seeing my relatives lying on the ground, clubbed and pierced to death, their gaping wounds crying for vengeance.’ Later, his parents, both spared, became sangomas, and Mbambo became a skilled warrior, part of a resistance that almost wiped out the British 24th Regiment in 1879. During the civil war that followed, Matunjwa was wounded in battle, being speared through with an assegai. He said it felt like a fire passing through his body.

Matunjwa survived the wound, married, and at the first evangelistic gathering of the Salvation Army described above, he responded and gave his life to Christ.

Mbambo and Nomalanga Matunjwa in later years

A tragic blow
He was so successful at planting churches that he was moved to a region further north. However, soon after the move he and his wife encountered the shocking loss of both their sons in quick succession. The younger boy died from natural causes and the elder son from what was strongly suspected to be food poisoning.

They were heartbroken. After their initial successes in evangelism this was an almost insurmountable blow. Nevertheless Matunjwa continued preaching and continued to see fellow Zulus responding to the gospel.

Forgiveness, pure, perfect, radical forgiveness
On one occasion after he’d finished his message, he made an appeal for those who wanted to repent to do so by coming forward. A young man came forward and asked to speak with him privately. He confessed that he was a sinner and needed forgiveness and asked Christ into his life. Matunjwa urged upon him the truth that God does indeed forgive sin.

But then, to his horror, the young man confessed that he had been the one who had deliberately poisoned the preacher’s son. He begged to be forgiven. Matunjwa turned away in agony. With a heart aching with sorrow, yet knowing the reality of God’s grace, he turned to face the young man and offered to forgive him.

It didn’t end there. With a maturity that challenges all our impulses toward revenge, Matunjwa decided to begin a discipling relationship with the young man, teaching him the basics of living the Christian life.

Matunjwa’s wife, Nomalanga, also had to face the reality of both the discovery of her child’s murderer and the forgiveness her husband had offered him. And – astonishing though this may sound – this godly couple invited the young man to live with them in their home, effectively adopting him as their own son.

He went on to become an effective gospel preacher, and, like his adoptive parents, also served in the Salvation Army.

I have no more words.

To read the next post, about the violent organised opposition the Army face, click here
For the first post in this series on the Salvation Army click here

©2017 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

One Hundred and Forty Years in Cape Town

An adventure in the world’s most beautiful city.[i]
In November 1875 three Christian believers 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
Our man in 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. Today, as we consider missionary travels in the 19th century, we probably ought to be a little more gracious at the occasional forty-minute delay before our 12 hour flights from Cape Town 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 (by end 2018 the congregation had grown to 250-270).

Spurgeon wrote to Hamilton several times. As far as we know, no letter has been preserved (one letter from Spurgeon was stolen from the church minutes). But I discovered a line from one of Spurgeon’s letters to Hamilton 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

God Gives Growth
This is not a story about dead heroes. Paul reminds us that one plants, another waters, but it is God who gives the growth (1 Cor 3). 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.

You can follow Jubilee’s City Congregation on facebook and on instagram

©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.
For the next post in this series click here

© 2013 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

Prominent Jewish Believers in Jesus Christ

A couple of years ago I was invited to address nearly 2000 people on the subject of Judaism. The basis of the invite was simply that I have tried to be diligent to share the Christian faith is as winsome and respectful way as I can. The message I was to bring was part of a series on different belief systems and how Christianity interacts with those systems. I accepted the challenge even though I am far more comfortable discussing the atheism that I grew up with.
Of course I have been enjoying (and studying) the Hebrew Scriptures for over thirty years 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 Jewish believers 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]

For the first post in this series on CS Lewis and his observations of 16th Century Christianity click here
For a review of AN Wilson’s controversial biography of CS Lewis click here

©2013 Lex Loizides / Church History Review


[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

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

©2013 Lex Loizides / Church History Review


[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 controversial biography of CS Lewis click here

© 2013 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

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 modern poets such as 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 Review

Remember the Poor by Simon Pettit

Remember the Poor

Simon Pettit

[Scroll down for the video]
At an international leader’s conference hosted in the UK in 1998 an unsuspecting church-planting network of churches was about to undergo a powerful and lasting shift.

It was a moment that has left a younger generation of leaders impacted and inspired. One writing to me said, ‘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.

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 many ways, remains his ministry’s legacy.

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.
You won’t regret watching the video below.

 

For audio you can listen or download here

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

PS. 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.
© 2012/2018 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?

For the next post in this series click here
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

Watch the debate here:

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