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Category Archives: 20th Century

Love Ya, But You’re Not Family

The common religious “logic” these days is that all religions are different versions of the same thing – and attempt to be right with the one God. Whether Christian, Muslim, Jew, or whatever else, we’re called to “coexist” with an understanding that none of these expressions are wrong, and that they are intrinsically the same.coexistI spent some time reading the Koran tonight. Just chapter 9. I admit to not being well-versed in this text … I had just heard that chapter 9 would be an interesting read. And, I’ve been encouraged to consider this book as a set of sacred texts that are just another version of the eclectic enterprise that is human religion.

But is it?

9.5 – “Slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush.”

9.14 – “Fight them! Allah will chastise them at your hands, and He will lay them low and give you victory over them.”

9.29 – “Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah.”

9.30 – “Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah … Allah (Himself) fighteth against them. How perverse are they!”

9.31 – “They have taken as lords beside Allah …the Messiah son of Mary, when they were bidden to worship only One God.”

9.33 – “He … sent His messenger … that He may cause it to prevail over all religion, however much the idolaters may be averse.”img14

9.36 – “Wage war on all of the idolaters.”

 

9.41 – “Go forth, light-armed and heavy-armed.”

9.73 – “Strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites! Be harsh with them. Their ultimate abode is hell.”

9.80 – “Ask forgiveness for them (O Muhammad), or ask not forgiveness for them; though thou ask forgiveness for them seventy times Allah will not forgive them.”

9.111 – “Lo! Allah hath bought from the believers their lives and their wealth because the Garden will be theirs: they shall fight in the way of Allah and shall slay and be slain … Rejoice then in your bargain that ye have made, for that is the supreme triumph.”

9.113 – “It is not for the Prophet, and those who believe, to pray for the forgiveness of idolaters even though they may be near of kin (to them) after it hath become clear that they are people of hell-fire.”

9.122 – “And the believers should not all go out to fight. Of every troop of them, a party only should go forth, that they (who are left behind) may gain sound knowledge in religion, and that they may warn their folk.”

9.123 – “O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him).

These texts are a far cry from the Biblical call to love my neighbor. To turn the other cheek. To not live (or die) by the sword. To pray for and extend forgiveness. To be the servant of all. To sacrifice.

With all due respect … we are not family. The God depicted in these texts is not the God that was revealed in Jesus the Christ. It is ignorance of both sets of texts to tell me they should be compatible.

(These texts are also obvious examples of how violence and terrorism can be extrapolated easily from the Islamic texts. I know many Muslims claim that their faith is peaceful. But you have to be theologically creative to purge the obvious violence from these teachings.)

The practical, relevant difference between this text and the Bible should not be missed: As Christians, we are to serve, love, and pray for those who don’t believe as we do. Our hope is that we “might win some” (1 Cor. 9:22). So, yes, Christians are the ones, the unique ones, who are called, and even equipped by the Holy Spirit, to COEXIST with all peoples. We don’t believe in universal salvation … but social cohesion, mutual honoring, and a peaceful society?

My family is all in.

– EO

 

 

 

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Meet Karl Barth

Meet Karl Barth

– by Absalon Alvarez

In the picture above Karl had just received discipline for disobedience from his Father Friz.

Karl Barth’s Childhood Family

Karl Barth was born on May 10th, 1886.

He was the first child of Anna Katharina Barth and Friz Barth. His father was a Swiss Reformed professor of New Testament.

A troublesome child, Barth didn’t like going to school and for some time was the leader of a local street gang, engaging in feuds at school and in the neighborhood. (In the this family picture, Barth had just been disciplined by his father).

In 1904 Barth set out to follow in the footsteps of his father and started to study theology at the University of Bern. Later on he continued his studies in Germany at the universities of Berlin, Tübingen and Marburg. His school of thought was in Liberalism, and his approach to ministry in his early years was that of social gospel. While studying, he was also involved in social justice causes, including advocating for workers’ rights.

The Barth's, c. 1910

The Barth’s, c. 1910

In 1909, Barth became a Pastor in Geneva, and then in Fafenwill in 1911, where he served for a decade. In Safenwill is where Barth met his wife, Nelly Hoffman, and married in 1913.

Barth continued to be extremely involved in social work since, which was in line with his influences throughout seminary. These included such liberal scholars as Wilhelm Herrmann (idealist) and Adolf Von Harnack (social gospel).

The Manifesto of the Ninety-Three was a letter signed by 93 German intellectuals, from many academic areas such as science, math, arts, and theology. They signed this proclamation endorsement in support of the German military actions in the beginning of WWI. This is believed to have been the cause of Barth’s disillusionment with his professors, many of whom signed it. He believed that the lack of morals in their theology allowed them to be influenced to fit the political movements of that time.

Torn by the way liberal theology was shifting, and was being used and influenced by secular leaders, Barth decided to rethink his theological understandings. A visit with preacher Christoph Blumhardt seems to have motivated Barth to begin a journey to understand and do theology differently. Blumhardt’s understanding was that “the call of the Christian is still for him to give himself completely to the cause of the kingdom; to do everything in his power to help the world toward that goal. Yet, at the same time, a Christian must remain calm and patient, unperturbed even if his efforts show no signs of success, willing to wait for the Lord to bring the kingdom at his own pace and in his own way.” Blumhardt’s influence encouraged Barth to begin his theological work, and to begin writing.

In 1916 Barth decided to write a commentary on Paul’s epistles to the Romans. Published in 1919, it was intended for his own use, and for a small circle of friends. Instead, this work landed like a bombshell in the theological arena.

kb3His commentary brought to life certain subjects that had been muted by liberal theology. Barth wrote vigourously of the victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. This would be central to his thoelogy from this time onward. In particular, he clearly lays out the radicalness of the Gospel. “Faith is awe in the presence of the divine incognito; it is the love of God that is aware of the qualitative difference between God and man and God and the world.”

Because Barth’s commentary received international attention, he was offered a job at the University of Goettingen in 1921.

1927 Barth’s theological journey moved to a different set of topics, which would become the collection of writings we know today as Church Dogmatics. One of Barth’s key theological themes in Dogmatics, his emphasis on the Word of God,  is expressed in this quote: “The object of theology is not Christian faith, but the word of God.” Barth had become convinced that the Christian theology had granted too much to philosophy. So he declared that the Word of God provides not only answers, but also questions. “The gospel is not a truth among other truths. Rather, it sets a question mark against all truths.”

Barth’s work mirrored earlier theological traditions of freedom and critical stance towards the task of theology. He insisted, however, that no matter how true or correct theology was, it always remains a human endeavor, and therefore must always be seen with a combination of freedom, joy, and even humor.

In that time that many people believed that theological systems were a thing of the past. Church Dogmatics showed there was still room and value for systematic theology. For many, Barth’s theology served as an antidote for liberalism.

friedrichcochDuring the rise of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party in 1933, the German church struggled against the belief of so-called “German Christians” who believed in the perfectibility of the human race. This conviction, which was rooted in natural theology, had become part of Hitler’s political agenda for the Third Reich. It was believed that the German church had a divine calling to reinterpret Christianity, particularly in terms of opposing Judaism. This gave credence to the establishing of numerous anti-Semitic policies.

kb4In protest, Barth and others gathered in the city of Barmen for what they called “ the witnessing synod.” The fruit of their meeting was what is known as tthe Barmen Declaration, written by mostly Barth. This meeting and declaration gave rise to what is known as “the Confessing Church”, the movement eventually led in part by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In the years ahead, they would start an underground movement, and even make plans to assasinate Hitler.

After the WWII, Barth’s influenced remained considerable. He served as an important voice for the German church in their attempts for reconciliation with church bodies around the world. And, though he didn’t embrace a Fundamentalist understanding of the infallibility of the word of God (he believed in the infallibility of Jesus Christ, revealed in the Word), he modeled how a high regard for the scriptures could still be legitimately held in modern theological studies. Even though Barth died in December 10, 1968, his legacy and impact continue to have influence in theology today.

 

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Meet J. Gresham Machen

Meet John Gresham Machenjgmpaint

– by Joel Sienkiewicz
John Gresham Machen was an influential theologian who lived during the eve of modernism. He not only made a significant impact during his time against many of the “heresies” of his day, but his work also has had lasting significance even to this day. Machen is most famous for his book Christianity and Liberalism. and the establishment of Westminster Seminary.

He was born to Arthur Machen and Mary Gresham in Baltimore in the year of 1881. Both of his parents were religious but differed in their expression – his father was an Episcopalian, and his mother a Presbyterian. Throughout John’s upbringing he was the recipient of significant religious influence. His mother taught him the Westminster Catechism as he was growing up, and his family regularly attended Franklin Street Presbyterian Church together.

jgmMachen had a somewhat privileged upbringing. His father was an influential lawyer, and secured for him a quality, private education at Johns Hopkins University. In 1902, after graduating from Johns Hopkins, he chose to attend Princeton Seminary, where he simultaneously pursued a Master of Divinity and a masters degree in Philosophy.

Upon graduating, Machen joined the Princeton Seminary staff as a scholar and lecturer. He was hesitant, but agreed to join the staff on the condition that he would not have to sign a statement of faith. Throughout Machen’s theological education he was heavily influenced by B. B. Warfield, whom he called “the greatest man he had ever met.”

While teaching at Princeton the First World War broke out. Instead of serving as a soldier, Machen chose to serve in an unconventional way – by volunteering with the YMCA.

x and LAfter the war, he returned to Princeton Seminary and continued his work. By this time, he began to gain a reputation for being one of the few theologians who was able to debate the rising modernist ideas within the Christian world. In doing this, Machen composed two of his most famous works. The first one was called The Origin of Paul’s Religion, composed in order to combat the idea of modernist theologians that Paul the Apostle had fundamentally changed the religion that was handed down to him by Jesus. His other work, Christianity and Liberalism, aimed at critiquing the basic ideas of theological liberalism and showing the vast distance this theology had traversed from true Christianity.

While at Princeton Seminary there was a big controversy between the Modernists and the Fundamentalists. This controversy occurred not only in academic institutions, but also in most denominations, including his own Presbyterian church. The Modernists were trying to reinterpret and reshape many of Christianity’s foundational doctines in order to reconcile them with modern practices and the modern world view. The Fundamentalists were the more conservative thinkers who were standing up for more traditional views of Christian doctrine. Machen fell within the camp of the Fundamentalists.

Photo opposite page 30 in the Catalogue of Westminster Theological Seminary, 1929-30.

In the end, the conflict proved to be irreconcilable, resulting in Machen and several other Fundamentalists leaving the Presbyterian denomination and starting the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Machen also left Princeton Seminary and founded Westminster Seminary, a school that is still functioning to this day.

In the end, Machn is best known for his engagement within the Fundamentalist/Modernist controvery. His legacy lives on through his writings, as well has through the flourishing of Westminster Seminary.

 

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Meet Francis Schaeffer

– by Jeremy Arntz

fs 4Francis Schaeffer was a complex man whose legacy makes an intimidating study for the seminarian who is only beginning to understand the long road of a life committed to vocational ministry. Schaeffer’s Christian experience ran the full gamut from unchurched to believer, pastor to missionary, and conversationalist to lecturer; further, he pastored Presbyterian churches in the United States and also opened student communes in Europe. Schaeffer’s prismatic plethora of experience culminated in one of the most exciting and refreshing evangelistic approaches stemming from the Fundamentalist movement. A study of Francis Schaeffer’s legacy is polarizing which is perhaps reminiscent of the man himself and his Christian journey.

BEGINNINGS

A consideration of Francis Schaeffer’s beginnings must look at not only his upbringing but also his early experience with the faith. He was born to working-class parents in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1912. He later intended to follow the path of his father as a tradesman, but when he came to study both philosophy and the Bible concurrently, a spark was struck which led him to the notion that would become absolutely critical in his experience of which, at the age of 17, he wrote in his diary: “All truth is from the Bible.”[1] Thus, the stage was set for his formative years at seminary which came under the tutelage of J. Gresham Machen at Westminster Seminary who was one of the foremost voices in the debate against liberal theology at the time. Schaeffer’s commitment to Biblical truth was such that he left Westminster and enrolled in the foundling Faith Theological Seminary which had come into existence as a consequence of a rift gone schism which found Machen expelled from the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.; resultantly, Schaeffer became the first minister of the newly organized Bible Presbyterian Church.[2] It is important to understand that Schaeffer’s early theological beginnings resulted in a fundamentalism deeply rooted in the doctrine of biblical inerrancy which had emerged in opposition to the notions of liberal theology that were widely courting much of Christian and secular academia at the time. It is likely this deeply rooted belief in biblical truth across all experience would result in Schaeffer’s singularly desirable conversational apologetics later in his ministry; however, the direct result of his fundamentalist underpinnings was a period of approximately nine years during which he served to pastor Presbyterian Churches in Pennsylvania and Missouri. Regardless, his beginnings, both in life and ministry, served to uniquely prepare him for the powerful impact that he would come to have on evangelicalism.

COMMUNAL MISSIONARY

Francis Schaeffer’s mainstream impact on evangelicalism actually sprang from work that he began in the field of missions following his time in the pulpit. In 1945 he and his wife Edith were approached by the Independent Board for Foreign Missions about “[building] networks among Bible-believing churches, pastors, and institutions.”[3] This would begin the span of time and events that led to the Schaeffer’s establishment of L’Abri which was a student commune in the Swiss Alps. In explaining the driving force behind the establishment of the communal home Schaeffer wrote: “This was and is the real basis of L’Abri. Teachinfs l'abrig the historic Christian answers and giving honest answers to honest questions.”[4] At L’Abri, Francis and Edith opened their home as an extension of community and hospitality that expressed Christianity in terms of love while, at the same time, Francis conversed with European students who were being educated in a secularized system of philosophy that was long on man and almost totally devoid of God. This is where Schaeffer truly excelled because, in the words of Barry Hankins, “his training within the Reformed branch of American fundamentalism by scholars such as J. Gresham Machen and Cornelius Van Til” allowed him to “engage [young Europeans] through discussion at the level of ideas and not merely tell them to straighten up and get right with Jesus.”[5] At the very core of Schaeffer’s conversational apologetic evangelism is this notion of engaging in discussions at the level of ideology, and this approach stemmed from “Schaeffer’s view that American fundamentalism expended too much time and energy attacking any semblance of liberalism and not enough constructing a positive response to modern ideas that competed with Christianity for people’s hearts and minds.”[6] Thus, L’Abri fused fundamentalism with community and hospitality which would have been a paradox of incalculable impossibility in America but was perfect for its time in Europe.

TEARING DOWN THE VEIL IN AMERICA

hswtlEventually, Schaeffer’s work in Europe found an audience in America as a result of recordings of his conversations and books which were primarily written from transcripts of his recorded lectures and conversations.[7] His conversational style of ideological apologetics found a ready following among American evangelical students which is articulated by Michael Hamilton writing for Christianity Today in a 1997 article which reads: “Historian Mark Noll remembers the Wheaton talks as the most stimulating campus intellectual event of his student years. Francis Schaeffer tore down the gospel curtain that had separated evangelicals from contemporary cultural expression, giving Christians object lessons in how to interpret sculpture, music, painting, and literature as philosophical statements of the modern mind.” Thus, the veil was torn between evangelicals and the mainstream, for Schaeffer’s notion was that the arts are really philosophical expressions hailing from society; therefore, they are also cultural ideologies which are open for Christian discussion- or at least they are according to Schaeffer’s style of conversational apologetics. This train of thought deeply appealed to the evangelical students of the time; after all, this was the mid 1960s and the fabric of America was being stretched as never before- particularly in artistic expression. In effect, Schaeffer’s evangelism gave the green light to engage people in the areas that were most culturally relevant which is a topic of concern up into our present day. It is extremely important to understand all of this in light of Schaeffer’s never-ending belief in biblical inerrancy. The interpretation of which Schaeffer spoke must not be mistaken in any way that would lead one to believe that he held to the notion of subjugating the authority of God or his word; rather, Schaeffer’s notion was that the interpretation of art was subject to biblical truth. Essentially, art was another opportunity for discussion at the level of ideas, and his part of that conversation remained from a point of biblical inerrancy which informs the human condition. Clearly, the veil of which Mark Noll spoke was rent asunder by Schaeffer’s notions which allowed evangelicals to engage with seculars in ways that fundamentalism in America was never able to do.

LAST DAYS

Francis Schaeffer succumbed to lymphoma on May 15, 1984 in Rochester, Minnesota. He and Edith had spent almost a decade in Rochester following the discovery of cancer in his lymph system, and during this period “the shadow of death intensified his concern to do what he could to try to reverse the horrific trend of easy abortion.”[8] His work toward preserving the life of unborns brought him to be associated with America’s religious Right, and during this period he came to be known as “the philosopher of the Moral Majority.”[9] Suddenly, Schaeffer was a leader not only involved in political issues but an advocator of civil disobedience which many viewed as an endeavor in hypocrisy, but for Schaeffer- ever the product of fundamentalism- “the battle lines were not drawn around the inerrancy of scripture… such a position could be held coldly, without love. Rather, for him the watershed issue was obeying the Bible.”[10] It is in this that Schaeffer’s ideas become confused especially by American evangelicals who are often polarized into either the fundamentalist or anti-fundamentalist camps over the doctrine of inerrancy. Perhaps this is one last legacy that Schaeffer left behind with his passing- that one can seek to obey the Bible and lovingly engage with others about the issues that face man while remaining firm about God’s truth as inerrantly preserved in Scripture.

fs 5CONCLUSION

Francis Schaffer’s work can have a polarizing effect as the result of his widespread path through Christian ministry. From his fundamentalist beginnings to his politically active ending, his is a study in variety; ultimately, one cannot help but feel a ring of truth to his particular style of apologetics which were deeply rooted in love, community, and conversational truth. Perhaps this unlikely fusion was made possible by the prismatic plethora of pursuits that defined his life in ministry.

     [1] Walter A. Elwell, ed., Handbook of Evangelical Theologians (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 1993), 248.

     [2] Elwell, Handbook of Evangelical Theologians, 248.

     [3] Michael Hamilton, “The Dissatisfaction of Francis Schaeffer,” Christianity Today, March 3, 1997, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1997/march3/7t322a.html?start=4.

     [4] Hamilton, “The Dissatisfaction of Francis Schaeffer,” Online.

     [5] Barry Hankins, Francis Schaeffer and the Shaping of Evangelical America, Library of religious biography (Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Pub, 2008), 231.

     [6] Hankins, Francis Schaeffer and the Shaping of Evangelical America, 232.

     [7] Elwell, Handbook of Evangelical Theologians, 252.

     [8] Elwell, Handbook of Evangelical Theologians, 257.

     [9] Elwell, Handbook of Evangelical Theologians, 258.

     [10] Elwell, Handbook of Evangelical Theologians, 258.

 

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