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We’re all familiar with the Reformation in Germany. But what about the Reformation in Spain? On today’s episode, Dr. Stephen Nichols looks at two Spanish Reformers.

The Reformation in Spain

As you know, this is an incredibly important year—2017. This is the year we celebrate the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation. So, we’ll be spending a lot of time with the Reformation, especially as we get into October. Why not, right? So, let’s talk about a place where the Reformation did not make significant inroads. As you look across Europe, you realize that in many countries—Germany, the Swiss city-states, the Netherlands, Scotland, and England—the Reformation did very well. But there were places in Europe where the Reformation just was not able to penetrate, and one of those places was Spain. But that does not mean that Spain was without influence from the Reformers.

One of the people in Spain who was a significant figure in the Reformation was Juan de Valdés. He was born in 1490, and in the 1520s he came in contact with the writings of Erasmus and the teachings of Martin Luther. This led him in 1529 to write a book called Dialogue on Christian Doctrine. It was immediately confiscated and put on the index of prohibited books. This was a list maintained by the Inquisition, the Roman Catholic institution that sought to combat heresy. The Inquisition kept the Reformation from blossoming in Spain and also caused significant problems for Valdés. Once his book was on the index, he became an outlaw.

So, Valdés left Spain for Italy, where he came in contact with Peter Martyr Vermigli. Now, of course, in Italy the Reformation again didn’t make many inroads, so there too he had challenges. Meanwhile, back in Spain, all the copies of his book were being collected and destroyed. One copy made its way to Portugal, and it is the only surviving copy from the original printing of Dialogue on Christian Doctrine.

Another figure is Juan Pérez de Pineda. He too had to leave Spain and worked in Rome. He actually worked for Emperor Charles V in Rome, and he was there from 1527 to 1530. He eventually went back to Spain and started working on a translation of the Greek New Testament into Spanish. He also fell under the condemnation of the Inquisition and managed to flee to Geneva, where he carried on his work of translation. It was a Genevan printer that published his Spanish New Testament in 1556. It was a culmination of five years of hard work.The Reformation in Spain

What’s fascinating about the title page of Pérez de Pineda’s New Testament is that it has a large Y on it. Pérez de Pineda did that because the two arms of the Y represent two destinies. As you look at the Y, one arm is wider because wide is the way and wide is the gate that leads to destruction, and the other arm is much narrower because narrow is the way and narrow is the gate that leads to salvation. So, even on the title page, he was indicating the message of the book, and the message of the New Testament is that it leads to salvation.

In the preface, Pérez de Pineda writes, “I feel very much obliged to do service to those of my nation according to the vocation that the Lord has called me to the enunciation of the Gospel.” And he says, “It seems there is no other way to complete this task than to give the New Testament in my own language.”

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On today’s episode, Dr. Stephen Nichols continues his examination of the life of Robert Murray M’Cheyne and all he accomplished in his brief 29 years.

The Life, Ministry and Death of Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Robert Murray M’Cheyne lived only twenty-nine years, but those twenty-nine years were filled with all sorts of interesting things. So we’re returning to this young minister from Dundee, Scotland.

As we saw before, M’Cheyne wrote a letter to his church in December 1842 regarding his intention to create a Bible reading plan. I tried to determine if this was the first “read through the Bible in a year” plan. I can’t say definitively that it was, but I can say that it is a very popular one. In his plan, you read about four chapters of the Bible a day, and you read through the New Testament and the Psalms twice in a year and the entire Old Testament once in a year. What’s interesting is that he never finished going through the plan himself because he died the very next year, 1843. He made it to March 25, twenty-seven days shy of his thirtieth birthday. In addition to this Bible reading plan and his best-selling book detailing the exciting and adventurous missionary journey to Israel, there were other things that Robert Murray M’Cheyne did as well.

Life, Ministry and Death of Robert Murray M’CheyneM’Cheyne was very quotable. He had a penchant for poetry, and a number of his phrases have come down through the generations and have stuck with us. One of those is, “For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ.” This quote goes hand in hand with another of his quotes: “The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.” What he is saying is that as a pastor, he must be prepared both through prayer and his own Bible reading as he steps into the pulpit and leads his flock. That can be challenging and even daunting, but that’s not what M’Cheyne intended. He intended for us to understand that personal holiness involves, to a large degree, taking ten looks at Christ for every one look at oneself.

It’s also interesting to talk a little bit about the event that led up to M’Cheyne’s death. He was from an upper-middle-class family and was very well educated, with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the University of Edinburgh. His church was in Dundee, which, at the time, was a very industrial city. It had some areas that were experiencing difficult conditions. One day, he was visiting some parishioners in one of those areas. He made it a point to visit each of his parishioners every year, and this was a church of more than eleven hundred people. In fact, a great story is that while he was in Israel, a revival broke out in his own church, and he came back to find seven hundred new converts in his church. So, he made every effort not only to preach to the people in his congregation but to visit them as well. It was in one of these neighborhoods with difficult conditions that he contracted typhus, which would end up taking his life. Not only did he pour out his life for his people from his pulpit, but he literally poured out his life for his people in his pastorate at St. Peter’s in Dundee, Scotland. And that is Robert Murray M’Cheyne.

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On today’s episode of 5 Minutes of Church History, Dr. Stephen Nichols introduces Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a pastor who lived only 29 years.

In December 1842, the pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Dundee, Scotland, wrote a letter to his flock. In it, he wrote:

My dear flock, the approach of another year stirs up within me new desires for your salvation and for the growth of those who are saved. “God is my record how greatly I long after you all and the bowels of Jesus Christ.” What the coming year is to bring forth, who can tell? There is plainly a weight lying upon the spirits of all good men and a looking for some strange work of judgment upon this land. Those believers will stand firmest who have no dependence upon self or upon creatures but upon Jehovah our Righteousness. We must be driven more to our Bibles and to the mercy seat if we are to stand in this evil day. Then we shall be able to say, like David, “The proud have held me greatly in derision, yet have I not declined from Thy law. Princes have persecuted me without cause but my heart stands in awe of Thy Word.” It has been long on my mind to prepare a scheme of Scripture reading so that the whole might be read once by you in the year and all might be feeding in the same portion of the green pasture at the same time.

Pastor Robert Murray M’CheyneThe pastor in question was Robert Murray M’Cheyne. He was a Scot, born in 1813, and as a young man he showed significant aptitude for education and for writing and poetry. At the age of fourteen, he went off to the University of Edinburgh to study the arts and humanities. In 1831, two things happened. In June, he wrote in his diary, “Bought Edwards’ works.” That’s a reference to Jonathan Edwards; he had purchased the then-two-volume collection of Edwards’ writings. On July 8, his older brother died. His older brother was, as one biographer says, “of significant evangelistic zeal.” This event had a significant impact on Robert, and sometime during that summer, as he was reading Edwards and suffered the impact of his brother’s death, he was converted.

He went on to study divinity at Edinburgh and came under the influence of Thomas Chalmers. Chalmers was a very significant figure—he was a leader in the Church of Scotland and then in 1843 became a leader and the first moderator of the Free Church of Scotland. M’Cheyne actually planted the church in Dundee at the behest of Chalmers. Chalmers recognized that this mostly industrial city was without a gospel witness and therefore sent the very bright and well-educated young M’Cheyne to be plant a church there.

M’Cheyne at one point took six months to go on a journey to Israel along with a few others, including Horatius Bonar, the songwriter and fellow Scotsman. They sent back reports of their journey, which were devoured in the newspapers. Their report were collected into a book, The Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews. It was very popular.

In the spring of 1843, M’Cheyne developed typhus after visiting some parishioners and died. He was twenty-seven days shy of his thirtieth birthday. But there’s a lot more to the story of this twenty-nine-year-old man, so we will return to learn more about Robert Murray M’Cheyne.

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On today’s episode, Dr. Stephen Nichols is joined by Dr. Burk Parsons to discuss John Calvin’s “A Little Book on the Christian Life.”

John Calvin’s A Little Book on the Christian Life

Stephen Nichols (SN): Today I have a special guest with me, Dr. Burk Parsons. Dr. Parsons, welcome to 5 Minutes in Church History.

Burk Parsons (BP): Thank you, Steve.

SN: So glad to have you here. Dr. Parsons is a busy man. He copastors Saint Andrew’s Chapel, he is the editor of Tabletalk magazine, and recently he was made a teaching fellow at Ligonier Ministries. But I’m here to talk to him about this new book that he did in conjunction with Dr. Aaron Denlinger. Dr. Denlinger is a fine Reformation scholar and quite a scholar of Latin, and the two of you teamed up to give us this book. We were joking about it, but this book has a quite literal title. It is by John Calvin and it is called A Little Book on the Christian Life. Tell us about this book.

John Calvin's A Little Book on the Christian LifeBP: Thanks, Steve. You’re right, Aaron and I teamed up several years ago to work on this and it had been a project I had wanted to work on for many years. After first reading Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, of course, and then reading Henry Van Andel’s edition from Baker of The Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, I realized that this was a classic and a book that I wanted every Christian to read. And so, for years, knowing some Latin myself and knowing Calvin well, but needing really a good Latin scholar to help me give a new translation, a new edition, of this booklet, I asked Dr. Denlinger to work on it with me. We spent a good couple of years working on this in my study on Monday afternoons. Hour and a half, two hours at a time, working very slowly, very carefully on this edition, and hopefully it is a helpful work for people.

SN: So, that’s a great experience, to be diving that deeply into Calvin over that length of time. What we really have here is a classic within a classic. This Little Book on the Christian Life is a classic itself and it’s within this classic text, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. What’s Calvin trying to tell us in this little book? What’s important to him about the Christian life?

BP: That’s a good question. This is really a book for every Christian on the basics of what it is to be a Christian, how to live as a Christian in this world. It’s a book not only on sanctification, but it’s also a book reminding us of our justification. Most predominantly throughout Calvin and throughout this book is Calvin’s very clear, undergirding explanation of what it means to be united to Jesus Christ, what it means to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, what it means to be adopted by God our Father, and how we live as Christians in light of those realities through the miseries of this life, through the miseries of our sin, through the miseries and the trials of this world—how we are to rest in Christ and how we are able to bear that cross of Christ as we suffer with Him. And also how we keep our eyes fixed on the world to come and the new heavens and new earth and that this world, in the end, is not our home, but it will be.

SN: This sounds like a very practical book on how to live the Christian life. Often when we think of Calvin, we have him high on a pedestal as this brilliant theologian, one of the most brilliant, really, in the history of the Christian tradition. Well, give us a taste. Whet our appetites.

BP: I think there is so much that you can pick from here. Every line, every sentence is beautiful. Every line is quotable, but one portion that I think many of your listeners know or have heard, perhaps, is when he says this:

If we are not our own but the Lord’s, it’s clear what errors we must flee, and what we must direct our whole lives toward. We are not our own; therefore, neither our reason nor our will should dominate our plans and actions. We are not our own; therefore, let us not make the gratification of our flesh our end. We are not our own; therefore, as much as possible, let us forget ourselves and our own interests.

Rather, we are God’s. Therefore, let us live and die to Him. We are God’s. Therefore, let His wisdom and His will govern all our actions. We are God’s. Therefore, let us—in every way in all our lives—run to Him as our only proper end. How far has he progressed who’s been taught that he is not his own—who’s taken rule and dominion away from his own reason and entrusted them to God.

SN: Well, that was Dr. Burk Parsons on John Calvin on the Christian life.

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B.B. Warfield’s wife required constant attention and care during her married life. On today’s episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Dr. Stephen Nichols recounts the tragic love story of B.B. and his wife Annie.

The Tragic Love Story of B.B. and Annie Warfield 

The tragic love story of B.B. and Annie WarfieldB.B. and Annie. This is the story of a marriage between Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield and Annie Pierce Kinkead. We know Warfield as the great stalwart of Princeton Theological Seminary—he is sometimes called the Lion of Princeton—who was a significant figure in the Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy. He was a mentor to J. Gresham Machen and laid the groundwork for the work of Machen and others who fought the good fight within the Presbyterian Church and in other denominations in the twentieth century.

But I want to talk about Warfield’s marriage. Warfield was born in 1851 in Lexington, Ky. A year later, Annie Pierce Kinkead was born, also in Lexington. The Warfields were members of Second Presbyterian Church in Lexington while the Kinkeads were members of First Presbyterian Church. But even though they went to different churches, they apparently spent a lot of time together. Annie’s family was a family of lawyers and a family that had generals in the Revolutionary War. They were a well-established family and a well-heeled family. Her father even successfully defended Abraham Lincoln at one point. Warfield’s family was also well heeled. They were also a family of lawyers and had large cattle farms. In fact, Warfield’s father wrote a book on cattle breeding. That was the career that Warfield was headed toward before he decided to go into the ministry and theological scholarship.

Benjamin and Annie were married on August 3, 1876. Immediately after their wedding, they went to Europe and spent an entire year there while Warfield was studying at the University of Leipzig, Germany. While they were in Europe, they would take long walks in the mountains. On one of these walks, something happened. One of Warfield’s colleagues at Princeton, O.T. Allis, recounts the event:

In his distinguished and eminently successful career there was an element of tragedy. After graduating from the seminary at the age of twenty-five, he had married and he had taken his wife into Germany. A honeymoon in which he studied at Leipzig. On a walking trip in the Harz mountains they were overtaken by a terrific thunderstorm. It was such a shattering experience for Mrs. Warfield she never fully recovered from the shock to her nervous system and was more or less of an invalid during the rest of her life. I used to see them walking together and the gentleness of his manner was striking proof of the loving care with which he surrounded her. They had no children. During the years spent at Princeton he rarely, if ever, was absent for any length of time. Mrs. Warfield required his constant attention and care.

Machen adds this:

I have faint recollections of her walking up and down in front of the house in the early years of my Princeton life but even that diversion has long been denied her. I never spoke to her. Her trouble has been partly nervous, and she has seen hardly anyone except Dr. Warfield, but she remained, they say, until the end a very brilliant woman. Dr. Warfield used to read to her during certain definite hours every day. For many, many years he has never been away from her more than two hours at a time. It has been some ten years since he left Princeton. What the effect of her death upon him will be I do not know. I think, however, that he will feel dreadfully lost without her.

Mrs. Armstrong, a faculty member at Princeton, said after Annie’s death in 1915, “He has only two interests in his life—his work, and Mrs. Warfield, and now that she is gone there may be danger of his using himself up rather quickly.”

That is the love story, albeit the tragic love story, of B.B. and Annie.

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Martin Luther on Vocation with Michael Horton

On today’s episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Drs. Stephen Nichols and Michael Horton discuss Martin Luther’s recovery of the doctrine of vocation.

Stephen Nichols (SN): Recently we had our good friend Dr. Michael Horton here. I had left him on a deserted island. He’s tanned, rested, and he’s back, and we have him again. Dr. Horton, good to have you back.

Michael Horton (MH): Thank you, Steve. Great to be back.

SN: Did you enjoy your time?

MH: It was restful. Amazingly restful for five minutes.

SN: Well, I’m going to put you back to work for another five minutes. You recently joined us at the Ligonier National Conference, which, of course, focused on the Reformation, and you spoke on the doctrine of vocation. Now, when we think of Martin Luther, we think of thesolas, we think of the authority of Scripture, we think of the necessity of justification by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone. But one of the crucial doctrines of Luther is vocation. Could you expand on that a little for us?

Martin Luther on Vocation with Michael Horton

Image: David Schrock

MH: You know, a lot of people think of justification as the material principle of the Reformation, with Scripture alone as the formal principle, but one historian has said, actually, that in terms of the greatest impact on the culture, it was the doctrine of vocation that made the biggest difference long term. And you can sort of see why because people who aren’t Christians, who aren’t going to church, who aren’t hearing the gospel proclaimed week after week, have still been touched by Christians who are. And there were so many Christians who were revolutionized by the gospel that it changed their whole outlook on Monday morning. Were they just happier because they understood they were justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? That’s part of it. But there was more to it. They had categories for thinking about Monday through Friday. They weren’t just working for the weekend. They had a transcendent view of things. R.C. Sproul has been saying for years, “Right now counts forever,” and they had a real sense of that. Even when a milkmaid is milking a cow, Luther said, she is glorifying God just as much as a preacher in a pulpit preaching a sermon.

SN: So, this is one of the things Luther helped us with. He recovered the word vocation, which, by the time of Luther, really was applied only to the priests.

MH: Ordained ministry, yeah.

SN: To the monks, the nuns, who had given their life to the church. Everyone else was just putting in time. So, Luther comes along and calls these ordinary roles—fathers or sons or daughters or wives—a calling, and our work is a calling.

MH: You sometimes hear in Christian circles that someone received a call. But really, everyone is called. Even non-Christians. That is another revolutionary thing about it. The Reformers believed that Scripture taught that everyone is called. Even people who don’t believe in God receive a calling because they are created in the image of God, and in His common grace God actually causes non-Christians to serve Christians even. You don’t have to buy Christian milk . . .

SN: From a Christian cow . . .

MH: From a Christian cow with “John 3:16” on the cup. Our vocation is one of those things that we share with everyone around us. When I am loving and serving my neighbors, when I am changing diapers, when I’m cleaning the car, all of these things are callings. And we don’t have just one; we have a bunch of callings, Luther said. And it really makes a big difference. And the gospel wasn’t just, “Let’s all go to work with a greater sense of the grandeur of what we are doing,” but really a sense of, “You have no one to pacify anymore.” Everyone was so anxious and spent all their energy, if they cared about it at all, on climbing their way to heaven. Well, we don’t have to. God has climbed down to us. Now what do we do? We love and serve Him by loving and serving our neighbors. And I love Luther’s line: “God doesn’t need our good works; our neighbors do.” God doesn’t need them, we don’t need them, but our neighbors do.

SN
: Thank you, Dr. Horton, and thank you for reminding us of another piece of the great legacy of the Reformation—vocation.

MH: Thank you, Dr. Nichols. Great to be with you.

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On today’s episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Dr. Stephen Nichols introduces the founder of Unitarianism, William Ellery Channing.

The founder of Unitarianism, William Ellery Channing

When we talked about what happened to the Puritans, I mentioned at the very end that one of the things that negatively happened to the Puritans and caused the Puritans to go away was a person. And that person was William Ellery Channing. Let’s go back and talk about him and see what some of his contributions were. Sadly, they were not positive contributions, but he was very influential, not only on New England Christianity, but also in setting a new charter for American Christianity.

founder of Unitarianism, William Ellery Channing

William Ellery Channing (Image Credit: Tom Schade)

Channing was born in Newport, R.I., in 1780. By the time he was eighteen-years-old, he had graduated from Harvard. It was fairly typical at that time for young men in that twelve-to-fifteen age range to go to college and then be there for four years or so. Channing graduated from Harvard in 1798. Five years later, he was at the Federal Street Church in Boston. He took to the pulpit in 1803 and remained in that church for almost forty years, until his death in 1842. Toward the end of his life, when his health was failing, he pulled away from some of his pastoral duties, but that was his single charge for his professional career.

Early on, he began to disagree with his background and with the Puritan past that he was a part of and the education that he had received. We see this early in his career, but he didn’t publish some of these things until the early 1810s. In 1819, he published a crucial piece called Unitarian Christianity and in that piece he identifies and defines Unitarianism. Unitarianism is belief in the singular God—the one God—which, of course, is there in Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Orthodox theology understands that to mean one in substance or one in essence. As the biblical doctrine of God unfolds through Scripture, we see that God is a Trinity: three persons in one essence. Channing rejected the Trinity outright. He said there are not three persons; there is a singular essence and a singular person—a unity of the person of God. That is Unitarianism.

This meant that he was going to think unbiblically about Christ, and so he did. He rejected the early creeds of the church—the Nicene Creed and the Chalcedonian Definition—that lay out the biblical teaching regarding Christ as truly God and truly man, with those two natures, divine and human, united in one person. Channing rejected that formula and the deity of Christ. In 1828, he published a sermon called “Likeness to God.” He later developed that sermon into a larger book, wherein he said that Christ was not God, but he also underscored humanity’s potential to reach divine heights, saying that if we follow the example of Jesus, we too can find within us that unreached potential to climb to divine heights. The human Jesus was treated as God because he understood the divinity within Him.

That thought took root and went on, unfortunately, to flower and flourish in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and even now into the twenty-first century. And that is the life of William Ellery Channing.

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On today’s episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Dr. Stephen Nichols examines what really happened to the New England Puritans.

5 Minutes in Church History: What Happened to the Puritans

A pastor friend of mine up in Maine was visiting Boston at one point and he decided to go on one of these tours that led through the city. During the tour, someone asked the tour guide, “Whatever happened to the Puritans?” The tour guide thought for a moment and said, “You know, I’m not sure. Maybe they all just got back into a boat and went somewhere else.”

Well, that’s not exactly what happened to the Puritans, so let’s think about this. What did happened to the New England Puritans? This was an incredible group. They were the roots of American religious history. They, of course, came from England and began settling heavily in the early decades of the 1600s. I think at one point I remember reading that in the 1630s it was as if a boat every week was landing at the docks at Boston with a new load of English Puritans ready to settle in the New World. And these are the folks who gave us the beginning and foundation of Christian thought in America. These are the folks who gave us so many great institutions—Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, and Brown—and these are the folks who also eventually gave us Jonathan Edwards and the First Great Awakening. So, this is a crucial question: What happened to the Puritans?

E. Brooks Holifield wrote a book titled Theology in America: Christian Thought from the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War. In that book, Holifield gives us some insight into what happened to these folks. First of all, he wants us to fully understand who the Puritans were. He says they were a very creedal bunch of people, focused on their confession of faith. They were not entirely Presbyterians, so they had some modifications as far as church government to the Westminster Standards. But they were creedal folks who believed in logic; they believed in solid exegesis; they had mastered the Hebrew and the Greek texts; they had mastered Latin; they knew their history and they knew their theology. They had, as it were, all of their ducks in a row. But in addition to that, they also greatly emphasized the practical side of theology. One of these Puritans, named Thomas Hooker, represents what Holifield calls “the consensus of the Puritans.” What Holifield means is that Hooker defines theology as a discipline of godliness that not only produces insight into the nature of things and knowledge but also produces significantly practical wisdom.

So, that is what the Puritans were about. Theology that is an intellectual discipline but that is always very practical and leads us to living—sometimes we say the head and the heart. And the Puritans did not make some sort of bargain there but saw them together, and that was a crucial part of the Puritan emphasis.

So, when we begin to see what happened to the Puritans, one of the things we have to see is that this balance was not maintained. As we move into the 1700s, we see this. We see it in Jonathan Edwards’ own congregation, where he reminded them of what a genuine religious affection truly is. The people had lost some of that Puritan emphasis. But it was really in the late 1700s and early 1800s that we see the true drift. And one of the folks responsible for that is a person named William Ellery Channing. He was born in 1780 and he died in 1842, and his claim to fame is that he was the father of Unitarianism or the father of liberalism. And what we see in his theology was the demise both of that Puritan emphasis on theology and also of that practical side of theology.

So, what happened to the Puritans? The sad answer is that they did not maintain that crucial emphasis of loving God with their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

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On this episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Dr. Stephen Nichols is joined by Dr. Michael Kruger to discuss how the canon was recognized in the early church.

Dispelling misconceptions regarding New Testament Canon

Stephen Nichols (SN): Today we have a very special guest: Dr. Michael Kruger. He is the president and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. Dr. Kruger, welcome.

Michael Kruger (MK): Thanks, Steve. Great to be here.

SN: I’m looking forward to having a conversation with you about a very important topic. You’ve given a lot of attention and energy to the topic of the canon.

MK: Yes.

SN: So, let’s talk about the canon. Now, let’s get one thing straight. We’re talking about canon with one n in the middle. Is that right?

MK: That’s right. Canon, not cannon that would blow somebody up. This is a standard or list or rule.

SN: Okay, so we’ve got that established. This is canon with one n. What do we need to know about the canon in the early church?Dispelling misconceptions regarding New Testament Canon

MK: Well, there’s a lot to say there, Steve. I think most people probably labor with a number of misconceptions about the canon, and so one of the things I try to do is to help people undo those misconceptions. Probably the largest misconception out there is this idea that canon is a late imposition on books written for another purpose. In other words, people think these books were written with no intention of being authoritative documents; they were written sort of as occasional texts that only later—centuries later—Christians began to realize, “Wow, these are really great books and maybe we should consider these Scripture. Tell you what, let’s have a canon and put these in it,” something like that. So, the first thing, I think, that people need to understand is that these books were not just written as texts that had bearing only a certain situation or people; that Paul, for example, as an Apostle, wrote with conscious authority. Even in the first century, he understood himself as writing books to govern and guide the church. And this is an important thing that I think people miss.

SN: We find Peter speaking of the writings of Paul—and I always find this helpful because I get stumped by Paul sometimes; it’s helpful to know, well, Peter was stumped by Paul—and he’ll say, “There are some things in [Paul’s letters] that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16).

MK: Yes, absolutely. And that shows you that even in the first century how in that text, somewhere in the 60s, people were already viewing Apostolic books as scriptural books. So, you didn’t have to wait for the third or fourth century for this idea that you ought to have books that are regarded as Scripture in the New Testament.

SN: Now, as you look at the essence of the New Testament, we see a general consensus around the Gospels, we see a general consensus around Paul, but there were some sort of fuzzy boundaries there in those early centuries. What were some of the issues that were going on?

MK: What I like to help people understand is that by the early second century or middle second century there was really a wide and unified consensus on what we might call the core of the New Testament canon. The core of the New Testament canon would include things like the four Gospels, Acts, Paul’s thirteen letters, books like 1 Peter, 1 John, Revelation, and so on. So, about twenty-two out of the twenty-seven would have been pretty well established. What that means, then, is that for the books that were under discussion, if you will, there was maybe a little bit more disagreement about them were the small ones. So, this would have been books like 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, James, books like that.

SN: Was Philemon ever an issue?

MK: Philemon wasn’t really ever an issue. Philemon was just not talked about very much and often just no one mentioned it. So, for example, Irenaeus, a second-century church father, when he mentions all of Paul’s letters except Philemon, that doesn’t mean he rejects Philemon; it just means that Philemon is such a little book that he may not get around to saying much about it. I imagine that is still true in the modern day.

SN: Then there were other books that we do not have in our twenty-seven books of the New Testament.

MK: Correct.

SN: So, what were some of those?

MK: In the second century there were books in circulation that people sometimes used that they were kind of hanging on the edges. An example of this is the Shepherd of Hermas, which was a popular book in early Christianity, or 1 Clement, which was a letter that some valued. And then you have what we call apocryphal gospels, gospels that are outside the canon such as the Gospel of Thomas or the Gospel of Peter. We know people read them now and then but they never had much popularity and they never really were true contenders for the canon.

SN: In fact, we find some very early church fathers outright rejecting these gospels as false gospels.

MK: Yes, despite the claims of many modern scholars that these were popular and widely received, the fact of the matter is that when they were mentioned, which isn’t very often, they were condemned quite directly. So, there was never really a chance that they would be in the canon.

SN: Well, Dr. Kruger, thank you for being with us. I’ve been enjoying our conversation. Maybe we’ll have to have another conversation about the cannon with two n’s sometime. That would be just as explosive.

MK: That would be fun.

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On today’s episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Dr. Stephen Nichols is joined by Michael Haykin to discuss John Calvin’s view of missions.

John Calvin’s view of missions

Stephen Nichols (SN): Today we are again visiting with someone who was with us just a little bit ago, Dr. Michael Haykin. Dr. Haykin, good to have you with us.

Michael Haykin (MH): Good to be here.

SN: Dr. Haykin is professor of church history and biblical spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. And last time we talked about his book 8 Women of Faith, published by Crossway. We are going to be talking about another book he published with Crossway called To the Ends of the Earth. Now, Dr. Haykin, that book is about the history of missions and significant figures who contributed to our thinking on missions or were missionaries themselves. But there is something they all have in common: they are all from the Reformed tradition. And some people would say that is an oxymoronic thing to have Reformed theologians talking about missions. Would you care to respond to that?John Calvin's view of missions

MH: I think the book grew out of the fact that there has been significant upsurge in the embrace of Reformed truth in the last twenty-five, forty years, and along with that there has been pushback that this is not good for the church. It is not good for the church because it is supposedly well known that the Reformed tradition is not interested in missions. We don’t do missions well. To me, that’s a very, very narrow mind-set. Narrow because it fails to understand the fact that in church history, the missionary movement—going back through people like William Carey, some of the Puritans, back to the Reformers—has been strongly populated by people of the Reformed tradition. We begin with John Calvin, who stands in some regard as the fountainhead of the tradition. He wouldn’t be happy with the nomenclature Calvinistic because he would have seen himself as one of a number who were contributing to the recovery of biblical truth. But as you look at Calvin’s writings, you get this sense of a man who had a global vision. You see it especially in one area, very interestingly, in his prayers. When he would preach, the elders in Geneva had designated a number of individuals—particularly a man named Denis Raguenier, nobody remembers him today—to copy down everything Calvin said in the pulpit and . . .

SN: You’d have to write very fast.

MH: You’d have to write fast and remember, he’s doing this with a quill pen, putting it in a pot of ink. And at a certain point Calvin would say, “Now, let us turn to the Lord,” and at that point, his sermon was finished and he was about to pray. And we are deeply thankful that Raguenier did not put his pen down. He recorded the prayers of Calvin, and as you read them, you can hear a man praying for what he had just preached, that it would impact the congregation, but it would also have an impact on Europe and the world. You can hear Calvin praying for the gospel to go forth around the world. Now, one of the reasons that the Reformers are accused of not being missionary is because they didn’t undertake missions in their day. In one sense that is true, if you are talking about crosscultural missions outside of Europe; there are very few instances of that. Part of that’s because they didn’t have the resources—Geneva is landlocked, unlike, say, the great powers of Spain and Portugal that had vast navies. But also it’s because Calvin, as he looked at Europe, did not see a Christian continent. What he saw was Christendom, with the Christian faith a mile wide and an inch deep, and he realized that he had to plant churches in Europe before he would ever think about global.

SN: The mission field for Calvin was Europe.

MH: Exactly. And so he trained upward of twelve hundred, maybe as many as fifteen hundred, pastors to go, particularly to France, to plant churches.

SN: You know, Calvin lived in Geneva but his heart was always for his native France.

MH: Exactly.

SN: And you see that in his heartbeat. Well, the story ends with Calvin and continues there. Grateful for that book, To the Ends of the Earth, and thank you for being with us.

MH: Thank you.

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