Archives For History

CS Lewis photo1. He was not English. Though many think and refer to him as such, he was actually born in Belfast, Ireland. So he technically he was British but not English.

2. He changed his name to Jack. In 1902 he announced to his parents that he would, from that day forward, be referred to as “Jacksie.” It was later shortened to “Jacks” and then finally “Jack.” He would be Clive no more.

3. He never learned to drive.

4. His favorite sound was adult male laughter. 

5. His ideal happiness was “to be always convalescent from some small illness and always seated in a window that overlooked the sea, there to read these poems (Renaissance Italian epic) eight hours  of each happy day.”

6. He loved the sea.

7. He failed his Oxford entrance exam, twice. He took the Responsions at least two times and failed the math section. He was allowed entrance into Oxford in 1917 because he served in the military.

8. He had dreams of lions. Prior to writing The Chronicles of Narnia he had strange dreams of lions and pictures in his head of a faun carrying parcels.

9. J.R.R. Tolkien did not like the Narnia stories. Tolkien did not like the Christian allegory, nor did he like the mixing of myths. It appeared he was fond of Aslan though.

10. Aslan is Turkish for “lion.”

11. He often addressed Jesus as Aslan in prayer.

12. Some argue that Tolkien based Treebeard on Lewis. I cannot prove this, but I’ve heard it in more than one place.

13. His conversion to Christianity was not when he wrote in Surprised By Joy: “You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words compelle intrare, ‘compel them to come in,’ have been so abused be wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”

This was simply his conversion to theism from atheism in 1929. It wasn’t until 1931 that he and his brother went to Whipsnade Zoo. Warren drove the motorcycle while Jack sat in the sidecar! He wrote, “When we set out, I did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and when we  reached the zoo, I did.” The evening before this trip, Lewis had a long discussion with Hugo Dyson and J.R.R. Tolkien about Christianity.

Read the rest.

Precious Puritans

November 21, 2012

From the folks over at reformation21:

In recent days a slur’s been cast on certain giants of the past,
Who did – so goes the painful claim, despite their other rightful fame
As men of penetrating sight who sought to know and do what’s right –
See nothing wrong with stealing men, but added their robust “Amen!”
To ownership of humankind, and seemed to be entirely blind
To all the horrors of the trade of God-made men by men unmade,
And treated more like wretched beast, as lower than the very least.
And these men, we are quickly told, in skilful form and language bold,
Were just the men whom we esteem, we preachers of more pallid sheen,
Our precious Puritans.

And good points made were quickly lost, ferocious swords were swiftly crossed,
And good intentions swept away by fierce contentions, great affray;
Thus back and forth the war has gone, and very little has been won –
And always in the firing line men once esteemed as leonine
But now, by some, dismissed and loathed, with flesh-trade guilt all darkly clothed,
Those precious Puritans.

And though I have no final word, I hope I might at least be heard,
For it’s no battle that I seek, but rather come with spirit meek
(Not making accusations wild, but rather with intention mild –
No video in monochrome, all solemn glance and sombre tone,
No rumbling thud of pounding feet, no drum or bass to give the beat,
No shake of manacle or chain, no background moan of loss and pain,
But simple and straightforward verse, with rhythm tight and language terse)
And offer, though behind the time, this humbly-penned riposte in rhyme,
Some sad confusion to assess, some propaganda to address,
Hoping that I can make it plain that this is no mindless refrain
Of precious Puritans.

I will not speak of some who came and followed in their steps with shame,
Who on the Lord’s day worshipped God, but in the week on men they trod;
Who preached of Christian liberty, but would not set the captive free,
Trapped by their culture and their time, committed this atrocious crime,
Who like us – as was pointed out, if we had entertained a doubt –
Were sadly warped, were crooked sticks, who truth and action did not mix
In every sphere, at every point, but got things badly out of joint,
Who failed at key points to apply the truth the Lord did well supply.
For there’s no heart all free from sin, no life all pure without, within,
And all of us must humbly say that we too often walk that way.
But such were not, we must make plain, the men set up to take the blame:
Our precious Puritans.

Our men were of a different sphere, these men that we still hold so dear:
I hope that we can all agree that they preached truest liberty –
Knew what it was to be enslaved, and then by Christ redeemed and saved.
They hold up to our wondering gaze the glory-clothed Ancient of Days,
They point to the redeeming God, how on the fallen earth he trod,
And stooped to pains beyond compare to save his people from despair,
Who suffered hellish agony that Satan’s captives might be free.
And in pursuit of what is right they also fought a costly fight:
The wisdom from on high pursued with hearts by Holy Ghost subdued
And sought a worship God required, believed the truth that God inspired,
Resisted fallen man’s invention, clung to heavenly intention,
Who pressed for thorough church reform, would not accept the uniform
Demands of an oppressive state, but took their stand and faced their fate.
Others a gathered church desired, their hearts with saintly passion fired,
And some – whom I esteem as great – would separate the church from state
And Christ’s law only would confess, even in time of deep distress.
As for these truths they did contend, for conscience’ sake refused to bend,
They felt the fierce oppressive weight of persecution, human hate,
And many of these men of worth were made to wander on the earth,
Were put in chains and prisons black, suffered relentless, cruel attack,
Gave up their lives for truth believed, suffered through troubles unrelieved
Except by Jesus’ presence bright, who strengthened them in all their fight.
Though evidently men of dust, we must confess these men were just;
Providing for the poor and needy, not vengeful, cruel, vicious, greedy.
These men were not a slave-ship’s priest, but were themselves considered least,
Not seizing men, inflicting pains, but were themselves dying in chains,
Men who’d, in any time or nation, stand firm against abomination,
Commend no cruel human heist, but preach true liberty in Christ,
Defending what they most believed, holding to truth from God received;
And though at points we say that we don’t quite see all the way they see,
We still believe that we can learn from men whose hearts for Christ did burn:
Though sometimes wrong, and sometimes odd, these men set out to walk with God,
These precious Puritans.

Who were they, then, these men of old, with silver tongue and spirit bold?
Arrayed before us we can see revealed in some new gallery
Of faith, these saints who took their stand, whose hope was in the Lord’s strong hand:
Perkins is there to lead the van, declaring God’s good will to man;
Beside him Ames, who makes us see the marrow of theology;
Rogers, whose preaching did inspire all men to come and catch the fire;
There’s gracious Sibbes, with words so sweet, dispensing heavenly fruit to eat;
Charnock with thought of God profound, his character and work to sound;
Alleine, to rouse the sleeping man and make known God’s redeeming plan;
Watson, promoting godliness, whose words instruct, rebuke and bless,
Whose illustrations let in light, adorning truth with language bright;
Ambrose holds Christ before our eye to follow, though we live or die;
Flavel, who helps us keep the heart, and labours with his holy art
To show to our so-clouded sense the mystery of providence;
Burroughs – a gospel man indeed, our hearts to bless, our souls to feed
With truths for peace with God and men, with humble heart and ready pen;
Caryl mines Job that we might know heaven’s purpose in our pains below;
Clarkson who ranges through the Word to give us clear sight of the Lord;
John Bunyan, Christ’s imagineer, from prison cell a heavenly seer,
Who leads us to the city bright, gives glimpses of where faith is sight;
Now Bridge who offers comforts sweet, to weary souls a holy treat;
Then Thomas Brooks, whose wisdom flows in simple and straightforward prose,
Who understands the battle well against the myrmidons of hell;
Coxe humbly holds before our face the wondrous covenant of grace;
Goodwin intends that we should know the heart of God to saints below;
Baxter, of everflowing pen, concerned for how we shepherd men;
Manton, who ranges far and wide, that we should know where to abide;
Then Keach, who boldly will assay, the church’s glory to display;
And Rutherford, whose heavenly sense lends fiery wisdom to dispense;
Or Traill, who helps us hold our place concerning justifying grace;
The Vincent brothers trace God’s ways through troubled and distressing days,
And hold up to our eyes the Lord, a Christ unseen, a Christ adored;
One more (if nothing else convince), among the Puritans a prince:
John Owen, vast of heart and mind, who to our God our souls would bind;
Some precious Puritans.

And, friends, the time would fail to tell of others who served God as well,
Who worked to spread the gospel sweet, prepared their hearers Christ to meet,
Whose words run down the years that we might profit from them readily.
For though their style is sometimes dense, they laboured hard to give the sense
Of God’s own book, and then set out to fix our heart, to clear our doubt,
To train our hands for war, and raise our eyes to Christ, our hearts to praise.
And though we don’t suspend our mind, and come with adulation blind
To worship any creature flawed, we love these men who loved our Lord,
And gladly we would sit and learn, and have our dull hearts made to burn
By men who loved the things we love, whose minds were set on things above,
Who – sometimes wrong and sometimes odd – yet followed Christ, and walked with God:
Those precious Puritans.

Though they are quaint, don’t call them weird; a few may have that “epic beard”
But this apart, here we discuss some sinners saved by grace – like us.
And though we might not all agree on all of their theology,
I would suggest we owe them this, unless our target we would miss:
To understand just who they were, not carelessly their names to slur –
Not hurling charges without weight, though loaded with the painful freight
Of misery of ancient date, but first to stop, and think and wait.
First, these are not the men you seek, so pause before you boldly speak
And trample on the blameless name of those who don’t deserve this shame.
Then, let us turn our gaze within, and each one deal with his own sin,
Assess the beam in our own eye before our brother’s speck decry.
Again, we must then all contend, until this world comes to an end,
With truly Christlike bravery against all human slavery:
The slavery of souls to sin that keeps all mankind chained within,
That brings to every soul a blight and leads to that eternal night
To which the unsaved sinners go, the misery of hell below,
Which makes this our priority: to set such souls at liberty.
And then the vile cruelty of those who compass land and sea,
To still put fellow men in chains, subject them to appalling pains,
Inflict on those who are enslaved the foul desires of souls depraved:
I hope that we will not forget this battle is not over yet –
The awful horrors of the trade of God-made men by men unmade
And treated more like wretched beast, as lower than the very least.
For all such living what we need is vibrant godliness indeed,
And that, as I hope you can see, is just the speciality
Of ‘Puritans’ in every age, who turn on bended knee the page
Of God’s own book and seek to know his wisdom for our life below,
Who seek a heart inflamed with love that looks to Christ enthroned above,
And long to come before his face as trophies of redeeming grace.
And when the war is fought and won, Christ’s last triumphant stroke is done,
When pilgrims do no longer roam, when every child of God comes home,
We’ll feel with perfect charity and see with utter clarity:
So all things reach the promised end, and every free man’s voice will blend
In earnest praise and joyful song, a hymn to God both loud and long,
From saints without a single flaw, each ear now pierced against the door.
There will be many who have come to trust in the redeeming Son,
Who all were slaves, who now are free, enjoying heaven’s liberty.
And there among them, bowing low, some men whose names we’ve come to know,
Who helped us on the way above, who join with us in songs of love,
With us, around the highest throne, our eyes all fixed on Christ alone,
His precious Puritans.

Reformation Day

October 31, 2012

Today is Reformation Day – the day, according to Philipp Melanchthon, writing in 1546, Luther “wrote theses on indulgences and posted them on the church of All Saints on 31 October 1517,” the event now seen as sparking the Protestant Reformation.

And so, we remember the great reformer with the following selections:

First on the list is the famous speech at the Diet of Worms.  Joseph Fiennes’ portrayal of Luther is brilliant.



Next, a few of my favorite quotes from Luther:

We should preach the Word, but the results must be left solely to God’s good pleasure . . . I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything. (Luther’s Works 51:77)

If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner. (Let Your Sins Be Strong: A Letter From Luther to Melanchthon Letter no. 99, 1 August 1521)

Your home, once the holiest of all, has become the most licentious den of thieves, the most shameless of all brothels, the kingdom of sin, death, and hell. It is so bad that even Antichrist himself, if he should come, could think of nothing to add to its wickedness. (Luther’s Works 31:336)

You are the head of all the worst scoundrels on earth, a vicar of the devil, an enemy of God, an adversary of Christ, a destroyer of Christ’s churches; a teacher of lies, blasphemies, and idolatries; an arch-thief and robber; a murderer of kings and inciter to all kinds of bloodshed; a brothel-keeper over all brothel-keepers and all vermin, even that which cannot be named; an Antichrist, a person of sin and child of perdition; a true werewolf. (Luther’s Works 41:357)

You have everything, all of it free of charge; yet you show not a particle of gratitude. Instead you let God’s kingdom and the salvation of people’s souls go to ruin; you even help to destroy them. Ought not God to be angry over this? Ought not famine to come? Ought not pestilence, flu, and syphilis find us out? Ought not blind, fierce, and savage tyrants come to power? Ought not war and contention arise? Ought not evil regimes appear in our lands? Ought not our enemies plunder us? Indeed, it would not be surprising if God were to open the doors and windows of hell and pelt and shower us with nothing but devils, or let brimstone and hell-fire rain down from heaven and inundate us one and all in the abyss of hell, like Sodom and Gomorrah. (Luther’s Works 46:254)

And finally the infamous 95 Theses (from here).  If you’ve never read them, you probably ought to:

Out of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will be the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing.

1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one’s heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.

4. As long as hatred of self abides (i.e. true inward repentance) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties beyond those imposed either at his own discretion or by canon law.

6. The pope himself cannot remit guilt, but only declare and confirm that it has been remitted by God; or, at most, he can remit it in cases reserved to his discretion. Except for these cases, the guilt remains untouched.

7. God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making him humbly submissive to the priest, His representative.

8. The penitential canons apply only to men who are still alive, and, according to the canons themselves, none applies to the dead.

9. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit, acting in the person of the pope, manifests grace to us, by the fact that the papal regulations always cease to apply at death, or in any hard case.

10. It is a wrongful act, due to ignorance, when priests retain the canonical penalties on the dead in purgatory.

11. When canonical penalties were changed and made to apply to purgatory, surely it would seem that tares were sown while the bishops were asleep.

12. In former days, the canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution was pronounced; and were intended to be tests of true contrition.

13. Death puts an end to all the claims of the Church; even the dying are already dead to the canon laws, and are no longer bound by them.

14. Defective piety or love in a dying person is necessarily accompanied by great fear, which is greatest where the piety or love is least.

15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, whatever else might be said, to constitute the pain of purgatory, since it approaches very closely to the horror of despair.

16. There seems to be the same difference between hell, purgatory, and heaven as between despair, uncertainty, and assurance.

17. Of a truth, the pains of souls in purgatory ought to be abated, and charity ought to be proportionately increased.

18. Moreover, it does not seem proved, on any grounds of reason or Scripture, that these souls are outside the state of merit, or unable to grow in grace.

19. Nor does it seem proved to be always the case that they are certain and assured of salvation, even if we are very certain ourselves.

20. Therefore the pope, in speaking of the plenary remission of all penalties, does not mean “all” in the strict sense, but only those imposed by himself.

21. Hence those who preach indulgences are in error when they say that a man is absolved and saved from every penalty by the pope’s indulgences.

22. Indeed, he cannot remit to souls in purgatory any penalty which canon law declares should be suffered in the present life.

23. If plenary remission could be granted to anyone at all, it would be only in the cases of the most perfect, i.e. to very few.

24. It must therefore be the case that the major part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of relief from penalty.

25. The same power as the pope exercises in general over purgatory is exercised in particular by every single bishop in his bishopric and priest in his parish.

26. The pope does excellently when he grants remission to the souls in purgatory on account of intercessions made on their behalf, and not by the power of the keys (which he cannot exercise for them).

27. There is no divine authority for preaching that the soul flies out of the purgatory immediately the money clinks in the bottom of the chest.

28. It is certainly possible that when the money clinks in the bottom of the chest avarice and greed increase; but when the church offers intercession, all depends in the will of God.

29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed in view of what is said of St. Severinus and St. Pascal? (Note: Paschal I, pope 817-24. The legend is that he and Severinus were willing to endure the pains of purgatory for the benefit of the faithful).

30. No one is sure of the reality of his own contrition, much less of receiving plenary forgiveness.

31. One who bona fide buys indulgence is a rare as a bona fide penitent man, i.e. very rare indeed.

32. All those who believe themselves certain of their own salvation by means of letters of indulgence, will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.

33. We should be most carefully on our guard against those who say that the papal indulgences are an inestimable divine gift, and that a man is reconciled to God by them.

34. For the grace conveyed by these indulgences relates simply to the penalties of the sacramental “satisfactions” decreed merely by man.

35. It is not in accordance with Christian doctrines to preach and teach that those who buy off souls, or purchase confessional licenses, have no need to repent of their own sins.

36. Any Christian whatsoever, who is truly repentant, enjoys plenary remission from penalty and guilt, and this is given him without letters of indulgence.

37. Any true Christian whatsoever, living or dead, participates in all the benefits of Christ and the Church; and this participation is granted to him by God without letters of indulgence.

38. Yet the pope’s remission and dispensation are in no way to be despised, for, as already said, they proclaim the divine remission.

39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, to extol to the people the great bounty contained in the indulgences, while, at the same time, praising contrition as a virtue.

40. A truly contrite sinner seeks out, and loves to pay, the penalties of his sins; whereas the very multitude of indulgences dulls men’s consciences, and tends to make them hate the penalties.

41. Papal indulgences should only be preached with caution, lest people gain a wrong understanding, and think that they are preferable to other good works: those of love.

42. Christians should be taught that the pope does not at all intend that the purchase of indulgences should be understood as at all comparable with the works of mercy.

43. Christians should be taught that one who gives to the poor, or lends to the needy, does a better action than if he purchases indulgences.

44. Because, by works of love, love grows and a man becomes a better man; whereas, by indulgences, he does not become a better man, but only escapes certain penalties.

45. Christians should be taught that he who sees a needy person, but passes him by although he gives money for indulgences, gains no benefit from the pope’s pardon, but only incurs the wrath of God.

46. Christians should be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they are bound to retain what is only necessary for the upkeep of their home, and should in no way squander it on indulgences.’

47. Christians should be taught that they purchase indulgences voluntarily, and are not under obligation to do so.

48. Christians should be taught that, in granting indulgences, the pope has more need, and more desire, for devout prayer on his own behalf than for ready money.

49. Christians should be taught that the pope’s indulgences are useful only if one does not rely on them, but most harmful if one loses the fear of God through them.

50. Christians should be taught that, if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence-preachers, he would rather the church of St. Peter were reduced to ashes than be built with the skin, flesh, and bones of the sheep.

51.Christians should be taught that the pope would be willing, as he ought if necessity should arise, to sell the church of St. Peter, and give, too, his own money to many of those from whom the pardon-merchants conjure money.

52. It is vain to rely on salvation by letters of indulgence, even if the commissary, or indeed the pope himself, were to pledge his own soul for their validity.

53. Those are enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid the word of God to be preached at all in some churches, in order that indulgences may be preached in others.

54. The word of God suffers injury if, in the same sermon, an equal or longer time is devoted to indulgences than to that word.

55. The pope cannot help taking the view that if indulgences (very small matters) are celebrated by one bell, one pageant, or one ceremony, the gospel (a very great matter) should be preached to the accompaniment of a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

56. The treasures of the church, out of which the pope dispenses indulgences, are not sufficiently spoken of or known among the people of Christ.

57. That these treasures are not temporal are clear from the fact that many of the merchants do not grant them freely, but only collect them.

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, because, even apart from the pope, these merits are always working grace in the inner man, and working the cross, death, and hell in the outer man.

59. St. Laurence said that the poor were the treasures of the church, but he used the term in accordance with the custom of his own time.

60. We do not speak rashly in saying that the treasures of the church are the keys of the church, and are bestowed by the merits of Christ.

61. For it is clear that the power of the pope suffices, by itself, for the remission of penalties and reserved cases.

62. The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God.

63. It is right to regard this treasure as most odious, for it makes the first to be the last.

64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is most acceptable, for it makes the last to be the first.

65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets which, in former times, they used to fish for men of wealth.

66. The treasures of the indulgences are the nets which to-day they use to fish for the wealth of men.

67. The indulgences, which the merchants extol as the greatest of favours, are seen to be, in fact, a favourite means for money-getting.

68. Nevertheless, they are not to be compared with the grace of God and the compassion shown in the Cross.

69. Bishops and curates, in duty bound, must receive the commissaries of the papal indulgences with all reverence.

70. But they are under a much greater obligation to watch closely and attend carefully lest these men preach their own fancies instead of what the pope commissioned.

71. Let him be anathema and accursed who denies the apostolic character of the indulgences.

72. On the other hand, let him be blessed who is on his guard against the wantonness and license of the pardon-merchant’s words.

73. In the same way, the pope rightly excommunicates those who make any plans to the detriment of the trade in indulgences.

74. It is much more in keeping with his views to excommunicate those who use the pretext of indulgences to plot anything to the detriment of holy love and truth.

75. It is foolish to think that papal indulgences have so much power that they can absolve a man even if he has done the impossible and violated the mother of God.

76. We assert the contrary, and say that the pope’s pardons are not able to remove the least venial of sins as far as their guilt is concerned.

77. When it is said that not even St. Peter, if he were now pope, could grant a greater grace, it is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.

78.We assert the contrary, and say that he, and any pope whatever, possesses greater graces, viz., the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as is declared in I Corinthians 12 [:28].

79. It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross with the papal arms are of equal value to the cross on which Christ died.

80. The bishops, curates, and theologians, who permit assertions of that kind to be made to the people without let or hindrance, will have to answer for it.

81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult for learned men to guard the respect due to the pope against false accusations, or at least from the keen criticisms of the laity.

82. They ask, e.g.: Why does not the pope liberate everyone from purgatory for the sake of love (a most holy thing) and because of the supreme necessity of their souls? This would be morally the best of all reasons. Meanwhile he redeems innumerable souls for money, a most perishable thing, with which to build St. Peter’s church, a very minor purpose.

83. Again: Why should funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continue to be said? And why does not the pope repay, or permit to be repaid, the benefactions instituted for these purposes, since it is wrong to pray for those souls who are now redeemed?

84. Again: Surely this is a new sort of compassion, on the part of God and the pope, when an impious man, an enemy of God, is allowed to pay money to redeem a devout soul, a friend of God; while yet that devout and beloved soul is not allowed to be redeemed without payment, for love’s sake, and just because of its need of redemption.

85. Again: Why are the penitential canon laws, which in fact, if not in practice, have long been obsolete and dead in themselves,—why are they, to-day, still used in imposing fines in money, through the granting of indulgences, as if all the penitential canons were fully operative?

86. Again: since the pope’s income to-day is larger than that of the wealthiest of wealthy men, why does he not build this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of indigent believers?

87. Again: What does the pope remit or dispense to people who, by their perfect repentance, have a right to plenary remission or dispensation?

88. Again: Surely a greater good could be done to the church if the pope were to bestow these remissions and dispensations, not once, as now, but a hundred times a day, for the benefit of any believer whatever.

89. What the pope seeks by indulgences is not money, but rather the salvation of souls; why then does he suspend the letters and indulgences formerly conceded, and still as efficacious as ever?

90. These questions are serious matters of conscience to the laity. To suppress them by force alone, and not to refute them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christian people unhappy.

91. If therefore, indulgences were preached in accordance with the spirit and mind of the pope, all these difficulties would be easily overcome, and indeed, cease to exist.

92. Away, then, with those prophets who say to Christ’s people, “Peace, peace,” where in there is no peace.

93. Hail, hail to all those prophets who say to Christ’s people, “The cross, the cross,” where there is no cross.

94. Christians should be exhorted to be zealous to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hells.

95. And let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace.




Leadership with Authority for the Governance of the People

We were pleased to welcome The Rev’d Dr. John Guest as our guest preacher on Sunday morning. Born and raised in Oxford, England, John responded to God’s call after hearing the American evangelist, Billy Graham, in London, in 1954. Author of ten books, he co-founded Trinity Episcopal School of Ministry and was a participant in the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelism and a board member of the National Association of Evangelicals.

John preached on the same verses (1 Peter 2.13-25; Matthew 5.1-16; Acts 4; Romans 13.1; Colossians 1.15-16) at both our 9.00 am and 10.45 am service.  However, the presentation changed a bit from one service to the next. Those present at both services (i.e., clergy and worship team members) thought you may enjoy having both available.  So, we decided to link to the 9.00 am audio below and the 10.45 am video.

Download this episode (right click and save)

The New Yorker Magazine has a fine article on the 350th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer – it denotes and reflects upon the influence of the prayer book on the English language.  Well worth the read.

Suppose you find yourself, in the late afternoon, in one of the English cathedral towns—Durham, say, or York, or Salisbury, or Wells, or Norwich—or in one of the great university cities, like Oxford or Cambridge. The shadows are thickening, and you are mysteriously drawn to the enormous, ancient stone structure at the center of the city. You walk inside, and find that a service is just beginning. Through the stained glass, the violet light outside is turning to black. Inside, candles are lit; the flickering flames dance and rest, dance and rest. A precentor chants, “O Lord, open thou our lips.” A choir breaks into song: “And our mouth shall shew forth thy praise.” The precentor continues, “O God, make speed to save us.” And the choir replies, musically, “O Lord, make haste to help us.”

The visitor has stumbled upon a service, Evensong, whose roots stretch back at least to the tenth century, and whose liturgy has been in almost continuous use since 1549, the date of the first Book of Common Prayer, which was revised in 1552, and lightly amended in 1662, three hundred and fifty years ago. The Book of Common Prayer was the first compendium of worship in English. The words—many of them, at least—were written by Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury between 1533 and 1556 . . . .

Cranmer had been a Cambridge scholar (he had held a lectureship in Biblical studies) and a diplomat, before being plucked by Henry VIII to be archbishop, and he almost certainly did not imagine that he was writing one of the great, abiding works of English literature, what the historian Diarmaid MacCulloch calls “one of a handful of texts to have decided the future of a world language.” But the acute poetry, balanced sonorities, heavy order, and direct intimacy of Cranmer’s prose have achieved permanence, and many of his phrases and sentences are as famous as lines from Shakespeare or the King James Bible. People who have never read the Book of Common Prayer know the phrase “moveable feast,” or “vile body,” or the solemn warning of the marriage service: “If either of you know any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined together in Matrimony, ye do now confess it.” The same is true of the vows the couple speak to each other: “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.” The words of the burial service have become proverbial:

“In the midst of life, we are in death. . . . Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy. . . . Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body.”

Despite the quality of language that strikes us nowadays as majestic and grandly alienated, the words of the Prayer Book are notable for their simplicity and directness. C. S. Lewis called this quality “pithiness”; I would add “coziness” or “comfortability.” The Prayer Book was a handbook of worship for a people, not for a priesthood, and its job was to replace and improve the ancient collective rites of worship that bound people together in the English Catholic Church. The marriage service, for instance, was a medieval liturgy that long predated the final form it found in the Book of Common Prayer. It availed Cranmer nothing to invent a liturgy that threw out that history and erected a verbal screen or altar between the priest and his congregation. Cranmer’s prayers use ordinary phrases and familiar Biblical similes.

Read the rest.

CaesareaHarborDear Friends,

Corinth, Athens and Israel in the Fall of 2013 – sound nice?

One of the most profound and moving experiences of my life have been my visits to the Holy Land in 2005 and 2012.  Imagine walking the streets of Bethsaida, visiting the home of Peter’s mother-in-law, standing on the steps at Caesarea that Paul walked down as he set sail for Rome, praying in Gethsemane, climbing Temple Mount and visiting the empty tomb.  Words could barely describe what I have felt.  Now add standing on Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17) and sitting in the Bema at Corinth (Acts 18)!

I would love for your to join me, and my friend, Wayne Skaff, for this amazing experience of visiting the land of the Bible.  We will depart on Monday, September 30th and will return Saturday, October 12th (my 50th Birthday).  The trip is limited to 30 people.

western-wall-wailing-wall-jerusalem-jer103As a part of our trip, I will be leading us in a Scripture lesson each day, connecting the Bible stories the sites we will visit.  Let me assure you as well of our safety; we will be in the hands of an experienced tour leader as this is Wayne’s 35th trip to Israel (Wayne was the leader of our trips in 2005 and this past spring).   Due to Wayne’s travel leadership, his groups have never had problems or concerns about safety. In fact, not one pilgrim on a tour to Israel has ever been injured from a security concern in the last 25 years. We stay at the best hotels and always keep an eye out for our safety.  If you wait for a peaceful Middle East, you may never go to this wonderful land.

If you would like to know more, please contact my PA, Nancy Sapakoff (, or, 843.284.4324), who has brochures available.  You are free as well to contact Wayne Skaff.  Wayne’s contact information is: 763-205-6177, or,

Next year in Jerusalem!

Departing from Charleston in the afternoon, we arrive in Athens the next morning.

TUESDAY, October 1st –  ATHENS
We enjoy a city bus tour of Athens and walk up Mars Hill where Paul spoke to the Athenian people about the one and only true God, visit the Acropolis, and the Parthenon.

ancient-athens-1WEDNESDAY, October 2nd – ATHENS, CORINTH
We will travel to Corinth where Paul lived and taught in 51AD.  We will sit in the Bema and read from Corinthians.  We will have dinner on our way back to Athens and a late night flight to Israel.  We will stay overnight in a golf resort hotel in Caesarea.

After a leisure morning, we will spend the afternoon walking on the Mediterranean beach and exploring Caesarea by the Sea, the seacoast home of Herod and Pontius Pilate. We will return to our hotel in Caesarea.

We travel north to Mt. Carmel, Megiddo, the well in Nazareth where the angel Gabriel came to Mary, Cana, and then to our beautiful kibbutz hotel on the Sea of Galilee.

We will travel by boat to Capernaum to see the site of St. Peter’s home and the Synagogue where Jesus taught, and the seashore where he called his disciples to become “fishers of men”.  We visit the place where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount and see a boat that has been recently discovered, that was on the Sea at the time of Jesus. We end our day with a reaffirmation of Baptism at the Jordan River.

We head north to Caesarea Philippi, where Peter said to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”, with its beautiful nature preserves and national parks.  We visit the ancient city of Dan, and see a city gate that is 4000 years old.

dead_sea_and_masada_tour (14)MONDAY, October 7th – JORDAN RIVER, BEIT SHEAN, DEAD SEA
We will begin our day visiting a newly discovered Roman city with its theater and impressive columns along the Cardo in Beit Shean.  We  drive through the Jordan Valley, to Jericho, and to Qumran to view the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.  We overnight at a spa hotel at the Dead Sea, where you will have a wonderful experience “floating” in the Dead Sea.

Our day will start with taking a cable car to the top of Masada, where the Jewish people made their last stand against the Romans in 70 AD.  We then climb to the top of Mt. of Olives to begin our pilgrimage in Jerusalem, by walking down to the Garden of Gethsemane.

Our day begins on the Temple Mount and then on to Bethlehem we will visit the Church of the Nativity and Shepherd’s Fields and have time for some shopping at a Christian store.

We will have a time of prayer in the dungeon below Caiaphas’s house and walk to the City of David.  There will be time to pray at the Western Wall and walk through the tunnels along the Western Wall, the Via Delarosa, Mt. Zion – the place of the Last Supper, and experience the wonderful aromas and vibrancy of the Old City of Jerusalem.

FRIDAY, October 11th – JERUSALEM
We will visit the Israeli Museum, viewing the Dead Sea Scrolls.  We will visit Yad Vashem the Jewish Holocaust Center, and then onto the Old City.  We will end our pilgrimage to Israel with a very special closing time of communion at the Garden Tomb.

A very early morning flight will return us to Charleston about noon.


There Was No Golden Age

October 11, 2012

From Christianity Today:

I often ask my students to give me a quick summary of church history. It’s a good way to see what they know, and, more importantly, what they think they know. The results are fascinating. Beyond the unsurprising fact that most know very little about the story of God’s people between the end of the New Testament and the day before yesterday, the stories usually have at least one thing in common: a Golden Age.


Here’s how the story goes.

At some point in history, the church got things right. This could be the early church, the Reformation, the Puritans, or some other group. But, whoever it was, they nailed it. They weren’t perfect, of course. But they got as close as we’re likely to get this side of heaven.

And the reason this generation really stands out is because the other generations got things so badly wrong. These are the Not-Golden Ages. During these periods, you still have the faithful minority, the Christians who reflect the values of the Golden Age and somehow manage to eke out a faithful existence among the depraved majority. But, for the most part, these periods were mostly flawed examples of what happens when the Church goes astray.

At this point in the story, every student agrees on one thing: we are not in a Golden Age now. That fascinates me. Since I hear about the Golden Age from almost every student, you’d think that sooner or later I’d run into someone who would identify this age as the golden one. But that’s never happened. Every student agrees that we’re in a Not-Golden Age. And, to be honest, whenever I hear that many people agreeing on something, I get a little suspicious.


So that’s the story. And it’s one that I hear from almost all of my students. But there are at least four problems with that way of telling the story.

Read the rest.

Memorial Day, always a favorite holiday, continues to look a bit different with a son on active duty.  It is no small thing to consider the willingness, and obedience, of those who willingly defend our nation’s liberty.

memorial day arlington cemetery soldier


One of my favorite militaristic/national hymns comes from an older generation.  It was a generation that recognized and placed the sacrifices of our men and women in the armed forces within a greater – and proper – context of sacrifice, the greatest sacrifice, that of Christ’s (a bit of the hymn’s history follows at the end of the video).


O valiant hearts who to your glory came
Through dust of conflict and through battle flame;
Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.

Proudly you gathered, rank on rank, to war
As who had heard God’s message from afar;
All you had hoped for, all you had, you gave,
To save mankind—yourselves you scorned to save.

Splendid you passed, the great surrender made;
Into the light that nevermore shall fade;
Deep your contentment in that blest abode,
Who wait the last clear trumpet call of God.

Long years ago, as earth lay dark and still,
Rose a loud cry upon a lonely hill,
While in the frailty of our human clay,
Christ, our Redeemer, passed the self same way.

Still stands His Cross from that dread hour to this,
Like some bright star above the dark abyss;
Still, through the veil, the Victor’s pitying eyes
Look down to bless our lesser Calvaries.

These were His servants, in His steps they trod,
Following through death the martyred Son of God:
Victor, He rose; victorious too shall rise
They who have drunk His cup of sacrifice.

O risen Lord, O Shepherd of our dead,
Whose cross has bought them and Whose staff has led,
In glorious hope their proud and sorrowing land
Commits her children to Thy gracious hand.

Taps at ArlingtonNPR had a wonderful piece on the history of ‘Taps,’ written 150 years ago this year.  In commemoration of both Memorial Day and the anniversary of ‘Taps,’ 200 buglers assembled yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery.  Having lived in Alexandria for three years and having spent a good bit of time at Arlington it’s not hard to imagine the sound echoing across the hills.

Here’s the NPR piece, a 7 1/2 minute long segment absolutely worth your time.

Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Jari Villanueva, the bugle player featured in the NPR story, says he started out as a Boy Scout bugler at about age 12. He went on to study trumpet at the Peabody Conservatory before being accepted into the United States Air Force Band — where one of his duties over the next 23 years was to sound that call at Arlington National Cemetery.

Tonight, as a part of Piccolo Spoleto, Master Sgt. Villanueva will be joined by Georgia’s Eighth Regiment for a presentation of music from the Civil War.  Villaneuva, playing a 150 year old bugle, will play ‘Manual of Arms Polka,’ ‘Tenting Tonight on the Old Campground,’ and, of course, ‘Taps.’

The program starts at 7.30 pm at the White Point Garden Bandstand.  It is free to the public.

I only have wifi while I’m on the bus so it is easier to post updates of our Israel trip on Facebook.  Here’s the link to follow the photo updates: