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Tag: History

Book Review: On This Day in Christian History

Robert Morgan’s On This Day in Christian History is a daily devotional using significant and influential people and events throughout Christian history to not only help you remember your heritage, but to spark some interest in the reader to learn a bit more. For example, on this day (6 January) is the story of Charles Spurgeon and the blizzard of 1850, and what happened to young Charles in a small Methodist church he happened into. Now, a few paragraphs is never going to capture even a glance at the life and work of The Prince of Preachers. But it’s enough to give anyone interested in the history of the faith a desire to want to learn a bit more.

This is a novelty book. Everyone is likely to have a couple daily devotionals around, and this one would probably serve as a gift to a Christian with an interest in history. It would be a disappointment to a true historian, or seasoned history buff; but it’s not geared toward them. It’s not academic. Regardless of the intended audience, I do wish there was a small bibliography for each event or individual (a couple of books or articles). That way, you could not only spark some intrigue, but start them down the right road. And I’m not talking Wikipedia.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Free World History Resource

As many of you may already know, Eddie and I have a real passion for history. It was our college major after all. With that being said, it has been very difficult for us to find a history curriculum for the kids that we can truly say we are satisfied with. I have actually been pretty appalled at what passes for historiography in most home school history curriculum. What I have encountered was either a completely idealistic (and therefore not entirely true) retelling of history, history retold from a specific (read slanted) perspective, or “history” that is pure fiction. Needless to say I am willing to have none of the above if those are my only choices. I even threatened at one point to just write my own comprehensive world history for the boys.

Luckily, I found a great resource that is already written, is just what I was thinking of, and can be worked into a really good program for our boys. It is called World History For Us All. When I first looked at the curriculum I was a little hesitant about the obvious evolutionary perspective this curriculum is written from. After thinking about it for a while and discussing it with my husband, we decided that this could also be a perfect opportunity to really express our own values to our children through providing challenging ideas to them. Eddie and I recently watched the documentary “Lord Save Us From Your Followers” and it really struck me how little most Christians know about perspectives other than there own, while those who oppose Christianity seem to know all about what they oppose. It really gave me pause to think of how we can introduce effective apologetics into our children’s hearts and minds. I think this curriculum could be a great opportunity to do just that.

What really sold me what when I read the section entitled “Foundations of This Curriculum” and clicked on some of the links. What I saw was exactly what has been on my heart and mind for teaching world history to my boys. I don’t want them to have an ethnocentric view of history. I want them to truly appreciate where we ALL came from and how history ended up as it has today. Of course Eddie and I are going to have to add to the curriculum quite a bit for the kids to get a truly balanced view of all sides, but at least I don’t have to reinvent the wheel now! I am truly excited about the opportunities this website will offer our family schooling. And all for free!

His Story of Shalom…An Introduction

I have been participating in the women’s Bible studies that our church has been offering over the past couple of years. I have really enjoyed those studies and God has always used them to richly bless me and lead me into a deeper understanding of Himself. During this last study that we just completed we studied the Exodus story and I found myself drawn to some simple observances throughout the narrative. I guess in a way it has kind of compelled me to theorize a bit and I feel called to really study the Old Testament in detail.

I have decided that this quest of mine may be helpful to others as well, so I am starting this series here on the good old blog and calling it “His Story of Shalom.” My theory is that as I study the Old Testament I will find, as in the Exodus passages, time and again where God has intervened to direct the course of man back to His original plan for man before the fall, which is Shalom. I truly believe that God’s main purpose for humanity is Shalom and I think proof of that can be found, not just in the New Testament, but in the Old Testament as well.

I do not know how long this series will be, but I do pray that God will grant me wisdom and help me to be as thorough, comprehensive, and balanced as possible. I look forward to the journey and I hope you decide to come along as well!

A Christian America: The Mayflower Compact

One argument given in support of the USA being a Christian Nation is that the pilgrims, coming to the new world to establish a new colony, sought to install some sort of Christian government over the land. The intent was to have a Christian nation.

Here’s the text of the 1620 Mayflower Compact as we have received it from William Bradford:

In ye name of God Amen.  We whose names are vnderwriten, the loyall subjects of our dread soueraigne Lord King James by ye grace of God, of great Britaine, franc, & Ireland king, defender of ye faith, &c

Haueing vndertaken, for ye glorie of God, and aduancemente of ye christian faith and honour of our king & countrie, a voyage to plant ye first colonie in ye Northerne parts of Virginia doe by these presents solemnly & mutualy in ye presence of God, and one of another, couenant, & combine our selues togeather into a ciuill body politick; for ye our better ordering, & preseruation & furtherance of ye ends aforesaid; and by vertue hearof, to enacte, constitute, and frame shuch just & equall lawes, ordinances, Acts, constitutions, & offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete & conuenient for ye generall good of ye colonie: vnto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witnes wherof we haue herevnder subscribed our names at Cap Codd ye 11 of Nouember, in ye year of ye raigne of our soueraigne Lord king James of England, france, & Ireland ye eighteenth and of Scotland ye fiftie fourth. Ano: Dom 1620

Where in that text would one find mention of establishing a Christian nation?

Homeschool and History with Trial and Triumph: Intro

We homeschool. We like to call our little homeschool “Schleitheim Academy.” Our goal is to train up a bunch of little Anabaptists to follow in their parent’s footsteps.

One of the texts our kids go through is Richard Hannula’s Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History. Being a student of Church History (my BA in History centered on Church History, and focused on martyrdom), I was excited about the prospects of going through Trial and Triumph with our kids. I got even more excited when I saw the very first chapter/story was about Polycarp. Can you beat that?

Trial and Triumph sought to tell us about the history of the Church over the centuries by picking some major names and personalities in various eras, and told their stories. Hannula put together summaries of the lives and events surrounding people like Polycarp, Athanasius, Charlemagne, Francis of Assisi, John Huss, Martin Luther, Jonathon Edwards, David Livingstone, and many others.

I read a little ahead in order to preview the stories and talk with my wife about whether or not we should go through that story with our kids. We don’t want to simply have the book, read the stories aloud with the kids, and move on to the next project. And we as parents want to be integrally involved in what our kids are learning. And we will not let garbage come through. I have seen some very good stories (e.g. Polycarp) and some very bad stories (e.g. Constantine, Athanasius). We’ll be reading the stories we consider “good” and be able to discuss the story as it is. We will not be reading with the kids the stories we consider “bad.” Not because we don’t want them exposed to that part of Church History yet. (Ha! I’ve had quite a few discussions with our kids about the dark side of Church History.) The stories are “bad” because they are wrong. The history displayed is not accurate, and would do more harm than good. If we were to read the story, we’d spend so much time talking about the corrections.

Instead, I figure we can back fill. We can present our own summary history. That should fill in the gaps for our kids as they continue to go through the book; some later stories make reference to prior ones. For instance, the story of Constantine  is very, very poor. But instead of skipping the person and era of Constantine altogether (which would be a shame as he is a major figure in Church and world history), we’ll supplement the story with what we would consider a more accurate portrayal of the history, of the man; to be fair to the history of the era. We Christians should proclaim and teach truth. We need to be honest about our history, the good and the bad. Hannula painted a rosey, romantic picture of Constantine. While I will get to the details in a future post, that was far from true. I would much rather discuss the real Constantine, and the real fourth century.

On this blog I will be reviewing each story (maybe each of them). I figure there are other families going through this book and maybe getting another perspective could be helpful. The reviews will be short, nothing entirely in depth (time will not allow it). But for the problem areas, I will do my best to supply a comparable alternative. If I cannot simply write out the alternative here, I’ll at least link to sites/articles/books that will help out.

Sound like a plan? They do not go through a story a day. So this series will not be one right after another. Might be two weeks in between.

Paul’s Bones Confirmed…?

Apparently after some carbon dating showed fragments of bones were from the first or second century A.D., Pope Ratzinger declared

This seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that they are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul

While I’m not all that convinced, I’m also not all that concerned. What truly grasped my attention was the ancient fresco of Paul that was found:

On Saturday, the Vatican newspaper announced that a round fresco edged in gold featuring the emaciated face of St. Paul had been discovered in excavations of the tombs of St. Tecla in Rome. It was believed to have been dated from the end of the fourth century, making it the oldest known icon of St. Paul, meaning it was an image designed for prayer, not just art, L’Osservatore Romano said.

That is definitely intriguing news. Feel free to check out the rest of the article here.

Eddie’s History Book Wishlist, Summer 2009

The following are some books on my Amazon.com wishlist that have come out recently (in the past few years) that I’d love to get my hands on and be able to utilize. If the community would love to help me get a hold of any of these books, that would be greatly appreciated, and your name will be blessed to the seventh generation :-)

The Forge of Christendom

The Forge of Christendom

I first saw this book while leaving Barnes & Noble with my wife. The era from Charlemagne to the first crusade is gripping and a wealth of information to any history student (no matter what age). Many decisions were made during this time that greatly effected the direction church in the west would go. From Amazon.com,

If Y2K proved anticlimactic, the Y1K crisis—apocalyptic expectations surrounding the year 1000—had a lasting impact, argues this far-ranging, over-reaching history of medieval Europe. Holland (Persian Fire) surveys the two and a half centuries between the fragmenting of Charlemagne’s empire and the First Crusade, visiting milestones like the Norman conquest of England along with lesser invasions, raids, feudal vendettas, kidnappings and pope vs. antipope squabbles. He discerns movement amid the tumult and slaughter, as Catholic Europe went from anxious beleaguerment by the barbarians coming from every direction to confident expansionism. Holland’s thesis that it was the disappointment of millennial hopes that gave Christendom its new focus on worldly progress is weakly supported; he has a hard time showing that anyone besides churchmen thought about the approaching millennium. His greater theme is Catholicism’s civilizing mission: pagan foes are converted and co-opted, a new class of marauding knights is tamed by Church peace councils, and Pope Gregory VII’s defiance of Emperor Henry IV inaugurates church-state separation. Holland’s colorful, energetic narrative vividly captures the medieval mindset, while conveying the dynamism that underlay a seemingly static age.

German Peasants War and Anabaptist Community of Goods

German Peasants' War and Anabaptist Community of Goods

No introduction is necessary, really. While this book is a little outside the “published within the last few years” range (1994), this is nonetheless a book that will be very helpful to getting a better understanding of the development of certain Anabaptist practices/theology. From Amazon.com,

James Stayer argues that Anabaptist community of goods continued the popular radicalism of the early reformation and the peasants’ War of 1525. During the German reformation hundreds of thousands of commoners were mobilized by the hope that established clerical and aristocratic order could be replaced by justice and equity based on the divine law of the Bible. After the defeat of the commoners in the peasants’ war, some of the most ardent adherents of social and religious reform attempted to achieve these same aspirations by trying to implement the apostolic model of Acts 2 and 4 through the Anabaptists. Thus, as Stayer reveals, the peasants’ war was an essential formative experience for many of the original leaders of Anabaptism. In the late 1520s, persecution drove many Anabaptists to Moravia where, throughout the 16th century, they continued the commoners’ resistance to privilege in church and state. Stayer argues that in Munster, however, where there had been no peasants’ war and where urban notables were prominent in the Anabaptist leadership, Anabaptist communism was badly corrupted. The historical continuities which Stayer establishes between the peasants’ war and Anabaptism in Switzerland, south Germany, and Moravia can in part explain this contrast.

To Share in the Body

To Share in the Body

I’ve been waiting for a chance to read this one. Being a student of martyrdom, I think it’s very important to look at the theology of martyrdom today. From Amazon.com,

In modern-day America, it is hard for Christians to imagine ever dying for their faith. And yet in To Share in the Body, author Craig Hovey challenges Christians to view martyrdom not as relegated to the past or to remote parts of the world but rather as having profound implications for Christian witness today. By examining the Gospel of Mark’s recurring theme of martyrdom, Hovey argues that martyrdom is a critical aspect of the gospel and therefore crucial to how the church today remembers martyrs and understands Christian discipleship. Written by an up-and-coming theologian, To Share in the Body provides engaging theological reflection that will benefit not only scholars and students of theology but also anyone interested in understanding a biblical view of martyrdom. The book also includes a foreword by Samuel Wells.

The Later Reformation in England, 1547-1603

The Later Reformation in England, 1547-1603

The English Reformation was the event that chiefly shaped English identity well into the 20th century. It made the English kingdom a self-consciously Protestant state dominating the British Isles, and boasting an established Church that eventually developed a peculiar religious agenda, Anglicanism. Although Henry VIII triggered a break with the Pope in his eccentric quest to rid himself of an inconveniently loyal wife, the Reformation soon slipped from his control, and in the reigns of his Tudor successors, it developed a momentum that made it one of the success stories of European Protestantism. In this book, MacCulloch discusses the developing Reformation in England through the later Tudor reigns: Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. He provides a narrative of events, then discusses the ideas that shaped the English Reformation, and surveys the ways in which the English reacted to it, how far and quickly they accepted It, and assesses those who remained dissenters. This new edition is fully updated to take account of new material in the field that has appeared in the last decade.

And a few of others: The Sources of Swiss Anabaptism: The Grebel Letters and Related Documents; or the dynamic trio from Ben Witherington III Making a Meal of It: Rethinking the Theology of the Lord’s Supper, Troubled Waters: Rethinking the Theology of Baptism, and The Living Word of God: Rethinking the Theology of the Bible.

Forced conversion and the Christian life

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This is an older post I’m moving over here now. This stems from a story that occurred about two and a half years ago.

The two FOX News journalists kidnapped in Gaza on 14 August were released and spoke with their media brethren about their ordeal. During the interview they revealed the strong arm tactics their captors used to grant their release. From the FOX News article,

Both of the men were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint, Centanni said.

“We were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint,” Centanni told FOX News. “Don’t get me wrong here. I have the highest respect for Islam, and I learned a lot of good things about it, but it was something we felt we had to do because they had the guns, and we didn’t know what the hell was going on.”

The men were under great duress and decided to give their captors what they wanted in order to walk away with their lives. I have no clue what their religious persuasion or confession is. They could be Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist; unknown to me. But their actions are a wonderful example of what has played out in Christian history for as long as the Church has been stepping out into the hostile world.

In the early centuries of the Church, the body of Christ was badly beaten and bruised in persecution. We usually think of the ten major persecutions highlighted in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, from Nero through Diocletian; but their were far more than that, and actually began with Saul of Tarsus. Throughout Christian Persecution History are stories of Christians faced with the choice of denying Christ and praying, giving tribute, or offering a sacrifice, to some false gods or the genius of the emperor. The persecutors and executioners would press for them to convert or face death. Probably 99% of the time, a recantation or conversion garnered them freedom.

Then you have quite the dilemma that I have to work through almost on a daily basis in my studies on Christian martyrdom and persecution. What do you do with the lapsi? See, historically there are three categories a persecuted Christian fell under: martyr, confessor, or lapsed. The martyr was obviously the one who died for their confession of Christ. The confessor was someone who would not recant or offer a sacrifice but not be killed for it. They would usually be given a physical warning (e.g. eye taken out, hand cut off, beaten, etc) to also show everyone what happens to traitors and atheists (typical charges against Christians back then). But, still, they lived. The lapsed were people who (a) did something to give the impression they recanted, or (b) actually recanted or offered a sacrifice (many times, you did not have to deny Christ, only offer a sacrifice to a god or pray to the genius of the emperor; Christ could just be another one of the gods).

Before Arianism and Nicea, how you handled the lapsed coming back to the Church caused greater turmoil than any other issue in Christianity. Did you accept them back with open arms? Did you keep them out of fellowship because they denied and were ashamed of Christ? Did you give them some sort of probation? This was an intense dilemma that has to be dealt with even today. People vary on their attitude towards lapsed believers.

People also vary on on their attitude towards garnering freedom by any means in order to live on and preach the gospel of Christ versus denying Christ knowing death was an inevitable consequence. Some whole heartedly believe in doing everything you can to live. Living on and preaching the gospel or living the gospel is the most important thing to do. Saying words like “I deny Christ as God” or ” Jesus is not God or my Savior” or “Yes I will embrace Allah and his prophet Muhammed” is nothing but words. As long as it is only a ruse then you are alright. Others will call such an act disgraceful and shameful towards Christ. How strong is your faith? Do you really believe Christ is God and able to take care of you? Is your life more important than the name of Christ?

Consider this situation which undoubtedly happened more than you might initially think. Johnny was captured for being a Christian. When pressed and threatened, he lied about denying Christ and was set free. He went back to his hometown, and the next Sunday joined up with his fellow believers at Henry’s house. He goes on about how he got out of being punished by telling a little lie. He didn’t mean it when he denied the name and work of Christ. Now he is ready to do some underground mission work. You and everyone else is ready to accept him with open arms, except for someone you notice on the other side of the room: Helen. She is sitting there staring. Then you remember. She and her husband, Charles, were captured for being Christians. They were pressed and tortured and threatened. Charles did not recant or deny Christ, and he was killed. The authorities then turned to Helen, and though she would not recant either (ready and willing to die for her Savior), she was given her freedom. They slashed her eye as a sign to everyone of her being a criminal, and make her think a little more about this “Christ” life. There they both are: one happy to be alive, the other wondering why she still was. And you have a decision to make. That decision could be personal, but remember you are part of a community, a family. I am not trying to pull on heart strings to make you side a certain way, but to grasp the conundrum the Church has been in for centuries.

I wish I go go into this historic dilemma more, but it would take a work the size of a thesis to get into all sides and the implications. I tried to give you a quick summary (I hope it was not too confusing) and present something thought provoking. What would you do if you as a Christian were in the place of those journalists? Also, what would you do if someone from your local body was one of those journalists and came back to your church? Would they be lovingly accepted back with open arms, or would their be discipline of some kind? Or, would they be kept out of fellowship?

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