• What books by the Puritans should I read? Question and Answer

    The first is by Jeremiah Burroughs: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. If there is something we need in the twenty-first century, it’s contentment. We are bored, yet we have more stuff than we’ve ever had. We complain, yet we have more stuff than kings have had in previous centuries. I do this. I complain. We need to learn the rare jewel of Christian contentment. So, go with Burroughs, and while you are at Burroughs, go ahead and read Gospel Worship—it’s a great book. R.C. was a big fan of Burroughs, so he would’ve recommended Burroughs. A second would be … View Resource

  • Which Old Testament translation did Calvin use? Question and Answer

    The Reformers all knew Greek very well. Not all of them knew Hebrew as well, but Calvin knew Hebrew. Something we miss sometimes is that Calvin spent time at Strasbourg. Strasbourg was the home of probably the best exegesis that was happening during the time of the Reformation. The Hebrew work that underlies Luther’s work—in terms of the scholarship and Hebrew grammars—was coming out of Strasbourg. This is also true of the city of Basel, and Calvin spent time there. So Calvin knew his Hebrew, and he knew his Greek. You see him using his Hebrew in his Old Testament … View Resource

  • Does God elect His people to salvation based on any condition they have met? Question and Answer

    Deuteronomy 7:7

    No. It’s totally a mystery in God’s love. Here’s the beautiful thing: go to Deuteronomy, and go to chapter 6, chapter 7, and chapter 10, and look at God’s election of Israel. At one point God says, “I did not choose you because you were the greatest of all the nations, for you were the least” (Deut. 7:7). If I was God, I would have chosen Egypt, because then you’ve got a superpower and you already have a leg up to conquer the world with your religion, right? Israel is a tiny sliver of land between massive nation-states. At one … View Resource

  • Who was Charles Finney? Question and Answer

    Charles Grandison Finney was the figure of the Second Great Awakening. He started off Presbyterian, but he was an odd Presbyterian because he did not like the Westminster Standards. He ended up moving away from Presbyterianism. In Rochester, New York, there was, all of a sudden, a booming population. Finney went there and started preaching, resulting in massive conversions. He moved to New York City and there were also massive conversions. He finished his life as president of Oberlin College in Ohio and was the main figure of the Second Great Awakening. He also introduced what are called “the new … View Resource

  • How was the gospel lost prior to its rediscovery in the Reformation? Question and Answer

    NICHOLS: It shouldn’t surprise us that, in the sixteenth century, the gospel was obscured. We see this in the first century. We see it in Paul’s churches. In his epistle to the Galatians, he’s astounded that they were entertaining a different gospel (Gal. 1:6), then he quickly adds that it’s a false gospel. If we see it in the first century, in the churches of the Apostles themselves, then it really shouldn’t surprise us that there’s a temptation in every generation to “improve” upon God’s gospel or obscure it. In the sixteenth century, we found ourselves with the need to … View Resource

  • What characteristic of Martin Luther made him effective as God’s instrument to reform the church? Question and Answer

    Isaiah 6:5

    SPROUL: Luther was a beggar who found where he could get bread and told everybody who would listen to him. How can a guy stand against the whole world like he did? The only way to understand that is to get into his personal struggle with his lack of assurance of salvation, with his violent search for justification in the presence of a Holy God, and visit with him in his utter despair. Luther understood who Luther was. And that’s our problem. We don’t understand who God is, and we don’t understand who we are. It’s like Isaiah in chapter … View Resource

  • How should we respond to those who say that the Reformation no longer matters? Question and Answer

    SPROUL: One noted British theologian has made the comment in print that the issues of the sixteenth century aren’t the issues anymore today, that all of a sudden the division has been healed, that Rome doesn’t teach indulgences anymore, and that it doesn’t have a treasury merit anymore. What are they thinking? What are they reading? Read the Catholic Catechism of the 1990s and see whether there’s any treasury of merit, indulgences, and the rest. If anything, the issues are greater today, partly because of the impact of nineteenth-century liberal Protestantism. If anything has moved the gospel back in the … View Resource

  • How did the Reformers and Puritans view Christian piety? Question and Answer

    NICHOLS: Sometimes the Puritans are seen as overly zealous in their piety. We have this understanding of introspection associated with the Puritans. We have these urban legends of the Puritans with four-hour sermons and we hear, “Why can’t you sit there for thirty minutes?” Or we say things like, “The Puritans would pray for hours on end, and I can’t even pray for five minutes in the morning.” J.I. Packer called the Puritans “the redwoods of the forest.” So, we have this image of the Puritans as almost super-Christians. One thing we’ve got to be aware of is how they … View Resource

  • What do you think about emotional sensationalism in the modern church? Question and Answer

    NICHOLS: First of all, God made us whole people—we’re not just brains. We’re not just rational. So we’ve got to resist the urge to reject something just because we hear “emotional” or “sensational.” You have to realize that God made us as persons with valid emotions. We see valid emotional expression in the pages of Scripture. We see depression and sadness, and we see how the psalmist or the prophet will take that to God. We see joy and elation in the text, and we see how that comes into worship. So let’s not just have a knee-jerk reaction and … View Resource

  • Is it true that God “loves the sinner but hates the sin”? Question and Answer

    Malachi 1:2-3

    You hear this statement all the time. It comes under the category of us trying to help out God. There are elements of the revelation of God that are difficult for us to take. One of these is anytime we associate the word “hate” with God. It’s hard for us to do that, but we have it in Scripture. This idea that God hates the sin but loves the sinner is contrary to two Psalms (Pss. 5:5; 11:5) and the opening verses of the book of Malachi: “Esau have I hated, Jacob have I loved” (Mal. 1:2–3). We have to … View Resource

  • Who was Zwingli, and what was his impact on the Reformation? Question and Answer

    I love when someone brings up Zwingli. He is sometimes a forgotten Reformer. He’s at Zürich, and if you’ve seen any spy movies, Zürich is always in the storyline. Zwingli’s career as a Reformer spans about ten years, and he’s being worked on throughout that period. He’s a student at Basel when Erasmus is putting together the Greek text, and he’s likely helping in the production of the Greek New Testament in 1516. He takes a copy of the Greek text with him to his first parish priest job, which was a shrine. It was full of people coming to … View Resource

  • Who was Martin Bucer? Question and Answer

    Bucer was one of the Reformers. He was such a star on the continent, and he got invited over to Cambridge during the time of the young Edward VI, who was a godly young king in between Henry and Queen Mary. Under his reign, the Reformation flourished. So Bucer was invited over to Cambridge. Another interesting thing about Bucer is that his wife married four times. She was widowed three times. He was the fourth husband to Wibrandis, so sometimes she’s called the bride of the Reformation. Bucer was a brilliant scholar. But once he got to Cambridge, the water … View Resource

  • What are your favorite classic works throughout church history? Question and Answer

    You could have one for every century. I only have ninety seconds, so we’ll skip a few centuries. In the early church, I love the Martyrdom of Polycarp, which is a second-century text. It gives us fresh insight into what was happening in the church at that time. It helps us think about what it means to be a Christian in a culture that is hostile to Christianity. The Martyrdom of Polycarp is the first stop. Then we’ll skip a bit to the 400’s. We’ll pick up Augustine’s Confessions and Leo’s Tome. A “tome” is a big book, but Leo’s … View Resource

  • Can we trust the writings of the early church to have sound theology? Question and Answer

    The early church is interesting because of its proximity to the New Testament, but this does not mean it’s always right. There is an assumption that the closer you get to the source, the more pure it is, but that’s not necessarily the case. There are a lot of danger zones in the early church. Having said that, we’ve got to be very grateful for the main areas where the early church helps us, such as canon development, the Christological controversies (which spill over into the Trinitarian heresies), and giving us a solid understanding of how the Scriptures came together … View Resource

  • How would you describe the majesty of God? Question and Answer

    The psalmist says, “God dwells in light inaccessible.” We can use any word. I remember talking to R.C. about this and he said, “You know, the word I used was ‘holiness,’ but there are a lot of words we can use—‘glory,’ ‘transcendence,’ ‘majesty.’” What we’re talking about here is the God-ness of God. It’s an awkward expression. This is the most perfect Being, God. There’s a sense in which He has revealed Himself and we know who He is. We know who He is in the full complex of His attributes, in His works, and in His decrees, but there’s … View Resource