Showing posts in 'Recovering our Memory Series'

Recovering our memory: Hugh Latimer

Rachel Jones | May 21, 2014

Name: Hugh Latimer
When: 1485-1555
Where: England

So What?

Latimer was one of the first generation of English Protestants; a zealous evangelistic speaker, he’s sometimes credited as the best preacher of 16th century England. These days, however, he’s probably best known for being martyr who was burnt at the stake for his faith.

What’s encouraging is how “ordinary” his journey to faith sounds. While initially holding to the orthodox Catholic doctrines of the day, he was gradually won over to Reformed ideas under the spiritual influence of Thomas Bilney, who befriended Latimer and came to him as his priest to give confession. Latimer later reflected: “by his confession I learned more than in twenty years before”. Latimer become part of a group of men who met at the White Horse Inn in Cambridge to discuss the ideas of the German reformer Martin Luther—the group even earned the nickname “little Germany”.... continue reading

Recovering our memory: Martin Luther

Rachel Jones | May 14, 2014

Name: Martin Luther
When: 1483-1546
Where: Wittenberg, Germany

So what?

Much can be, and has been, written about Luther. So let this be a rough guide for the uninitiated. Martin Luther was a German monk, pastor, writer, theologian and lecturer at the University of Wittenberg. When Luther was a young man, there was only one church in Western Europe—the Roman Catholic Church—and Luther didn’t originally intend to leave it or split it apart. But what started as Luther’s indignation at the vulgar selling of indulgences (a kind of ticket to heaven) grew into a “reformed” theology that proved profoundly incompatible with Catholicism.

Luther did a lot of influential writing, speaking and preaching—and not all of it praiseworthy. But the key ideas that fuelled the Reformation can be bluntly summarised as follows:... continue reading

Recovering our memory: Peter Lombard

Rachel Jones | May 7, 2014

Name: Peter Lombard
When: c. 1100-1160
Where: Born in northern Italy, later lived in Paris

So What?

While you might be forgiven for thinking of Wayne Grudem as the father of systematic theology, Peter Lombard was around considerably earlier. Lombard was a theologian who studied and taught in Paris. His most influential theological work was his Four Books of Sentences (sentences means “opinions”), a sort of systematic theology. The four books were on:

  1. The Trinity and providence
  2. Creation, sin and grace
  3. The incarnation of Jesus, salvation and moral virtues
  4. The sacraments and the end times

The sentences were a collection of teachings on different aspects of Christian doctrine. First, Lombard would state the church’s official teaching, quote relevant passages of Scripture, and then give the opinions of the early church fathers. Finally, he discussed any apparent contradictions, using logic to resolve them. Although little of Lombard’s theology was new, what was novel was the way he marshalled the different arguments together and interacted with them before making a judgement. Sentences became a standard textbook for all students of theology; for instance, John Calvin quoted it over 100 times in his Institutes.... continue reading

Recovering our memory: Leo the great

Rachel Jones | Apr 30, 2014

Name: Pope Leo the Great
When: Pope from 440-461
Where: Rome, Italy

So what?

Leo I was Pope from 440-461—but what made Leo “great”? For one thing, he made some pretty “great” claims for the power of the papacy; he believed himself, as Pope, to be Saint Peter’s direct successor and invested with his power. But by many accounts he was also a fine preacher and a terrific theologian.

And this was a period of church history when theology was fiercely fought over. At the time, the church was divided over Christology, the theology of the nature of Jesus. How could he be fully human and fully divine at the same time?... continue reading

Recovering our memory: John Calvin

Carl Laferton | Aug 27, 2013

Who: John Calvin
When: 1509-1564
Where: Geneva, Switzerland

So what?

John Calvin is the Marmite of church history – people tend either to love him or hate him. The bare facts are: he was brought up a French Catholic… studied to become a priest and then a lawyer in Paris… became a convinced Protestant… wrote a letter to the King of France to defend Protestants from the charge of being rebels, and attached to it a book about Protestant doctrine (the famous Institutes)… and ended up as a pastor in Geneva with some influence, then great influence, over the church in that city-state.

Here are a few facts you may not know, or false truths you thought you knew, about Calvin.... continue reading

Recovering our memory: Cranmer

Carl Laferton | Aug 20, 2013

Who: Thomas Cranmer
When: 1489 – 1556
Where: Archbishop of Canterbury

So what?

There is very little about the Anglican Church—its offical theology, its rhythms of worship, its relationship to the monarch—that Cranmer didn’t have a hand in. He was integral to King Henry VIII’s efforts to get a divorce from his first wife, so that he could marry Anne Boleyn, who he hoped would give him a son and heir (she didn’t manage the first, but kind of achieved the second—her daughter was Elizabeth I). He became Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry and then Edward VI, and having slowly moved to committed Protestantism himself, he slowly moved England in the same direction: very cautiously under Henry (who was a Catholic who didn’t like the Pope), then quite quickly under Edward (a convinced Protestant, the son of Henry’s third wife).... continue reading

Recovering our memory: Constantine

Carl Laferton | Aug 13, 2013

Who: Constantine

When: Ruled 312-337

Where: Emperor of western half of the Roman Empire; then Emperor of the whole empire

So what?

Constantine’s conversion probably had a greater impact on the church, and history, than any conversion since Paul’s. Until Constantine became a Christian, and then (almost immediately) became Western Emperor, the church had, other than in Armenia, never existed under a state which had a Christian head. Roman policy until this point had veered between uneasy toleration and horrific persecution.... continue reading

Recovering our memory: Cyril of Alexandria

Carl Laferton | Aug 8, 2013

Name: Cyril of Alexandria
When: c. 376 – 444
Where: Patriarch of Alexandria in Egypt

So what?

Cyril was at the centre of one of the most complicated debates in the history of the Church. Previous generations had established that the man Jesus was the divine Son of God. But now the difficulty was: in what sense was Jesus both human and divine? It’s actually a hard question to answer when you think about it!

In Cyril’s time, there were two basic camps, with two extreme wings in each camp:

  • Antiochenes were very keen to teach that Jesus was completely human (with a human mind) and completely divine (with a divine mind). He had two natures. In fact, they sometimes made it sound like there were two Jesuses – the divine one, and the human one.
  • Nestorians pushed this further, and said – to put it slightly crudely – that within one body was two people, totally separate.

Recovering our memory: John Chrysostom

Carl Laferton | Jul 30, 2013

Name: John Chrysostom
When: c. 347–407
Where: Bishop of Constantinople (in modern-day Turkey)

So what?

Imagine your perfect evangelical preacher. What do you have? Rigorously Biblecentred, preaching the text carefully, verse by verse? Tick. Eloquent and moving oratory? Tick. Deep understanding of current culture, and able to show how God’s word speaks into it? Tick. Challenging application, continually exhorting you to live out your faith and to use any wealth you have unselfishly? Tick. An uncompromising refusal to be influenced by the powerful? Tick. A determination to teach the truth, whatever the consequences? Tick.

Who have you got? Basically, John Chrysostom. John’s preaching was famous throughout Christendom; first in Antioch (in modern Syria), where he was born, and then in Constantinople, where he was bishop.... continue reading

Recovering our memory: Aquinas

Carl Laferton | Dec 7, 2012

Name: Aquinas
When: 1225-74
Where: All over the place! Born near Naples; taught in Paris; part of a travelling teaching college in Italy.

So what?

Thomas Aquinas (his theology is called “Thomism”) is often held up as epitomizing everything that was wrong with pre Reformation Catholicism. This is slightly unfair—while Aquinas was a product of his times, holding to and teaching several doctrines evangelicals today would strongly refute; and while many of those teachings have been developed and cemented as key beliefs of Roman Catholicism today; it’s wise not to throw the theological baby out with the bathwater. Perhaps Aquinas is a reminder not to read any great theologian either over-critically or under-critically. “Aquinas said it” does not clinch a doctrine’s falsehood any more than “Calvin/Luther/Edwards/Stott said it” clinches its truth!... continue reading

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