Tom Carson Defending Freedom of Religion

Theologian D. A. Carson wrote a memoir about his father (Canadian Baptist pastor Tom Carson) and recounts how he stood up for religious freedom:

“there was a rather celebrated court case in Montreal against some Jehovah’s Witnesses. A great deal of public opinion had been stirred up against them. Tom wrote to the editorial page of The Montreal Star supporting the constitutional right of the Witnesses to freedom of religion. Tom had worked out the separation of church and state to his own satisfaction, and he saw that however much he disliked the theology of the Witnesses, defense of their freedom was part and parcel of the defense of freedom of all religious persons. His letter was picked up by the national press and printed across the country.” – D. A. Carson, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 44.

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“An Eloquence in Nature’s Voice” The Pastor-Poet S. Dryden Phelps (1816-1895)

As an offshoot” of my research on J. Newton Brown, I’ve been doing some research on the 19th century Connecticut Baptist poet, hymn writer, travel-writer, and pastor, S. Dryden Phelps. I’ve posted a draft of a paper I’ve written on him, “An Eloquence in Nature’s Voice”: The Pastor-Poet S. Dryden Phelps (1816-1895). It’s just over 30 pages and probably needs some more work, however I think it is dealing with a neglected figure who is worth exploring.

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S. D. Phelps: Travel Writing to the Glory of God

I am doing some research on the Connecticut Baptist Sylvanus Dryden Phelps. I hope to complete a paper on him some day, but in the mean time here is a shorter, more informal preview S. D. Phelps: Travel Writing to the Glory of God over at Kuyperian Commentary.

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Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom

22216201A Review of Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom by Carl R. Trueman

This is now the third book I’ve read in the “Theologians on the Christian life” series by Crossway, edited by Justin Taylor and Stephen J. Nicholls. The author, Carl Trueman (apparently not related to the other Mr. Trueman, the jailor in John Bunyan’s Holy War), is perhaps the Reformed/Presbyterian community’s “resident Luther expert.”

Though I will freely grant his importance as a Reformer and influence on Western Christianity and I respect him as “the father of Protestantism,” for whatever reason I’ve rarely found myself excited to read a book by or about Martin Luther. But I have an inability to say no to books that call my name, so alas, here I go.

This book has a different flavor than the other two I’ve read. Certainly there is less of a popular feel to it, and it gets into more involved areas of theology and ecclesiology to an extent which I haven’t seen in other books in this series. Trueman’s command of his subject shines through a bit more brightly than Nicholls on Bonhoeffer or Ortlund on Edwards. Though Ortlund and Nicholls’ books have some areas of strength comparatively speaking, Trueman generally handles his subject in a way that instills more confidence in the accuracy and evenness of the portrayal.

Trueman paints Luther skilfully and fairly. I especially appreciated Trueman’s discussion of humor in the conclusionand also the section where he speaks about the misunderstanding of Luther’s teaching on sanctification. I also found the discussion of “anfechtungen” to be surprisingly lucid.

I can’t say that Trueman has “blown me away” with this book, either. On the negative side, I feel like he sort of got bogged down in discussing historical aspects of Luther’s views and practices on liturgy and the sacraments. I’m not saying that these things aren’t relevant. They clearly are. However, I feel like they sort of crowded out other aspects that may have been slightly underdeveloped. It seems that he was just sort of rushing to fit in vocation, marriage, children,  etc.

That said, though, Trueman has delivered a solid presentation on what we can learn from Martin Luther on the Christian life. It is detailed, well-organized, conveys enthusiasm, interesting, and useful. What more can we ask for? It is a profitable read and well worth taking the time to work through.

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The Scriptures as “High Art”

“The Holy Ghost in penning the Scriptures delights himself, not only with propriety, but with a delicacy, and a harmony, and melody of language; with height of Metaphors, and other figures, which may work greater impressions upon the Readers” – John Donne

“Let us pay attention to the style of Isaiah which is not only pure and elegant, but also is ornamented with high art–from which we may learn that eloquence may be of great service to faith.” – John Calvin

“the Bible is filled with every manner of literary device to add natural impact: acrostics, alliteration, analogies, anthropomorphism, assonance, cadence, chiasmus, consonance, dialogue, hyperbole, irony, metaphor, meter, onomatopoeia, paradox, parallelism, repetition, rhyme, satire, simile–they’re all there, and more.” – John Piper

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Books Finished in March

(4 paper books, 2 ebooks, 2 audio books)

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“The Slavs” According To An Early 1900s Canadian Immigration Booklet

It is rather fascinating to see the following assessment of my ethnic heritage (Slavic, Serbian) in a 
immigration-related publication of the Baptist Home Mission Board of Ontario and Quebec:

"The Slav is rugged in physique, docile in temper, and is a much sought workman. But he is lacking in initiative and 
enterprise for he does his work in the same manner as his forefathers a hundred years 
ago. He fails in sustained effort, shrinks from overcoming obstacles, and has no desire to meet the perils of the 
sea. He is slow of intellect, sometimes economizes the truth, and is apt to be intemperate...To offset these and other 
defects he has a genius for expressing his soul in art. All Slavs love music.....The Servians [Serbians] are of a low 
grade of civilization and the most backward of all the Balkan peoples" - C. J. Cameron, Foreigners or Canadians? (The Standard Publishing Company, 1913)

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Totalitarian Ecumenicity

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I grew up and became a Christian in an Anabaptist sect which was known in Eastern Europe as the “Nazarenes” and Western Europe as the “Evangelical Baptists”. They have been classified as the first Protestants in Serbia, though neo-protestant may be a slightly more accurate description. My forefathers on both sides of my family left the Serbian Orthodox Church for the Nazarene faith.

Due to their Anabaptist beliefs, the Nazarenes were persecuted in Serbia. The Nazarenes grew rapidly in Serbia. So much so that in 1887, a bit of an “ecumenical council” was called to address the issue. It consisted of 14 Serbian Orthodox priests, 1 Roman Catholic priest, 6 Lutheran pastors, and 2 Reformed pastors.

Obviously, this council would agree on little theologically, however what they could and did agree on was to send a petition to the Serbian government asking it to enforce some laws on its books, laws which restricted religious freedom. The laws classified the Nazarenes as an “unrecognized” sect. The implication of this classification was that it was (a) illegal to become a Nazarene, and (b) it was illegal for Nazarenes to get married.

See Branko Bjelejac, “Protestantism in Serbia”, Religion, State & Society 30:3 (2002), 176.

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