From the Dean

News items, published articles, and reading recommendations from Dean Timothy George




The Dean Recommends: An Interview with Sinclair Ferguson

By Chris Larson

March 10, 2008

We recently interviewed Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, author of In Christ Alone (Reformation Trust Publishing, 2007) and speaker at this week’s 2008 National Conference:

You begin your book In Christ Alone with a poetic treatment of a passage from John Calvin’s Institutes. Many folks have a view of Calvin that he was cold, stern, and rigid. Yet, you clearly appreciate Calvin’s contribution to the everyday Christian life. In every chapter, your book exudes a practical and passionate view of the Christian life. Has Calvin been misunderstood?

I think you are right in suggesting that Calvin’s reputation gives a very lop-sided view of the man. In some respects he was “stern.” (I think I would be if I suffered from as many serious illnesses as he did.) He was always in earnest about spiritual things. But the passage I re-translated from his Institutes is a piece of prose that sings like poetry and really does underline that — like many serious, even “stern” people — he had a poetic spirit, born out of his love for Christ.

We need to remember that Calvin was a man who, in his early twenties, knew that his life was forfeit because of his Gospel convictions. He was on the run! In his mid-twenties he was already a significant author and theologian, having spent much of the second half of his life training young people for a life of cross-bearing consecration and even martyrdom. I have never forgotten a Korean doctoral student I once had who began a seminar on Calvin’s teaching on “Life under the Cross” by saying: “I am so grateful for the opportunity to have studied these chapters. They have helped me understand my grandfather. You see, he was a martyr.” Actually, in my own view probably no theologian has understood the deep humanity of the Lord Jesus better than Calvin. It seems to me that is often the measure not only of a man’s mind, but also of his heart.

In your view, what are the most horrific ways in which people misrepresent the person and work of Christ?


Well, “horrific” is fairly strong language. But perhaps an illustration will help. Many years ago there was a scholarly movement that became known as “The Quest for the Historical Jesus.” Scholars said “Let’s try to get behind the Gospels to find out who Jesus really was and what He was really like.” So they took bits and pieces of the Gospel testimony and made a picture of Christ. One of the shrewdest things said about this movement was that these scholars were like people looking down a well to find Jesus not realizing that the “Jesus” they saw was really just their own reflection in the water at the bottom of the well!

Sometimes I feel this is actually what has happened in popular evangelicalism. Our “jesus” is actually a reflection of ourselves. This is the constant danger. We simply don’t open the Scriptures and listen to their testimony about Jesus. We make a “jesus” in our own image, usually domesticated. Sadly, much that dominates the Christian media seems to fall foul here. Any Jesus who isn’t Savior and Lord, Sacrificial Lamb of God and Reigning King, cannot be the Jesus of the Gospels. Any Jesus who does not call us to radical, sacrificial, and yes, painful, discipleship, cannot be the real Jesus. Read the rest at Ligonier Ministries.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Wednesday, May 4, 2016
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Puritans on the Potomac

By Timothy George

May 2, 2016

 

On a late November evening in 1867, two years after the end of the American Civil War, Celestia Ferris, chief washer-woman at the Bureau of Engraving, organized a prayer meeting not far from the U. S. Capitol. She was joined by a circle of earnest Christians, mostly of the Baptist persuasion, who prayed that a new church would be gathered in their community. At the time, there was no church of any denomination in the northeast quarter of Washington, D. C. In 1878, their prayer was answered when thirty-one members joined to form the Metropolitan Baptist Church, so called from Spurgeon’s famous Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, which at the time was one of the most famous Protestant churches in the world.

During the first half of the twentieth century, the church grew steadily and reached a membership high in the thousands during the 1950s. Then, plagued by erratic leadership, the church began a spiraling decline not unlike many other urban congregations at the time. By the early 1990s, attendance hovered around one hundred people, one of whom was the famous evangelical theologian Carl F. H. Henry. Henry suggested that the church consider as its next pastor Mark Edward Dever, a somewhat brash but brilliant American student just then completing his Ph.D. at Cambridge University. (Full disclosure: Mark Dever was once my student, and I preached at his pastoral installation in 1994).

To reverse the fortunes of a flagging downtown congregation required skill, pluck, and some sanctified grit. Dever had all of these, but he also put in place a strategy that most church growth gurus would have deplored. For example, he began to preach sermons that lasted upwards of one hour. Next, the church excised from its rolls hundreds of inactive members—some so inactive that they had long been dead! The practice of church discipline was begun. Members were also required to subscribe to a confession of faith and to say “an oath”—this is how a secular journalist described the church covenant—at the monthly communion. Entertainment-based worship was replaced by congregational singing, including many long-forgotten classic hymns from the past. Instead of driving people away, however, over time this approach to church life—to the surprise of many—attracted droves of new believers, many of them millennials and young professionals. Today, the average age of members at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (as Metropolitan is now known) is thirty-one, and the place is bursting at the seams, with standing room only on Sunday mornings. Read the rest at First Things.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Monday, May 2, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: Rome’s Trevi fountain to turn red for new Christian martyrs

By Catholic News Agency

April 20, 2016

 

On April 29, the Trevi Fountain, one of the most popular and emblematic tourist spots in Rome, will be dyed red in recognition of all Christians who even today give their life for the faith.

The event is being organized by Aid to the Church in Need and seeks to “call attention to the drama of anti-Christian persecution.”

In a statement posted on their website, the aid group said they hope this initiative will be “the start of a long lasting, concrete reaction everywhere so that the persecuted people of the 21st century can as soon as possible return to fully enjoying their natural right to religious freedom.”

The organizers added that “the systematic violation of the right to religious freedom, especially that of Christians, must become the central issue of the public debate.” Read the rest at Crux.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Friday, April 29, 2016
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