Month: May 2018

The History of the Doctrine of God, Part 1

God is infinite, transcendent, and unfathomable. On this episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Dr. James Dolezal joins Dr. Stephen Nichols in the studio to discuss the greatness of God.

Augustus Caesar

Augustus Caesar ruled at the time of the birth of Christ and lived from 63 BC to AD 14. He was the first Roman emperor to use a particular title, and it was in fact his favorite title. In Latin, the title is Divi filius, or “son of a god.”

Augustus was the adopted son of Julius Caesar. One of Julius Caesar’s favorite titles was “Divine Julius.” He considered himself to be descended from the gods, and a god on earth. Augustus, when he officially became part of Julius Caesar’s family through adoption, took on the title Divi filius, “son of a god.”

Augustus also set up statues of himself throughout the Roman Empire. In fact, because of the limitations of travel in that day, many more people would have seen his statues and images than would have seen him.

The most famous statue of Augustus had certain characteristics, and it gave birth to a popular style of statute representing him. He had the original statue commissioned while he was middle-aged, but it is an image of him as a young man with ideal proportions. In this style of statue, he’s perpetually youthful and perfect. Also, his feet are bare. Such a representation was only used in the depiction of gods and goddesses, so the statue connects him to the gods of the Roman pantheon.

In these statues, Augustus is also dressed in military garb, and his arm is raised up, as if he is addressing the people. He is represented as their leader, as their victorious military leader, who is leading Rome through all its military endeavors, exploits, and pursuits.

At his right leg, on many of these statues, there is a Cupid riding a dolphin. Now, there’s a double image here. The dolphin represents his victories at sea, and the Cupid represents Venus. It’s a way of signifying that Augustus was descended from the goddess Venus herself.

On his breastplate are figures that signify all of the countries that he had conquered and had brought into the empire, and it represents what we speak of in reference to the Pax Romana, or “peace of Rome.” The unification of various tribes and nations into one people throughout the Roman world was all brought about by Augustus.

One of the famous altars associated with Augustus can be seen today in Berlin at the Pergamon Museum, constructed in 1930. Of course, the foundation of the altar is in Pergamum, but it was moved to Berlin. It was constructed before the time of Augustus Caesar, sometime between BC 150 to BC 100, but blocks, an altar, and a statue of Augustus were later added to it.

On that altar is Augustus’ favorite title, Divi filius. We also find graffiti on the altar’s block and around the title. You might remember that Pergamum was one of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2–3. It’s the northernmost of the seven churches in Asia Minor. In the early Byzantine period, as that area was Christianized, someone put two lines of graffiti on the title Divi filius in the symbol of the cross. So, while Augustus Caesar thought he was the son of god on Earth, he was not. It was, in fact, that baby who was born in a manger during his reign. Jesus Christ alone is the Son of God.

Adoniram Judson

Adoniram Judson was America’s pioneer Baptist missionary. Today, we are going to look at his life through the lens of five trips. Now, the final three of these five trips are literal trips, but the first two are metaphorical trips. The first, sadly enough, is Judson’s journey to atheism.

Judson was born into the home of a Congregationalist minister in Malden, Massachusetts on August 9th, 1788. As a young man, he evidenced a significant intelligence and ability to learn languages. By the time he was ten, he was reading in Latin and Greek. He was sent off to then Rhode Island College—now we call it Brown University—and he graduated as the valedictorian at Brown at the age of twenty.

It was while he was at Brown, however, that he drifted from his father’s religion and the Congregationalism that he grew up with to deism. From deism, he drifted into atheism. That’s his first journey, his journey to atheism.

His second journey is his trip away from atheism and back to theism, to a once-again, solid belief in God. It all happened one night as Adoniram was traveling. He came across an inn, and he wanted lodging. So, he knocked on the door and went in and found the innkeeper, and the innkeeper informed him that there was only one room available, and the innkeeper thought, in the interest of full disclosure, that he should tell them that the room was next to a man that was very ill. Judson said, “I’ll take the room. Death has no terrors for me, you see, I’m an atheist.”

Well, it turned out to be a long night for Adoniram Judson. The man next to him groaned literally on the doorstep of death all night long, and in the morning, the man in fact died. When Judson inquired as to who the man was, it turned out it was his college friend, Jacob Eames, and Eames was the very one who influenced Judson to be a deist. This shook Judson to the very core of his being, and he realized that he was lost and that death was not something he would bravely take on. Remember, he had said, “Death has no terrors for me,” but he was literally scared to death of death. After that night at the inn, as he was traveling on the way, he stopped right at the side of the road, repented of his disbelief, and turned to God.

Three months later, he would write in his journal, “This day, I made a solemn dedication of my life to God,” and that’s what Judson did. He went on to seminary, and he would become a missionary. He was one of the pioneer missionaries to leave from America. He took a trip, and this is his third trip now, his trip to Calcutta, and this was a literal trip on a literal boat. When he arrived in Calcutta, he came under the influence of William Carey, and he learned from William Carey, observing his life.

This leads us to Judson’s fourth journey, that is, his trip to Burma. It was in Burma where Judson would begin his own work as a missionary. He started, of course, with translating God’s Word into the language of the people. It was a bad time to be in Burma. There was a war between the British and the Burmese, and Judson was suspected to be a spy for the British. He was thrown into prison for seventeen months. The Burmese realized they needed him for his ability as a translator for treaty negotiations, and so they released him.

That brings us to our fifth and final trip, the final journey. He died aboard a ship on April 12, 1850, and he was buried at sea. He died at the age of sixty-one, and he spent thirty-seven of his sixty-one years on the mission field. Those are the five journeys of Adoniram Judson, America’s pioneer Baptist missionary.

Daniel Payne

During the years surrounding the Civil War, Daniel Payne devoted his life to educating African-American ministers. On this episode, Dr. Stephen Nichols takes us back to 1830 when Payne founded his first school.

The Most Important Thing to the Reformers, Part 2

Stephen Nichols (SN): Today, I’m joined by Dr. Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey. We’re going to finish the conversation we started last week, just as I promised. Gentlemen, welcome back.

Mark Earngey (ME): Thank you very much.

Jonathan Gibson (JG): Good to be here again.

SN: It’s great to have you, not only because you both have accents, but because of this wonderful book, Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present. Last week, we ended the program talking about the role of a Word-centered worship with the Reformers. Now, I mentioned, as you look at the table of contents of this book, there are a lot of the usual suspects showing up from the Reformation in here. There are some names in the table of contents that some of our listeners might not know. So, tell us about one of these figures that we might not know but should know.

ME: We have Johannes Oecolampadius, with whom some of us are more familiar, and others of us should be familiar with. He was a really important Reformer from Basel, who wrote two liturgies that we’ve translated into English, I believe, for the first time. As you read these liturgies, not only do you get a feel for how Word based and Christ centered they are, but you get feel for the thought and care that crafted these liturgies. We spend a little bit of time introducing the liturgy in our book, explaining how Oecolampadius has had an influence on other Reformers, such as John Calvin, Heinrich Bullinger, and others. I think his influence can be seen in the liturgies that are in this book, that there’s a wonderful cross-pollination of liturgies. You’ll find the obscure people, perhaps whom you haven’t thought about, having profound influence on our worship in the Reformed tradition.

SN: There’s a Polish Reformer in here. Tell us about him.

ME: Johannes Alasco is an incredibly significant Reformer. He was a Catholic bishop, who became an evangelical, served the Lord Jesus in East Friesland and then came to England. He was brought to England by Thomas Cranmer during the English Reformation. He was the superintendent of the so-called Stranger Churches, the foreigner churches that Cranmer had set up in London for exiles from Continental Europe. There was a Dutch congregation, French congregations, and an Italian congregation; and Johannes Alasco was the bishop, or the superintendent, of those congregations. He was a hugely significant figure among the Reformers. He had connections with Bullinger, corresponded with Calvin, was used by Cranmer, and had a great impact on John Knox, among others—a really important figure.

SN: Thank you for not only bringing him to our attention, but also this great work of his liturgies. Dr. Gibson, let me ask you a question as we close out our conversation. You’re a professor of Old Testament. When we think of the Old Testament, we can’t help but think of the worship of a holy God. How did that influence the Reformers?

JG: Very much so. They viewed worship as vertical, primarily, rather than horizontal. Of course, they agreed that all worship that we do together in a corporate setting has edifying ramifications for us, but ultimately, they believe that God had made us as creatures made in His image. We were made to worship Him and enjoy Him forever. One of the ways we do that is that on the Lord’s Day we meet together to exalt Him and speak of what He is worth and why He is worthy of praise, thanks, and glory.

JG: So, as you read these liturgies, you see numerous things, but one of the things is just how God centered they are, and expanding on that, just how Trinitarian they are. Often, the prayers in nearly all of the liturgies will end with a Trinitarian formula: “Through Jesus Christ our Lord, your only Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever praised, world without end, Amen.” Reformation worship has a beautiful God-centeredness to it, and it’s hard to get away from it as you read these liturgies.

SN: Thank you, gentlemen, and thank you for this book, Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present.