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All articles in category Historical

September 2017
Articles > Historical

Lutheran literature begins to be smuggled into England

By 1520, Lutheran literature was being smuggled into the country. There were important commercial links between England and the north German ports and, under cover of lawful trade, ‘heretical’ books were coming in. These teachings were being discussed in London, and also among students at Oxford and Cambridge. At Cambridge, unofficial meetings in the White Horse Inn were significant enough for the inn to be nicknamed ‘Little Germany’. John Foxe, who reported these unofficial meetings, is rather vague as to dates, but certainly there was a holocaust of Lutheran literature at Cambridge at the end of 1520, and an even greater one during May 1521 in London presided over by Cardinal Wolsey. The situation was becoming serious enough to involve the king himself. He produced an anti-Lutheran book in defence of the Roman teaching on the seven sacraments. This was published in English, German and Latin. His effort gained the king the title ‘Defender of the Faith’ from Pope Leo X, a title still acknowledged by the initials ‘FD’ (Fidei Defensor) on United Kingdom coinage.

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October 2017
Articles > Historical

The Reformation in England

Inevitably, the debate about indulgences raised by Martin Luther’s protest rapidly became one about the personal understanding of Scripture, over against the church’s claim to be Scripture’s final and authoritative interpreter. The debate became furious and could not be contained within Germany, but widened, helped by the widespread use of Latin in scholarly circles across western Europe. In many respects, England, the southern half of an off-shore island with a language not generally known among its neighbours, did not appear to be promising soil for Luther’s new teaching. England was not a powerful force in Continental politics. Its young king, Henry VIII, was a loyal...

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September 2017
Articles > Historical

John Wesley and music

It comes as almost a shock to read in John Wesley’s Journal that this earnest minister was not above very occasionally attending a concert or, rather more often, looking over large estates of the kind you find in today’s National Trust. Clearly, Wesley not only regarded all the world as his parish, but saw the created order as God’s providential gift to mankind. Yet, after his conversion to Christ, he never obsessed about culture in the way that some modern evangelicals have. Although aware of the sacred oratorios of his own day and acknowledging God might, on occasion, use such to convey biblical truth to...

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September 2017
Articles > Historical

Evangelicalism in Northern Ireland, 1967–2017

Visiting tourists and the Province’s 1.8 million citizens enjoy easy access to a rugged coast-line, with breathtaking beaches, fresh-water lakes and rivers that provide great fishing for the keen angler. Northern Ireland (NI) has some of the best-preserved castles and ancient forts, surrounded by myths and legends from ancient times, and a rich fertile countryside that can really boast of ‘forty shades of green’. In spite of the economic downturn in 2007, the capital city, Belfast, is buzzing. It was named recently in the Guardian and Observer travel awards as the best city to visit in the UK. Its once derelict sites are now bustling...

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September 2017
Articles > Historical > Uncategorised

Evangelicalism in Wales, 1967–2017

The last 50 years have been years of change, both for Wales as a nation and for its evangelical witness. Its geography, culture, languages and politics have always been distinctive. Almost three million people live in this beautiful part of the United Kingdom and they speak two official languages, Welsh and English. However, Wales has changed and is still changing. Its coal mines and much of its heavy industry have disappeared. Its devolved government meets in a new parliament building in Cardiff. And its religious life has changed. Wales is a country of chapels, hundreds of them across the length and breadth of the land,...

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September 2017
Articles > Historical

Evangelicalism in Scotland, 1967-2017

The state of evangelicalism in Scotland in 2017 reveals a much more complicated picture than 1967. At that time there were several main denominations of considerable strength. On the Presbyterian side there were the Church of Scotland, along with the United Free Church of Scotland, Free Church of Scotland, and Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, with a small Reformed Presbyterian Church. On the independent scene there were the Baptist Union, Congregational Union, Methodists and Brethren Assemblies. Some were solidly evangelical, others had a percentage of such in their midst. But in the last 30 years in particular there has been a marked change in the...

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September 2017
Articles > Historical > Uncategorised

50 challenging years

Over 1967-2017, confessional evangelical Christianity in Britain has faced some significant challenges. Here are six of them: 1) The so-called ‘New Perspective’ on the teaching of the apostle Paul. In a book entitled Paul and Palestinian Judaism by Ed Sanders, which appeared 40 years ago, the thesis was promoted that the Jews of Pauline times were not a legalistic, works-oriented community; they were men who considered themselves saved by being God’s chosen, covenant community, the children of Abraham; and their remaining in the covenant depended on their keeping the law. Law-keeping was the badge of covenant membership. James Dunn and N. T. Wright were among...

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August 2017
Articles > Historical

‘Things that go bump in the night’

From 2 December 1716 onwards for several weeks, Rev. Samuel and Susanna Wesley, their seven daughters and household servants — their three sons were in London — experienced a series of unusual phenomena at the rectory home in Epworth, Lincolnshire. Today such happenings would readily be associated with ‘poltergeist’ activity. They included inexplicable groans, knockings, door-bangings, latch-liftings, turkey-gobbling noises, bed-levitations, and much more besides. ‘Old Jeffery’ Samuel was initially reluctant to accept a supernatural explanation. It was put down to pranks by the servants, or the children (Hetty was suspected), or ill-disposed parishioners. But eventually the whole family was convinced that it was a haunting....

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August 2017
Articles > Historical

The surprising story of David Michell (3)

Continued from The surprising story of David Michel (2) ‘One wintry day in February, I was with our little group … when we saw Eric [Liddell] walking under the trees … As usual he was smiling.’ ‘As he talked with us, we knew nothing of the pain he was hiding, and he knew nothing of the brain tumour that was to take his life that evening, 21 February 1945, when he, one of the world’s greatest athletes, would reach the tape in his final race. ‘He was 43-years-old … In his last hour, he was writing the words of his favourite hymn, and those words...

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July 2017
Articles > Historical

Robert Haldane (1764–1842)

Life is full of surprises, it is often said. That is certainly true of the life story of Robert Haldane. Very few, one imagines, would have been able to claim that the path to their conversion to Christ began with the French Revolution! Yet Robert Haldane made precisely that claim. This momentous event ‘aroused [him] from the sleep of spiritual death’, according to his nephew-biographer. How? Not, perhaps, as we might have expected. For to begin with, he viewed the political convulsion on the continent favourably, believing that it opened the door to the betterment of mankind. His vision for social justice, which took little...

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July 2017
Articles > Historical > Uncategorised

Jane Austen (1775-1817)

The highly talented novelist Jane Austen died 200 years ago, on 18 July 1817. Was she a Christian? Only God knows for sure, but believers reading her novels will ask this question. Jane Austen wrote brilliantly within her own sphere of life, although there were many matters she did not cover. Carol Shields, in her biography Jane Austen: a life, says: ‘One of the widest areas of absence is the religious life, and this has led some to think that Jane Austen was an unbeliever … She says not a word about the consolation of spiritual life’ (p.67). But Michael Haykin includes Jane Austen in...

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July 2017
Articles > Historical

150 years of Brixton Tabernacle

Due to the work of the Holy Spirit in an expanding London, the 1860s saw a number of new churches start in South London, including what was to become Brixton Tabernacle. Although a comparatively unusual designation for a church these days, the term ‘Tabernacle’ was once common, perhaps taking its cue from Whitfield’s Tabernacle. The word has, of course, a dual significance. The original tabernacle dedicated to the worship of God, had literally to be a tent, as the Israelites were travelling through the wilderness. Later tabernacles were so named to remind the worshippers that Christians are ‘strangers and pilgrims’, looking ‘for a city which...

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