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People we should know

Francis Schaeffer: Intellectual leader of the Christian Right

During the late 1970s and early 1980s many conservative Protestants in the United States became involved in social and political activism for the first time. The movement emerging out of this activism is often referred to as the "Religious Right" or "Christian Right."

While a number of factors combined to produce this phenomenon, one of the most important was a theological shift. Conservative Christians who had previously avoided any form of activism came to believe that they had a duty to speak out on behalf of Biblical positions regarding social issues. More than any other individual, a Presbyterian pastor named Francis Schaeffer was responsible for this shift.

A recent book by Barry Hankins, Francis Schaeffer and the Shaping of Evangelical America (Eerdmans, 2008) provides a good overview of Schaeffer’s life, work and influence.

Reformed foundation

Francis Schaeffer was born in 1912 to a nominally Christian family in Pennsylvania. As a young man he converted to Biblical Christianity as a result of hearing an evangelist. After completing college he enrolled in Westminster Theological Seminary in 1935. In 1937 Westminster Theological Seminary split, and a number of professors and students left to form Faith Theological Seminary. Mirroring this split, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church had a rupture, with a number of people leaving to form the Bible Presbyterian Church. There were a number of issues involved, one of the most important being eschatology. Those who formed the new seminary and new denomination were premilleniallists, and Schaeffer was among them.

After completing seminary, Schaeffer became a very effective Bible Presbyterian pastor in St. Louis. In 1948 he moved with his family to Switzerland as a missionary under the auspices of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions (IBPFM). To make a long story short, Schaeffer's relationship with both the Bible Presbyterian Church and the IBPFM deteriorated. He left both organizations. (Ultimately he joined the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod which merged with the Presbyterian Church in America in 1982.)

Come and question!

In 1955 Schaeffer formed his own mission group called L'Abri, the French word for shelter. It was basically a small community in Switzerland that would receive guests who had questions about Christianity and life in general.

L'Abri was very effective and gradually emerged as an influential evangelical organization. People came from all over the world to learn about Christianity from Francis Schaeffer. Many people became Christians in this way, while many who were already Christians had their lives and careers paths changed in a positive direction.

Schaeffer’s ministry focus was on demonstrating that only Christianity provided an answer to life’s questions and problems. Schaeffer could explain why the popular philosophical movements of the mid-twentieth century were deficient. Doing so provided an avenue for presenting the Gospel. As Barry Hankins writes,

“Apologetics had two purposes for Schaeffer: the first was defense of the faith, and the second was to communicate Christianity in a way that a given generation can understand the message.”

L’Abri, however, was not just about providing intellectual answers from a Christian perspective. It also provided shelter and care for people who were having personal problems. The love and care provided by his ministry substantially increased Schaeffer’s credibility and his esteem among believers and unbelievers alike. Hankins notes, “Schaeffer taught that the ‘final apologetic’ for the Christian faith was the fulfillment of Jesus’ command that Christians love one another.”

A wider audience

Schaeffer would speak to people individually about their questions and concerns, but he would also lecture regularly. By the end of the 1950s, many of the lectures were being taped. Gradually, an audience for these taped lectures spread throughout the world.

“By 1968, there were Schaeffer listening groups across the U.S. and Canada, as well as in Taiwan, Japan, India, South Africa, France, New Zealand, Australia, and nations in South America”

Even before 1968, however, Schaeffer’s influence was being noticed. Hankins records that, “His growing popularity was noted in a 1960 issue of Time magazine.”

As a result of his increasing notoriety, Schaeffer began lecturing tours, first in Britain and later in the USA. These lectures were very popular. Many were subsequently published in book form and this caused his fame and influence to spread even further.

Schaeffer was teaching evangelicals about modern philosophical trends and how they related to Biblical Christianity. This had not really been done before, so Schaeffer was on the cutting edge of Christian cultural analysis for English-speaking conservative Protestants. “To whatever extent evangelicals by the mid to late 1970s were analyzing culture instead of rejecting it, Schaeffer was largely responsible,” Hankins argues.

By the mid-1970s Schaeffer was so well-known that he became acquainted with some American politicians and was even hosted at the White House by President Gerald Ford.

Pivotal books

In 1973 the US Supreme Court ruled in the infamous Roe v. Wade decision that women had a right to abortion. This was a momentous decision and Schaeffer began to speak out increasingly for the pro-life cause. Actually, he was the most prominent evangelical leader promoting the pro-life cause because so many evangelicals during the early to mid-1970s were ambivalent about this issue.

In 1976 Schaeffer (with substantial help from his son Franky) produced a book and film series called How Should We Then Live? that described the decline of Western Civilization due to the rise of secular humanism. It was an effective combination, introducing many conservative Christians to worldview thinking for the first time.

Then in 1979, he produced another book and film series called Whatever Happened to the Human Race? that presented the Biblical position on abortion and other life issues. This book and series had a major impact in activating evangelicals into the pro-life cause.

Schaeffer's influence continued to increase. In 1981 he wrote a book called The Christian Manifesto, demonstrating that secular humanism was replacing Christianity as the basis of the United States. If Christians did not resist this trend, he argued, it would only get worse. This book is arguably one of the most important ever produced by the Christian Right.

Then in 1984, he wrote The Great Evangelical Disaster, which criticized a trend among some evangelical leaders to question the inerrancy of the Bible. If these men continued in that direction, Schaeffer warned, they would soon be embracing theological liberalism. He called on conservative Protestants to continue to defend the Bible as God's inspired and inerrant Word as his last message to the church. In the same year this book appeared, he died of cancer.

No coincidence he was Reformed

Hankins notes that Schaeffer’s

“attempt to alert Christians to the need for intentionally and self-consciously forming a Christian worldview based on solid Christian presuppositions was the central part of his intellectual project.”

This continues to be a major component of his legacy.

It’s important to recognize that Schaeffer’s theological background provided him with the intellectual tools to confront popular culture from a Biblical perspective.

“His training within the Reformed branch of American fundamentalism by scholars such as J. Gresham Machen and Cornelius Van Til served him well in this regard.”

Reformed theology provides the most robust Christian challenge to our modern secular culture and it was foundational to Schaeffer’s own ministry and success as an apologist.

Photo by Dr. Gary Lee Todd, taken sometime in 1981 (Flickr.com/public domain).

People we should know

Getting to know J.I. Packer

J.I. Packer died on July 17, 2020, at the age of 93. In this profile, which first appeared in the May 2016 issue, Dr. Bredenhof explains what God gave us in this man. **** James Innell Packer is a rather well-known author in Reformed circles. In fact, many people assume that Packer himself must belong to a Reformed, or at least a Presbyterian, church. Instead, Packer has been an Anglican his entire life, first in England (the land of his birth) and then later in Canada. The son of working-class parents, Packer was born on July 22, 1926 in Gloucester, England. He became a Christian during his education at Oxford University. Through exposure to Puritan authors like John Owen, Packer also became a convinced Calvinist with regard to the doctrine of salvation. At several points in his life he was tempted away from the Church of England, but he has always remained a member. He was ordained in the Church of England, but only served in parish ministry for a short while before discovering his real vocation as a teacher of theology. In England, he taught at Tyndale Hall, Latimer House, and Trinity College. Finally, in 1979, he skipped over the pond to take up a professorship at Regent College in Vancouver, BC. WRITER AND EDITOR Packer has been well known as a conference speaker and writer, but probably less so as an editor. Notably, he’s been the general editor of the English Standard Version Bible, as well as the theological editor of the ESV Study Bible. He’s also served as an editor and advisor for Christianity Today. One of Packer’s most well-known books has been Knowing God, first published in 1973. By 2001, this book has sold more than 1.5 million copies and been translated into more than 20 languages. It’s a book that puts the doctrine of God in simple language. Even when Packer tackles difficult subjects like propitiation (the turning away of God’s wrath through the cross), he communicates winsomely. It’s really not surprising that some Canadian Reformed pastors have even used Knowing God for their pre-confession instruction. It’s a solid book! BACK AND FORTH AND BACK AGAIN While there are many ways in which we can appreciate what God has done through this man, we also have to honestly acknowledge some of his weaknesses and failings. There was, for example, his involvement with a 1994 statement entitled Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT). This was an effort to unite Roman Catholics and evangelicals on a common theological basis with a view to taking a stand against societal evils like abortion. Unfortunately, this common basis resulted in the lowest-common-denominator form of essential doctrines like justification. Packer was a key player in the events leading to ECT and a signer. Subsequently, Packer teamed with up with URC pastor Michael Horton to produce another document, Resolutions for Roman Catholic and Evangelical Dialogue. Now this statement, also from 1994, was soundly orthodox on the issues highlighted by ECT. But then, what one hand gave, the other took away (again!). In 1998, Packer was involved with yet another ecumenical statement along with Roman Catholics, The Gift of Salvation. This statement again compromised on the doctrine of justification by faith alone. It’s regrettable that Packer has been rather inconsistent on some key biblical teachings. As just mentioned, he claims in some places to maintain justification by faith alone as a foundational doctrine, yet he readily gives this up when working with Roman Catholics. As another example, he claims to hold to the ultimate authority of the Bible, yet is lenient when it comes to evolution. In his 2015 biography, Leland Ryken writes that he cannot understand why some people get so angry at Packer. It’s no mystery: it’s because of his inconsistency. STANDING ON SCRIPTURE However, one of Packer’s greatest controversies did see him taking a very bold stand. In 2008, Packer was pushed out of the Anglican Church of Canada because he refused to endorse same-sex marriage. This came at a great cost – he was defrocked as an Anglican clergyman. We can certainly commend him for his courage. Incidentally, soon afterwards, he was relicensed as clergy and admitted into the Anglican Church of North America. Thus, he continues to be an Anglican, though not in the “mainstream.” TWO MORE GREAT TITLES On a personal note, I’ve benefitted from especially two of Packer’s writings. The first I came across was his volume on the Puritans, A Quest for Godliness. This had a huge impact on shaping my attitude towards those saints of old. For many people, this book has been instrumental in overturning misconceptions of the Puritans. Later, when I pursued further studies in missiology, one of my required readings was one of Packer’s first books, Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God. I loved it! This slender book powerfully argued that a Calvinistic belief in God’s sovereignty is anything but a death knell for outreach – quite the opposite. Armed with what I’ve said about some of his inconsistencies, I’d say that this is one author with whom Reformed Perspective readers should definitely get acquainted. Dr. Bredenhof blogs at yinkahdinay.wordpress.com.  THE QUOTABLE PACKER The Gospel in 3 words “ere I asked to focus the New Testament message in three words, my proposal would be adoption through propitiation, and I do not expect ever to meet a richer or more pregnant summary of the gospel than that.” – Knowing God Real repentance “Repentance, as we know, is basically not moaning and remorse, but turning and change.” – on Twitter Human responsibility and God's sovereignty “God’s sovereignty is a reality, and man’s responsibility is a reality too.... To our finite minds, of course, the thing is inexplicable. It sounds like a contradiction, and our first reaction is to complain that it is absurd....We ought not, in any case, to be surprised when we find mysteries of this sort in God’s Word. For the Creator is incomprehensible to his creatures. A God whom we could understand exhaustively, and whose revelation of Himself confronted us with no mysteries whatsoever, would be a God in man’s image, and therefore an imaginary God, not the God of the Bible at all.” – Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God Wretched man that I am “A deepening sense of one’s sinfulness remains a touchstone of the genuine Christian life.” – Rediscovering Holiness Faith and works “Historical Exegesis is only the preliminary part of interpretation; application is its essence. Exegesis without application should not be called interpretation at all.” – Engaging the Written Word of God...

Church history, People we should know

Rahab the whore...mother of Christ

"...the LORD your God is He who is God in heaven above and on earth beneath..." - Joshua 2:11 ***** In the house where one pays for love there arrived two young customers who had a different kind of business on their minds. They were engaged in espionage, nothing less: covert activities which required circumspect movements; activities that disguised their real intent, that even lead to the pretense of tourism, accentuated by a trip to the establishment of the local prostitute. They had been sent out by the master of strategy, Joshua the son of Nun, one of the two survivors of an earlier spy mission some forty years ago. At that time the economic intelligence gathering yielded interesting results, but the military intelligence had been devastating for an unbelieving generation. It took forty years to purge the nation of that element of destructive disbelief: they were all buried in the sands of the desert. Forty years of grave digging, forty years of sighing about "the wind passing over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more," (Ps. 103:16) as one of their offspring, David, would later sing. Then, at last, even Moses died; the LORD Himself took care of the funeral arrangements. Some safe house! Rahab hiding the spies in the flax. But now a next generation had come forth, the covenant had been renewed, and with it came a new willingness to serve, as these young men demonstrated, arrayed in their disguises. They were in the business of gathering information, and for information, they searched. This woman they met was ready to give answers to questions that had not even been raised. And so, notwithstanding the surroundings of ill repute, they had come to the right address; this too was of the Lord. Maybe they did not realize it, but they ended up in what the spy industry calls a "safe house." "Some safe house," one might mutter; hardly had they bedded down then that the local constabulary arrived for their arrest! Had the woman ratted on them? They were instructed, "to view the land, especially Jericho" (Josh. 2:1). Had they been too obvious in their observations of the land, even in their disguises? Were their questions reported? Thinking fast What do you do when soldiers come with their raucous order: "Open up in the name of the law!"? How do you respond to the gruff demand: "Hand them over, those enemy agents that we know came to your house!"? What do you do? Do you panic? Do you deny the obvious? In times of war and threats of war, house searches are not always conducted under the sanction of a warrant, the validity of which one could politely argue so as to gain some time to contemplate one's next move. But here was a woman who did not panic, who did not need to stall for time. Had her trade made her skillful in leading men astray? She surely knew how to forestall a house search! She was, likely, more than a little coy when she assured them that, indeed, these men had come to her, you know these things happen in an establishment like mine, and they left not so long after they arrived, and that is not unusual in my profession either. And you tell me they were spies? Wow!  Then, in a conspiring manner, she might have whispered, "They can't have gone far; they went that-a-way. Run after them and you'll be sure to catch up with them." The path she pointed out to the soldiers seemed to be clear route towards promotion in rank, and maybe even a decoration. The gates were opened for them and the gates were shut again after them, and the pursuers of Israel's heroes chased after wind. The “white lie” Through the years much has been theorized and debated about the possibility of "white lies." It seems that up until World War II most commentators agreed that a deception like the one performed by Rahab was still, in itself, a sinful act. But during the war many persons of great integrity suddenly faced Nazi soldiers and their loud demand: Aufmachen, Polizei!! "Open up, it's the police!" Since then the condemnation has not been so outspoken any more. Those who managed to lead the authorities down the garden path showed no remorse when later they admitted to have given their deceptive testimony. In fact, they were rather gleeful to report how several Jews were saved, the consequence of a gullible interrogator. There are some amusing anecdotes about those days. The scene in the book of Joshua is not without humor either, enhanced by this preposterous elaboration: "so the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan, as far as the crossing points..." (Josh 2:7). You could almost hear the eager conversations between then: how pleased the captain would be when they brought the spies in, and how proud their wives would be when their men would have their medals pinned on them. And then, gradually, the conversation slowed until finally they muttered: Where on earth are those fellows? But the readers of Joshua know where those fellows were all along: right there, hidden under the flax on the roof! Yet, "the men pursued them," Joshua said seriously. What a joke! Prostitute and now traitor? All this may seem somewhat goofy, worthy of an occasional chuck, but yet... couldn't we say that Rahab the whore had now added to the abominable character of her profession the sordid crime of high treason? She had joined in with the enemy camp! If we think back to World War II again, who would have anything to do with someone who stooped that low? However, is that verdict fair? Should she be displayed in the marketplace, shaven, shorn, and tarred, to have all the passersby spit on her? "The love of country is inborn in every citizen," it is said. We know all about that. During wars opposing armies claim: "We have God on our side." How convincing are the speeches of the leaders! How strong the conviction of their followers! "With honor and valor we fight for our cause, with God on our side." It has been repeated over and over at wreath-laying ceremonies. But inside this woman something had changed. Was she aware of Noah's curse over Canaan? Who were those gods that were supposedly on their side? Wasn’t it to demons that they offered their sons and daughters? The cruelty of those evil forces! Then, in total contrast, there were the stories of this large nation trekking through the desert, the children of Abraham. There was a cloud to guide them by day and a fire by night, she was told. Those were the manifestations of an entirely different God – One who loved His people, who was like fire around them to protect them, who rained bread from heaven to feed them, and who let them drink from the rock. True, He punished them for their evil doings, but He still upheld them and destroyed their enemies before them. Who knows, but that some wandering minstrel might have come by with fragments of the song of Moses "...the Lord will vindicate His people and have compassion on His servants..." (Deut. 32:36). This God was not like the demons who belong to the netherworld. He was the God in heaven above and on the earth beneath. But in His holy nation, would there be a place for her, daughter of the accursed Canaan, a woman who had availed herself of the profits of fornication? From rebel to child of God Rahab helps the spies climb out over Jericho's wall. But then this wonder took place, as miraculous as creation itself: according to His decree, God softened her heart and inclined her to believe. At the same time the crisis of possible detection having been forestalled, she ran up the stairs and blurted out her confession: "I know that the LORD your God is He who is God in heaven and on earth beneath." Would a critical onlooker find that confession a bit meager? It is probably fair to say that she wouldn’t have passed an exam in systematic theology. All we know is that in that confessed faith she bargained with the two representatives of God's holy nation: their safety for her and her family. They made a deal and it was confirmed by oath. The last words reportedly from her mouth were: "Amen, so be it" (Josh 2:21). Of these actions, undoubtedly recited through the ages, James, the leader of the church at Jerusalem, would later make honorable mention, listing them in one breath with the great works of faith by father Abraham (James 2:23-25). So it was that the first major strategic undertaking of Joshua, the son of Nun, seemed to have been upset by the tardiness of the spies. What kind of secret agent accomplishment was that, to bed down in a house of ill repute, to sneak through a window, to hide three days in the caves? Not a very good start, was it? Yes, true, it did not seem like much, but out ways are not God's ways. Just look at the valuable intelligence they received out of the hands of a woman chosen by God: "Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands; and moreover, all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of us" (Josh 2:24). God’s ways are not man’s ways ...and the walls came tumbling down. The preparations for the battle of Jericho, seen from a military point of view, seemed to be directed towards a total disaster. When the first encounter with a fortified city is to take place, what military exercises come up front? Stamina-building drills? A mock attack? Special wall-climbing exercises? None of that happened. Instead, the sign of the covenant was administered (Josh. 5:2-9). All the army was circumcised. The effect of adult circumcision was that the army was sapped of its military strength for days. If the enemies were to find out... But thus it pleased the LORD to fulfill all righteousness. And stranger yet, a patch of ground within view of Jericho was declared holy territory, where the military leader of Israel met the commander of the mighty host of the LORD (Josh. 5:13-15). Joshua, the son of Nun, was in this very peculiar way made ready for battle: he had to take off his shoes. Now Jericho, known for its mighty men of valor, was sealed up tight ready to defend itself behind its fortified walls with whatever strength still remained within its armed forces. So, we would say: "Time for action. Get on with it! Let the battle start...” But then again the events took a weird turn. Instead of an attack, there was a solemn procession around the city: seven priests blowing horns, followed by the Ark of the Covenant, and after that, the army detachments. No shouting, no banging of drums, no belligerent songs. Only the mournful sound of the seven rams’horns. The army followed silently; it was an uncanny show. Once this was accomplished, everybody headed back to their own camp and the deathly silence returned. The following days it happened again, and the next day again, and again. And every time the procession came by the house of Rahab the whore the people saw the scarlet cord hanging out of the window. And every time Rahab the whore looked out of the window and saw this strange procession going by, her heart beat wildly in anticipation. The battle of the Lord was taking shape and she had taken His side, or rather, He had taken her on His side. Now it was going to happen: the Hour Zero approached rapidly. The tension was building to an unbearable level. Finally, on the last day the procession around the city was repeated several times over, till the final trip was made and the horn blowing ended. There was a short moment of utter silence. Then the trumpets sounded their dramatic long blast, and the whole scene erupted into turmoil. The entire army gave off a loud shout, a howl of derision for the enemies of God. After that a rumbling came up, as bricks and mortar split apart, as boulders cracked and rolled away, and in their course felling and crushing the hapless defenders. Then the walls of the city fell upon them, and the ruins of the structures covered them. And through the clouds of dust, over the rubble, clambered the victorious armies of God, in endless waves, to fulfill the command of total destruction. Total destruction? Yes, the city was devoted to the LORD for destruction. Nothing was to be spared. Nothing except... The war correspondent in Joshua 6 first passes on the direct order as it was given: destroy everything. Everything, except the house of Rahab the whore. Reason for the exception? She hid the spies. Then follows the narrative: as instructed by General Joshua, the young spies went into the one remaining structure of the ring-wall. It was marked with the crimson cord. Spitting out the gritty dust of the ground granite that made film on their lips, they egged on the occupants: "hurry, hurry, quick this way to safety!" Finally comes the recap, the summing up of the total victory: the city was burned with fire. The vessels of bronze and iron were put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. End of report? No! Again it is stated, and now with greater emphasis yet, that Rahab the whore and her father's household, and all who belong to her were saved alive. "And," concludes the report, "she dwelt in Israel to this day." Why? "Because she hid the messengers, whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho," that's why. In the Hall of Fame In the hall of fame of the heroes of faith, there is a long wall lined with portraits. Hebrews 11 leads us through it. There is Abel, all scarred up, but still speaking through his faith. And look, there is Noah, that ridiculous shipbuilder on dry ground, but therefore heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. See Sarah there, laughing, because at age ninety she still conceived, and God had made laughter for her... And then...yes, indeed there she is. Rahab the whore. Even now the title of her terrible profession is still etched on the copper plate that carries her name. But her features seem familiar. Haven't we seen her somewhere before? Yes, of course, the evangelist Matthew listed her in the genealogy as a not-so-immaculate mother of Christ! The company some people keep! Look at the strange smile on her face. After all those centuries, does she still think that sending those poor soldiers on a wild good chase was rather funny? Frankly speaking, it really was funny, but it seems that the smile is not about that. No, this is a fond smile, a smile caused by amazement and expressing great love. How could she, daughter of the cursed Canaan, and practicing prostitute, how could she possibly have ended up here, among these great ones in the kingdom of Christ? Indeed, there is every reason for amazement. Here was one woman who came in last, totally unworthy, not even qualifying for the crumbs of the dogs, and yet she was given a seat of honor up front by her Great Son, the Christ, through the eternal love with which He loved her before the foundation of the world. If that does not make you smile, what else would? In this reflection the author wants to direct us back to the text to look at it with new eyes – an oh-so-familiar story startles us once again when viewed under this different light. But like any commentary on Scripture, it shouldn’t be read instead of the text itself. Read on its own, it could become confusing as to what are the author’s thoughts, and what the text actually says. So an important follow-up then is to read Joshua 2-6. This is a slightly edited version of an article that first appeared in the December 1993 issue. John de Vos was the very first editor of Reformed Perspective....

People we should know, Theology

Jonathan Edwards: The pastor who packed them in the pews while preaching the wrath of God

Much like today, during the early colonial years in America, preachers rarely spoke about the wrath of God – this did not seem the type of topic to draw in the masses. One man, however, thought very differently. He brought the message of God’s wrath and, in doing so, ignited a revival which spread throughout the colonies. Jonathan Edwards was born on October 5, 1703, in East Windsor, Connecticut and began preaching in 1722. Although hell and God’s wrath are unpleasant topics, Edwards became one of America’s best-known evangelists by preaching on just these topics. We can get an understanding of how God used him to spark a revival across the colonies by looking at three specific sermons Edwards delivered at different points throughout his ministry. Through these sermons he taught the reality of God’s wrath by: showing how it will destroy unrepentant sinners explaining that it is the power of God which can save them from this wrath warning that those who do not glorify God are deserving of destruction Edwards knew that the themes of wrath and hell needed to be taught to cause the hearts of those listening to be convicted about their sins and to realize the reality of eternal punishment. #1: When the wicked have filled up the measure of their sin… He began preaching on the subject in May 1735 when he delivered his sermons “When the wicked shall have filled up the measure of their sin, wrath will come upon them to the uttermost.” Edwards’ text was 1 Thessalonians 2:16, which reads, “To fill up their sins always; for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.” He immediately presented a picture of hell and never let go of that illustration throughout the sermon. He clarified that God enacts His wrath “very dreadfully in this world; but in hell wrath comes on them to the uttermost.” God executes his wrath on the sinners in this world to a smaller extent, either outwardly on the body or inwardly on a mental or emotional scale. However, “these things are only forerunners of their punishment, only slight foretastes of wrath.” When God’s full wrath comes upon them, it will come with no restraint and no moderation of degree, for “His heavy wrath will lie on them, without any thing to lighten the burden or to keep off, in any measure, the full weight of it from pressing the soul.” Perhaps the most powerful point Edwards made in this sermon is that once the day of judgment comes, the wicked are sealed in their punishment eternally. There is no longer any chance for repentance or forgiveness once death has come. This is a message that the content Christians in the pews needed to hear. Without knowing the reality and severity of hell, the sinner did not feel a need to repent. Edwards concluded by noting how dreadful the wrath will be, for it is given by the One who created the universe, shakes the earth, rebukes the sea, and shines His majesty over wicked men. The judgement of God is certainly coming, but it will not be known until it comes. Therefore, Edwards begged everyone listening to “haste and flee for their lives, to get into a safe condition, to get into Christ.” This sermon carefully presents the danger of those who are content with living in sin, and it presses the message of hell to convict them of their rebellion. The reaction to this sermon inspired many in New England to change their lives. However, much more was to come when, six years later, Edwards preached his most famous sermon. #2: Sinners in the hands of an angry God On July 8, 1741 Edwards delivered “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” in Enfield, Connecticut. He was not supposed to preach that night, and he had preached that same sermon before at his home church. He happened to have his manuscript with him, and after receiving the last-minute request to fill in for the pastor, he preached a message that had an amazing effect on many of the hearers, spurring on a revival. Jonathan Edwards was born on October 5, 1703, in East Windsor, Connecticut to his father Reverend Timothy Edwards and his mother Esther, the daughter of Reverend Solomon Stoddard. Stoddard would become a mentor to Jonathan. Edwards attended Collegiate School, later called Yale College, graduating in 1720. In 1722, he accepted a call to a Scotch Presbyterian church in New York. He then went to Bolton, Connecticut in 1723. In 1724, he became a teacher at Yale College, and finally succeeded his grandfather Reverend Stoddard at Northampton, Massachusetts in 1727. The text of this sermon was Deuteronomy 32:35, which says, “Their foot shall slide in due time.” Edwards opened his sermon by saying: “In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, who lived under the means of grace…yet remained void of counsel.” He began by stating that all sinners are exposed to destruction, a destruction that is unexpected and brought about by the sinner himself. The only reason why this destruction has not yet come is because of the mere mercy of God, which He gives under no obligation but by grace. Edwards was keen on portraying the power of God by reminding his listeners that even the strongest man has no power over God, and not even the mightiest fortress can defend against Him. He emphasized the fact that sinners deserve to be cast into hell, saying that they are the objects of the anger and wrath of God. He painted a vivid picture by declaring: “the wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them.” Edwards revealed the reality of death and claimed that God is under “no obligation by any promise” to keep sinners out of hell. God is provoked by sin, and nothing can be done by sinners to appease that anger. Edwards was trying to “awake unconverted persons in the congregation… who find are kept out of hell, but do not see the hand of God in it.” Edwards ended his message by urging the congregation to consider the danger that they were in, that if they did not change their lives for Christ they were in danger of suffering an everlasting wrath, where “it would be dreadful to suffer…one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity.” The Christians of the early British colonies had forgotten that if God withdrew His hand from them, they would fall into the depths of hell. This is what it means to be in the hands of an angry God, that sinners are born again and made new creatures because the God of wrath and justice found pleasure in making the damned soul worthy of salvation. Edwards pushes the reality of God’s wrath and hell, a topic which was rarely preached. It is this topic which ignited a revival. The effect of this sermon was immediate and powerful. According to one listener, even before the sermon was done “there was great moaning and crying out – ‘What shall I do to be saved?’… amazing and astonishing power of God was seen.” Another eyewitness, Stephen Williams, wrote: “Mr. Edwards of Northampton…preached a most awakening sermon…‘Oh, I am going to Hell,’ ‘Oh, what shall I do for Christ,’ and so forth…went out through whole .” Edwards was able to vividly portray the wrath of God on sinners, causing those who heard him to know the true condition of their hearts. A revival swept through the towns. Hymns were sung, taverns were closed, and young people poured into churches. Congregants arrived at church hours before the service in order to get a seat in the sanctuary. It is estimated that 10 percent of New England was converted during this time. That is equal to 28 million people today. Clearly, Jonathan Edwards sparked a revival in Enfield. #3: Wicked men useful in their destruction only While that might have been Edwards’ most famous and impactful sermon, he continued to tell the people of New England about the reality of God’s wrath. In July 1744, he preached a sermon called “Wicked men useful in their destruction only,” and as the title suggests, his main point was that “if men bring forth no fruit to God, they are wholly useless, unless in their destruction.” His message was from Ezekiel 15:2-4, which asks what the worth of a dead vine is. The answer is that “it is cast into the fire for fuel; the fire devoureth both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burned” (Ezek. 15:4). Edwards expanded on this passage by comparing sinners to the vine, saying that the dead vine which is good for nothing deserves the same fate as a dead sinner: utter destruction. Edwards claimed that the only two ways in which a person is useful is either in acting or in being acted upon. A person is useful in acting when they display the “fruits of the Spirit” and use them for the love of God and neighbour. If, however, a man does not do this, then there is no purpose for him to exist. Yes, there are other uses for mankind, as man was made for one another to be friends and neighbours. However, these are inferior ends and are subordinate to the main purpose, which is to serve and glorify the Creator. Therefore, since a wicked man cannot glorify God, he is only useful passively by being destroyed. Edwards claimed that it goes against God’s justice to let wicked men “live always in a world which is so full of divine goodness…that this goodness should be spent upon them forever.” Even though the world is full of sin, so much of God’s undeserved blessings can be seen and enjoyed. The rest of creation is made subservient to mankind, which is wasted on men who bear no fruit for God. The only use that wicked men can be is in their destruction for God’s glory, by both having God’s majesty and justice acted upon them and by being an example to the righteous, giving them “a greater sense of their happiness and of God’s grace to them.” Edwards applied his point so that all may learn the justice and righteousness of God. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but no one blames a farmer who cuts off a tree which no longer bears fruit. Edwards is calling his congregation to consider all the good things God has bestowed on them, including having a soul which houses the Holy Spirit and by having hosts of angels working for them. All of creation works for man’s pleasure, so “how lamentable it is, then, after all these things he should be a useless creature.” The one who is useful will experience pleasure in this world, and the pleasures will be even more wondrous in the world to come. However, those who do not continue “to bring forth any fruit to the divine glory, hell will be the only place fit for … nature ceases to labour any more for sinners.” Again, Edwards is stressing the point that God’s wrath is real, and unrepentant sinners will suffer it. Conclusion Jonathan Edwards inspired many revivals through his preaching by talking about God’s wrath and hell, topics that were unpopular to the crowd and avoided by other preachers. Through this unpleasant topic, Edwards ignited a fire of repentance in the hearts of the people of New England. His sermons presented God’s wrath by showing how He will destroy unrepentant sinners utterly, how it is the power of God which can save them from His wrath, and how those who do not glorify God are only useful to be destroyed. Texts are quoted as Edwards translated them in his sermon manuscripts....

People we should know

Pieter Jongeling (1909-1985): husband, father, Nazi-fighter, prisoner, Member of Parliament, children’s author…and Reformed journalist

When one writes about Reformed journalism one inevitably thinks about the sort of journalism that for so many years published newspapers and weekly papers in the Netherlands. In our English-speaking world there are also magazines of Reformed persuasion that do a good job of informing believers. However, most of these magazines (Reformed Perspective excepted) are by and large magazines with a religious focus – magazines aimed at informing people in the pew about what is happening in other pews around the country. On the shoulders of giants Reformed journalism in the Netherlands was different in that it addressed the day to day events going on outside the Church. This type of Reformed journalism has a long history in the Netherlands – we can go back to G. Groen van Prinsterer, the Dutch statesman and Reformed historian (1801-1876) whose aim, in his writings, was to return the Dutch nation to its Reformed roots. While influential, van Prinsterer was often only read by those well off enough to be able to buy a newspaper. Ordinary people back then (such as the members of the Reformed churches) were not able to afford a newspaper – a Dutch tax on newspapers made them hard to afford. Still, Groen started us down the road of Reformed journalism, and later his successor, Abraham Kuyper, broadened the effort, in large part due to the abolishment of the newspaper tax. And, of course, it helped that while Kuyper's journalistic efforts had a particular appeal to those of a Reformed persuasion, they were appealing to the nation as a whole too. Following in the tradition of Groen and Kuyper, there was an important Reformed journalist much closer to our time. I refer to Pieter Jongeling. He was for many years the editor of a Reformed Dutch newspaper, Nederlands Dagblad, member of the Dutch Parliament and author of many children’s books which he published under the pseudonym Piet Prins. Without the example of van Prinsterer, Kuyper and Jongeling (and there are others as well) I would suggest it is highly doubtful that Reformed Perspective would have seen the light of day. His early years Jongeling was born in Winschoten, a town in the northern part of the Netherlands close to the German border.1 The year was 1909. Less than 5 years later his father died and his mother was left alone to care for her family. She did this by running a grocer’s shop – I guess today we would say a corner store. Those were difficult years in which to grow up. Money was scarce, economic conditions far from rosy. Yet despite this, through ardent self-study, Jongeling was able to get a senior teacher’s diploma but with little hope of getting a job. He was active in the young men’s bible study group and also began publishing stories and poems in the Christian papers of those days. As a result he was employed by one of these papers as a foreign editor. It’s said of Jongeling: ”he was a man who lived with the Bible.” This was quite evident in his work as a journalist. World War II All too soon this work came to an end when the German hordes overran the Netherlands and soon the paper was closed down. But that didn't mean Jongeling stopped writing. Due to his ongoing journalism efforts in the following year – efforts aimed at informing his readers about the activities of the German occupiers – he was arrested in the Spring of 1942. The Germans did not believe in proper legal procedures at that time, with the result that Jongeling was asked to sign a paper admitting his guilt. The paper claimed that he was: “a fanatical opponent of National Socialism” – i.e. Nazism. This was something Jongeling agreed with wholeheartedly so he signed the paper with pride. Together with many Reformed people, he regarded National Socialism as totally contrary to what the Bible teaches. The outcome was that he was sent to Sachsenhausen, Oranienburg, 30 kilometers northwest of Berlin, where he spent the next three years. Who can possibly understand the privations suffered by these people, not knowing what was happening at home, and the trauma involved in being held by people who were utterly ruthless? Jongeling relates that he and 40 other men were sent to Sachsenhausen but as far as he was aware only 5 returned after the war. Many were executed without charge or based only on an accusation! Jongeling’s wife undertook a number of schemes to get messages to her husband. For example, a Christmas card featured the photo of their daughter to give him some idea of what she looked like. All in all, the following years were quite harrowing when considered from my comfortable armchair in Australia. As the Russians advanced on Germany from the east, Jongeling and his fellow prisoners were marched out of Sachsenhausen. The fanatical, ruthless S.S., the Nazi police force, were put in control of the group that left Sachsenhausen. These Nazi butchers still insisted that their prisoners keep order as they marched on. Many were unable to do that following the brutal privations in the camps and as they collapsed from exhaustion by the side of the road there was no hesitation by the S.S. to put a bullet in the head of a fallen man. Even after reading what Jongeling and his compatriots suffered, I find it is still hard to imagine. But as he confessed on arriving back in the Netherlands, it was God who saved him and restored him to his wife, family and church. Back to work However, changes had taken place during the years Jongeling had spent in Germany. There had been synodical proceedings that resulted in many faithful members of the Reformed churches finding themselves outside the church denomination that they had belonged to since birth. Jongeling and his wife were now members of the new Reformed churches (Liberated). When he went back to his job as a journalist Jongeling described journalism as follows: “A journalist must above all be able to tell a story. He must make the matter clear to the people. If he wants to do that well, then he must, according to me, start from the law of God. That must be the norm. Else the danger exists that evil is called good and good evil and then he misses his target.” He needed two or three months to recuperate, to bring his body back to something like a normal weight. On his return he had weighed 45 kg (99 pounds) and so time to get back to some normality was not out of place. He returned to work on May 20, 1945 and on July 1st that year he resumed work as Editor-in-Chief of the daily paper he had worked for before the war. Editor extraordinaire One would think that upon returning to his post he would be able to do his work with joy, and with the full support of his superiors. But that was not to be. The paper, formerly a Reformed publication, had under the direction of its previous temporary Editor-in-Chief been turned into a newspaper with only a general Christian character. In other words, it was now a paper that did not comment on the struggles within the Reformed churches of the Netherlands. Nevertheless, Jongeling fully understanding where the direction was coming from, approached his work as a Reformed believer. If they wanted him to write from a general Christian basis, well, as he said, “I took general Christian basis as one based on Scripture and the confession. What is contrary to that, I regard as unchristian and revolutionary …” The next three years were often difficult because of the basic disagreement between the editor and directors about the church question. When in 1948 he realized the end of his editorship was nearing, and he was offered the job of editor of a magazine called De Vrije Kerk (the Free Church), he accepted that offer. As he relates, it meant that he had a task and some income, although considerably less than in his previous position. The magazine received a name change to Gereformeerd Gezinsblad – Reformed Family paper. It sought to inform and encourage people throughout the Netherlands to follow the Reformed course. At first, the paper was issued only a couple of times per week. It had very little news but consisted of an editorial, a review of what was happening nationally and internationally, together with opinion and comment rather than news. I remember those days, and do recall it was indeed very small and basic but still the readers were being informed about what it meant to be Reformed in the state and the world around us. For many years after we migrated to Australia, this paper, which later received a new name Nederlands Dagblad (Dutch Daily Paper), was read in our home even after I married an Australian who spoke not a word of Dutch. It never failed to teach me much about politics from a Reformed perspective. For this work we have to be truly thankful to Piet Jongeling. Always teaching He also taught and gave direction to Reformed Christians when he was persuaded to stand for election to the Dutch Parliament, and in 1959 received enough votes for the G.P.V (the Reformed Political Union) to enter parliament as its lone representative. They were difficult times, editor, parliamentarian, husband, and father to three sons and six daughters. Adding to his load, one of his sons died not long after the child was born. And yet Jongeling was highly regarded for his principled approach to his various tasks. He saw it as his task to inform and instruct his fellow believers in the world in which they were placed. I read somewhere the following: “Jongeling wanted in the first place to contribute to the molding and strengthening of his fellow believers. He was somewhat worried about the future. The Christian Dutch nation had become neutral in the 19th century and seemed to be degenerating into one that was antichristian. There would come a time when there would be no place for truly Christian life in it. On the other hand, he did not doubt that God would fulfill his promises to His people. In his childlike faith he remained in all circumstances certain of God’s faithfulness.“ Well done, good and faithful servant Here, then, was a man used indeed by God to build and strengthen the faith of many. In addition to all his other work he also wrote many novels for youth, some 60 or more of them, and wrote poetry, and was indeed an all-rounder in the journalistic sphere. And as some old-time Reformed Perspective readers may remember, he even contributed articles to this magazine. Our brother died in August 1985. Endnote 1 For most of this information, I am indebted to Rik Valkenburg, a Dutch author, and journalist, who interviewed Jongeling and published the result in the book, Jongeling, Ten voeten ui A version of this article was first published in the July/August 2004 issue. Rene Vermeulen published more than 150 articles in the pages of Reformed Perspective from 1984-2010....