A Review: Church History for Modern Ministry by Dayton Hartman

41EhsS6bkWL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_When you use the word ‘history’, most people think back to the snooze fest that was high school history class as their eyes roll back into their skull. People just don’t dislike history, they disdain it. For them, history is irrelevant, impractical, and a waste of time. In an age where we idolize the new and ignore the old, we kick history to the bucket. Unfortunately, many Christians and ministry leaders are ignorant of the great cloud of witnesses who have come before them. Dr. Dayton Hartman, pastor at Redeemer Church in Rocky Mount, NC, wishes to correct that trend in his new book Church History for Modern Ministry: Why Our Past Matters for Everything We Do. Hartman chronicles his own journey of discovery of the importance of history and shares practical ways a historically informed ministry contributes to vitality in the local church.The first chapter, Back to the Future, examines the danger of ignoring church history and then proposes benefits of how an understanding of the past can inform present ministry methods and concerns. In chapter two, Creed and Creeds, Hartman makes a compelling case for the importance of creeds and encourages ministry leaders to incorporate them into the life of the church. Chapter 3, Imitating Christ, describes how church history can contribute to discipleship, as Hartman casts a vision for personal disciple making among believers and within the home. Chapter 4, Preaching and the Cultural Drift, illustrates how history helps inform apologetics, as church leaders can learn from patristic thinkers like Justin Martyr to more contemporary apologists like Francis Schaeffer. In chapter 5, Christians and Culture, Hartman encourages ministry leaders to engage culture and make culture, as he reflects on men like Abraham Kuyper. In the final chapter, Yesterday, Today was the Future, Hartman makes one final plea to invite ministry leaders to the study history, to learn from the giants, and to be humbled by their legacy.

Hartman writes with clarity and humor as he makes his case, sprinkling his chapters with historical examples. The book serves as an easy introduction to those unfamiliar with church history, as separate boxes help summarize the historical figures or define confusing terms. In addition, Hartman provides excellent recommended reading throughout the book for those who do not know where to begin in the study of history, including a helpful appendix. Church History for Modern Ministry is a very practical book, a great tool for church staffs to read together and discuss.

As I read Hartman’s book, in many ways it was like reading my own journey. Ignorance of our spiritual family history pervades our churches, and ministry leaders must help their people shed their chronological snobbery by informing them of the importance and relevance of our past. If you are a ministry leader who could care less about history, I beg you to pick this book up; may Hartman’s argument change your mind. For those of you who already see the importance of history for the local church, this book is for you too, as it is filled with practical ways to teach and inform your congregation of the giants who came before us. May Church History for Modern Ministry wake ministry leaders from the slumber of their high school history class and awaken them to the practical relevance church history can bring to modern ministry.

The Problem with Theological Liberalism

51XTJe5SjkL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_As liberal theology diverged from protestantism in the 19th century, it created a crises of authority with Christianity in America. The squabbling over orthodoxy led to theological innovation, which diminished the authority of Scripture, spurred dogmatic doctrinal claims, and revised Christianity with modernism. As the Unitarians such as William Ellery Channing arrived on the scene, later men like Henry Bushnell, often called the father of American liberal theology, would cast a different vision for Christianity. The birth of theological liberalism developed into the prominent social gospel movement of the early 20th century. Gary Dorrien, in his excellent three volume work, The Making of American Liberal Theology, argues that the main premise upon liberal theology is the conviction that Christianity can be expressed without reliance upon an external authority. As enlightenment thinkers probed the Scripture with a critical eye, scholars began to question the veracity of the Bible. Under this pressure, liberalism developed as a third way alternative "between the authority-based orthodoxies of traditional Christianity and the spiritless materialism of modern atheism or deism" (Dorrien, 1:xiii).

This epistemological shift from the authority of Scripture to modernistic rationalism and romantic existentialism brewed tensions between those committed to orthodoxy and those committed to revising Christianity. Both the conservatives and the liberals within the Christian church believed they were protecting the church from the tumultuous shift of modernism. Conservatives resisted the philosophical shift taking place all around them, attempting to use reason to defend their belief in the authority of Scripture and protestant orthodoxy. The liberals attempted to recast Christianity in modern light, in attempts to keep it relevant in a culture that was becoming critical and skeptical about religious claims. All of this came to a head in the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the 1920s and 30s.

J. Gresham Machen argued in his book Christianity and Liberalism that Christianity and liberalism are not two variations of the same religion, but two entirely different religions, built on two very different foundations. This is the tragic irony of liberal theology, in attempts to shed away the external authority of the Bible they only replaced it with a wobbling authority of ever changing cultural ideals. They've taken the firm foundation of the word of Christ and replaced it with the shifting sands of contemporary cultural whims.

As time has proven, theological liberalism is a failed project. As many mainline, liberal denominations fade into obscurity as their numbers dwindle, we must be reminded of the importance of the authority of Scripture in the Christian church. If the word of God is not the authority, something else will take its place, to the decline and distortion of the church. No third way exists between Christ and the world. The Gospel has always offended popular culture and any attempt to dilute its offensiveness only leads to ruin. As voices within and outside the church continue to urge evangelicals to let go of our authority and trust in the Bible, may we cling ever tighter to the unchanging word of God.

Dating and Marriage Part 1: The History of Dating

The idea of dating is an issue that most of historical Christianity has not had to deal with.  Over the past 100 years we have seen a dramatic shift in what our world thinks about sex, dating, and marriage.  As a Youth Pastor, I'm constantly wrestling with how to instruct and teach my students how to handle themselves within the culture they live in today.  The Bible speaks indirectly about dating, but never directly.  The reason for this is rather simple; The concept of dating did not exist.  Over the next few blog posts this week I am going to look at Scripture and attempt to comment on how Christians should think about Dating.  Is dating permisable or should we just kiss it good bye?  If we decide to date, how should we conduct ourselves and what are some cautions of which we need to be aware? To begin the discussion I thought it best to provide a historical and cultural framework about dating.  Mark Driscoll in his book Religion Saves and Nine Other Misconceptions provides a good and helpful historical framework to discuss the dating issue.   The rest of this blog is an adaptation and edited portion of what he writes about the history of dating in the United States.

The past one hundred years have seen an incredible upheaval in male-female dating relationships. In 1896 the word dating was introduced as lower-class slang in reference to prostitution. “Going on a date” was a euphemism for paying for sex. By the early 1900s, “calling” was the primary means of marrying. Calling involved a young man, a potential suitor, scheduling a time to meet a young lady in the parlor of her parents’ home in the presence of her parents. These meetings were carefully overseen by the parents. Expectations for everything from formality of dress to food served and length of the meeting were spelled out in various books that defined proper courting.

Such a process protected young people from danger (e.g., abuse, rape), ensured the involvement of the entire family in the courtship of a young woman, allowed her father to keep away the wrong kinds of young men, minimized opportunity for fornication, and kept marriage as the goal of such relationships rather than such things as cohabitation. The major downside of calling was the expense, which made it impossible for many people in the middle and lower classes. They simply could not afford a sitting room or parlor designated for calling, complete with a piano, along with formal attire to wear and specific food to eat.

In the early 1900s young women were discouraged from going out alone with any male, even relatives, for fear of getting a bad reputation. That kind of cultural conservatism began to wane as women’s magazines hit the shelf (e.g., Ladies’ Home Journal had over 1 million subscribers by 1900). These women’s magazines began to inform women about men, and an entire industry of beauty products, clothing styles, and social norms was birthed, thereby weakening the influence of parents over young women.

By the 1920s, urbanization provided social outlets for meeting outside the home. Rather than calling at the woman’s home, singles were now able to go out together at places such as restaurants, movie theaters, and dance halls. This began to create new social networks for single people away from their homes and parents and opened up greater opportunities for such things as casual dating and inappropriate sexual contact.

Everything changed dramatically in the 1930s. At that time the automobile became widely available, thereby providing a new freedom for younger people to gather away from their parents’ home. This transition took the woman out of the home of her parents and into the world, where she was driven around by the man to places where temptations to sin from drunkenness to fornication were stronger than ever. Not surprisingly, by the 1930s dating overtook calling in prevalence, and money became the means by which a man could pursue a woman, taking her out on expensive dates. This altered the nature of male-female pursuit so that the best men were those with the most money (symbolized by which kind of car they drove) and therefore the most able to afford the nicest dates, and the most prized women were the most outwardly beautiful and sexual who could serve as the best trophy.

By the 1940s the prevalence of dating caused an economic view of male and female dating relationships that was, in principle, akin to prostitution in some ways. Since men were required to make good money, purchase a car, and treat a woman for a date, men began expect- ing sexual favors in return for spending money on her. Men often pressured women for sexual favors in exchange for an expensive date. Those women who refused such requests were often no longer asked out on dates, and looser women became more popular dates.

The 1960s saw one of the greatest social upheavals in the history of singleness in the Western world. The feminist and sexual revolutions of the day pushed for sexual anarchy of every kind (e.g., orgies, casual sex, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality) in conjunction with a wide- spread drug culture that only fueled recklessness, resulting in increased perversion and disease. In the 1960s Playboy was the first pornographic magazine widely published and was kept behind the counter at select stores. Also in the 1960s the birth control pill was made widely available, thereby encouraging even more sexual sin without the same levels of fear about out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

By the 1970s Playboy was taken from behind the counter at selected stores and displayed on the shelf alongside Penthouse, which was an even harder version of pornography. In 1973, abortion was legalized so that those not wanting to assume the responsibility that came with their sexual activity could legally murder their child. In 1974, no-fault divorce was legalized so that some of the legal difficulties and social stigmas associated with divorce were diminished.

The result? A cataclysmic alteration of sex, dating, marriage, and children. No longer were these seen as connected, or even related, issues.