Boldness, Joy, Humility in God

The second piece in our series on Remembering John Webster is by my friend Matt Crutchmer.

One of the more treasured bits of inheritance I’ve received is my mother’s old Book of Common Prayer, given and inscribed to her “Whitsunday, 1964” at age 12. A prayer for “Visitation of the Sick”:

O LORD, look down from heaven, behold, visit, and relieve this thy servant. Look upon him with the eyes of thy mercy, give him comfort and sure confidence in thee, defend him from the danger of the enemy, and keep him in perpetual peace and safety; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The density, clarity, peace, and even rhythm of this prayer from Archbishop Cranmer combine to teach and comfort both hearer and speaker. It is these same traits that the theology of John Webster exhibited, and is why you should read his work. Continue reading

Divine Attentiveness and Self Forgetfulness

The first memorial piece for Dr. John Webster comes from Joshua Malone, a former student of his.

Upon recollection, two qualities of the man, John Webster, stand out in my mind: a passion for our triune God and a forgetfulness of self. Before now, the co-inherence of these twin virtues in John never struck me (apologies to another John, John Calvin… they probably should have). In light of his passing, the connection now seems painfully obvious. Continue reading

Remembering John Webster (1955-2016)

Earlier this week Dr. John Webster, professor of divinity at St. Andrews University, died. For the next few days, we will be publishing pieces by friends, former students, and appreciative readers of Webster explaining what they learned about God from this marvelous theologian. I posted this on Facebook last night, but I’m going to say it here as well: It likely says something about Webster that after asking two separate people for pieces on him, I had both pieces in my inbox within a few hours. I’m going to pin this post to the top of the page for the next week or so because this is where I will keep track of the tribute pieces posted here and elsewhere as they go live and where I will share links to various lectures and books by Dr. Webster.

Continue reading

“Trials are Precious”

Going to interrupt our Trump coverage for a moment to share this video.

On December 8, my dad suffered a traumatic brain injury due to a drug complication to treat some blood clots in his lungs. He had emergency brain surgery the morning of the 8th. After that, he was in a medically induced coma until December 23. Since that time he has been in the hospital going through therapy to try and help him recover as much as he can from the brain injury. Continue reading

3 Lessons from “The Faith of Christopher Hitchens”

I was planning to read Larry Taunton’s The Faith of Christopher Hitchens before reading Samuel’s review for us. His review made me push it to the top of my “too read” list. And then I got the thing and read it over two days, such was my delight with it. I’m not sure I recall the last time a book I expected to like enormously still far surpassed my expectations of it. Continue reading

Sanctified by Grace Blog Tour: Mortification

The root of Francis and Edith Schaeffer’s ministry at L’Abri was what Dr. Schaeffer came to call “true spirituality.” He was, characteristically enough, well ahead of the curve in his understanding of how young people were coming to think of “spiritual” practices as being divorced from any sort of organized religious identity and so, over time, he would develop the ideas that became his book True Spirituality and which grounded the work that went on at L’Abri.

Central to this idea was Schaeffer’s insistence that true spirituality must begin with death before it can move to life. If we do not truly understand our sin, Schaeffer reasoned, we will not understand God’s offer of redemption and restored fellowship with him. Continue reading

Sanctified by Grace Blog Tour: Election

One of the great problems facing the church today is how to cultivate a unified Christian mind on a corporate level in our churches and on an individual level in the lives of individual Christians.

This challenge is, in one sense, the challenge facing every generation of Christian believers who are called to live in the world and yet not be of the world. So in an important way there is nothing new about this difficulty. Previous generations of Christians have faced it just as we are now. Continue reading

On Loving and Hating Places

There are a few more things that need to be said as we wrap up this week’s Crump-related fun. (And no, I did not watch last night’s debate so do not ask me about it. I was busy playing Football Manager and reading Anthony Esolen.)

There is a way of opposing the political establishment that really is nihilistic and conservatives have been very good at it in recent years. Indeed, there is almost certainly a strong link between the success of the professional malcontents on the right like Rush Limbaugh and the ascent of candidates like Crump. That is what we need to avoid now. Continue reading

Evangelicals need to read Richard Hooker.

I’m pleased to host this excellent interview between Mere Fidelity contributor Alastair Roberts and my friend Dr. Brad Littlejohn. Dr. Littlejohn, who did his doctoral work at Edinburgh with Mere O favorite Oliver O’Donovan, has just published a popular level introduction to 16th century English theologian Richard Hooker. If you’re like me, you’ve probably come across Hooker’s name somewhere, but don’t know much about him. His lone major work, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, is hard to track down in an affordable edition. So Hooker is just a name for most of us, like other obscure theologians in the church’s past. Brad’s book will go some way toward addressing this problem. Having read it, I now want to find a way of reading Laws, if only I can find an affordable edition. Enjoy the interview! (Full disclosure, Brad is the president of the Davenant Trust, an organization I’m pleased to serve as a board member. But even if I were not his friend and fellow board member I would be delighted to host this interview here at Mere O.)

Thank you for agreeing to join me to discuss the subject of your new book, Richard Hooker: A Companion to His Life and Work. For the sake of those who may not be familiar with Hooker, can you give a very brief description of who he was?

Sure thing. Basically, when I’m talking to Reformed people, I say something like “Think of him as Anglicanism’s John Calvin.” He became within a few decades after his death the preeminent theologian of the tradition that came to call itself “Anglican,” even though Hooker wouldn’t have thought of himself in these terms, just as Calvin never thought of himself as the first “Calvinist.” His life was comparatively short (1553-1600), almost entirely coinciding with Queen Elizabeth’s long reign (1558-1603), so he is mostly known only for his one great work, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. Continue reading

The Strength of the Hills Is Not Ours–Our Modern Identity Crisis

Tolkien once remarked to me that the feeling about home must have been quite different in the days when the family had fed on the produce of the same few miles of country for six generations, and that perhaps this was why they saw nymphs in the fountains and dryads in the wood – they were not mistaken for there was in a sense a real (not metaphorical) connection between them and the countryside. What had been earth and air & later corn, and later still bread, really was in them. We of course who live on a standardised international diet (you may have had Canadian flour, English meat, Scotch oatmeal, African oranges, & Australian wine to day) are really artificial beings and have no connection (save in sentiment) with any place on earth. We are synthetic men, uprooted. The strength of the hills is not ours.
~CS Lewis

Wesley Morris has a fine essay on our obsession with identity over at the New York Times. Morris ties together a number of major news stories from the past year to highlight how they all relate in one way or another to a widely shared obsession with identity: What makes a person who they are? How much control does a person have over their own identity? How fluid can an identity be? And why is race, in contrast to gender, so much harder to redefine or shift?

In a piece that ranges from Anne Hathaway’s new movie to Barack Obama to Mr. Robot to Amazon’s popular show “Transparent,” Morris attempts to answer those questions. Continue reading