An Interview with William VanDoodeward about his book The Marrow Controversy and Seceder Tradition: Atonement, Saving Faith, and the Gospel Offer in Scotland (1718-1799). Reformation Heritage Books, 2011, 313 pp., paperback.

Thank you so much for your willingness to be interviewed. As a lover of historical theology, I enjoyed reading your well researched book—the best on the subject.

Here are some of my questions for you about your work:

  1. Can you please briefly explain to us the terms “Marrow controversy” and “Seceder tradition”? Also, how are these two subjects connected to each other?

The “Marrow controversy” refers to a theological and ecclesiastical controversy in Scottish Presbyterianism between the years 1718-1726, centering on the republication of The Marrow of Modern Divinity by a gospel-hearted minister, James Hog of Carnock, in response to what he and others saw as a growing tendency towards legalism. A decade later, over a different issue in the life of the church, patronage (which allowed local nobles a key hand in the calling of ministers) several of the ministers who had been involved in the Marrow controversy (including Ebenezer Erskine) became instrumental in forming the Associate Presbytery (the beginning of the Scottish Secession churches). In my work I sought to evaluate whether the theology of the Marrow supporters in the window of the controversy was similar to the theology characterizing the Secession churches during the following century.

 

  1. What are the issues central to the Marrow controversy and why are these issues important to us today?      

Issues of legalism and antinomianism were key to the English and Scottish contexts of the Marrow of Modern Divinity, through in the Scottish context it appears the key challenge was error on the side of legalism – particularly a legal preparationism. As Sinclair Ferguson notes in his lectures, legalism and antinomianism are perennial issues of the sinful human heart. We try to establish our own righteousness before God apart from Christ, and we pursue sin and treat his costly grace as through it were a cheap thing, or act as through his holiness, expressed to us by his law, has no claims on us. These two errors often go hand in hand. It is the faithful preaching of the gospel which unmasks the ugly reality of both and graciously provides the divine answer in Christ.

 

To keep reading the interview, click here.

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FORTHCOMING BOOK: The Very Heart of Prayer: Reclaiming the Spirituality of John Bunyan

Forthcoming book: The Very Heart of Prayer: Reclaiming the Spirituality of John Bunyan

“Najapfour advances a well-researched thesis that Bunyan was in fact a sectarian Puritan. While Bunyan was not a Puritan in the sense of a reformer within the Church of England, Najapfour demonstrates that Bunyan embraced a Reformed and Puritan spirituality—godliness empowered by biblical truth. Not only does Najapfour bridge the gap between scholarly and pious readings of Bunyan, but he also explores Bunyan’s view of prayer, the Holy Spirit, and godliness in a way that enriches our minds and souls.”

—Dr. Joel R. Beeke, President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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“Brian Najapfour has provided the church with a helpful introduction to Bunyan’s spirituality. I commend this book, and more importantly Bunyan himself, as a conversation partner for all evangelicals who desire a Word-centered, Spirit-led, gospel-driven spirituality.”

—Dr. Nathan A. Finn, Assistant Professor of Church History and Baptist Studies, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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“This new study by Brian Najapfour opens up to us Puritan views on what it means to pray in the Spirit and how deeper godliness is to be sought. Here we have solid help from some of Bunyan’s lesser known devotional writings. Those who are seeking serious godliness in our own times will find a good deal to help them in this book.”

—Rev. Maurice Roberts, Minister of Greyfriars Congregation, Inverness, Scotland, and former editor of Banner of Truth magazine.

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“A blend of history, biography, and practical theology, Najapfour’s book will be of profit to anyone who wants to learn more about either the life and times of the remarkable John Bunyan or about prayer.”

—Dr. Donald S. Whitney, Professor of Biblical Spirituality, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.

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Brian G. Najapfour holds a Th.M. in Historical Theology from Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (PRTS). From 2001 until his coming to PRTS in 2006, Najapfour served as a pastor in the Philippines. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is co-editor (along with Joel R. Beeke) of Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer. He is married to Sarah J. Najapfour.

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An Interview with Joel R. Beeke about his book Friends and Lovers: Cultivating Companionship and Intimacy in Marriage. Cruciform Press, 2012, 96 pp., paperback.

Thank you so much for your willingness to be interviewed about your book that is filled with godly wisdom. As a newly married husband, I read this volume with great profit. I especially liked the biblical, pastoral, practical, honest, and balanced tone of your book.

Here are some of my questions for you about your work:

  1. Can you please briefly explain why friendship and sexual intimacy are “two key ingredients in a vital marriage” (p. 8)?

From the beginning God designed marriage to be a bond of personal and sexual unity. Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Cleaving (or clinging) expresses the commitment or bond of a shared life. One flesh expresses sexual intimacy. It is interesting that the desires of women tend to major on the bond of friendship, and the desires of men on the sexual bond. In reality we need both to make a vibrant marriage. There is something inexpressibly beautiful about making love with your spouse as your best friend, and sharing life with your lover.

 

  1. You say that “[f]ew books on marriage include even one chapter on friendship” (p. 13). Why do you think this is so?    

That’s a hard question to answer with certainty. Perhaps part of the reason is that we have become a culture obsessed with skills, but awkward about relationships. There are lots of books about how to find your dream mate, how to communicate well, how to make love well, how to avoid tragedy well, etc. But as a culture North Americans don’t seem to know how to “be together” well.

Another factor may be the negative influence of communications media. We have traded real friendships for superficial forms of intimacy flashing on screens both large and small. Social media allow people to network and share information at an unprecedented rate. These are useful tools for work and business. But they are no substitute to eating dinner together every night, talking about what’s going on in your hearts and lives, reading and discussing the Bible, and praying hand-in-hand in the presence of the living triune God.

 

To continue reading the interview, click here

Note: Friends and Lovers can be obtained from Reformation Heritage Books for the discount price of $7.00 plus postage.

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An Interview with Roger D. Duke about his co-edited book Venture All for God: Piety in the Writings of John Bunyan. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011, 194 pp., paperback.

Thank you so much for your willingness to be interviewed. As an admirer of John Bunyan, I am pleased to see a new book on Bunyan that especially highlights his spirituality.

Here are some of my questions for you about your co-edited work:

 

  1. The book focuses on the piety of Bunyan. What do you exactly mean by the word piety, especially since the term is rarely used today? Is this term different from the word spirituality? Also, what is central to Bunyan’s piety?    

Piety– We mean by piety, something very similar to the Free Merriam-Webster (online) Dictionary meanings: 1) The quality or state of being pious: a) fidelity to natural obligations (as to religions or God), b) dutifulness in religion, i.e. devotion to a religion or religious ideals, 2) an act of inspired by piety, 3) a conventional belief or standard such as orthodoxy.

Truly it is our belief that Bunyan was an orthodox Christian who was a totally devoted follower of our Lord Jesus Christ. One of the main purposes of our contribution to this Reformation Heritage Books series was the belief that Bunyan was one who demonstrated true piety towards God because of persecution in such a politically turbulent time. This is demonstrated by the extracted works in the second half of the volume.

Spirituality-Please allow me an anecdotal observation on this concept of spirituality. I have been in the classroom teaching World Religions for about fourteen years. There is spirituality in all of the major world religions. That is, there is a sense that most devotees have a sense of the “other” or the “divine” or a sense in which there is a spiritual realm or world beyond ours.

What I talk about in my classes, for I teach classes with person from all of the world religions in them, is that we are all spiritual.  We have a sense that there is a higher and better in humanity than the animal kingdom. This entire discussion is “teased out” under the Image of God Christian concept. Then I bring to the discussion that we are all made intrinsically to worship. And that we all do worship something or someone. But generally the object of our affection ends up looking like us, or something that can be seen with the eyes, or fashioned with our hands, or can be held in our hands. There is a sense in which “spirituality” has seen a recent revival. But it is not a Christian spirituality. This small Bunyan contribution, we believe, speaks to that.

What is central to Bunyan’s piety: Here I am speaking for myself alone. It seems to me that Bunyan was overwhelmingly concerned with being “right with God” and then “having an assurance” of that right standing with God. When one does just a cursory reading of his Grace Abounding this is so very easily seen. Secondly, the persecution of the non-conformist of his day put him in a position where he had to decide personally whether or not to pay the price for his convictions even to the point of spending years in imprison. This time of persecution defined and deepened, from my perspective, his deeply pious commitment to Christ and to preach his Gospel at whatever it might cost him.

 

Note: Roger D. Duke, a professor at Union University, would like to inform his readers that his answers do not necessarily speak for his co-editor Dr. Phil A. Newton.

To continue reading the interview, click here.

 

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John Bunyan: A Sectary or a Puritan or Both? A Historical Exploration of His Religious Identity

Richard Greaves, a leading Bunyan scholar, proposed a thesis that studies John Bunyan (1628-1688) in the light of the sectarian tradition.[1] This thesis, however, is not original with him. William York Tindall, in his book John Bunyan: Mechanick Preacher (1934), had already set Bunyan in a sectarian context.[2] Twenty years later came Roger Sharrock’s biography of Bunyan, which devotes a chapter to Bunyan as a sectary.[3] Then, in the late 1980s Christopher Hill’s volume appeared, A Turbulent, Seditious, and Factious People: John Bunyan and his Church 1628-1688, which further places Bunyan in a radical sectarian milieu.[4] All these books have been supplanted by Greaves’s biography of Bunyan, Glimpses of Glory: John Bunyan and English Dissent (2002), which, from Greaves’s own mouth, is “the first to deal with all of his [Bunyan’s] works in the context of his life and the broader world of nonconformity.”[5]

Usually scholars who situate Bunyan within a sectarian framework question his identity as a Puritan, and consequently slight his spiritual riches, a treasure found in other Puritans. This paper will argue that Bunyan uniquely possessed the spirit of both sectarianism and Puritanism.

 

To continue reading the article, see Brian G. Najapfour, “John Bunyan: A Sectary or a Puritan or Both? A Historical Exploration of His Religious Identity,” Puritan Reformed Journal 3, no. 2 (2011): 142-159.


                 [1] Richard L. Greaves, John Bunyan and English Nonconformity (London: Hambledon Press, 1992), viii.

                 [2] William York Tindall, John Bunyan: Mechanick Preacher (New York: Columbia University Press, 1934; reprint, New York: Russell & Russell, 1964).

                 [3] See chapter two of Roger Sharrock, John Bunyan (London: Hutchinson’s University Library, 1954; reprint, London: Macmillan, 1968), 29-51.

                 [4] Christopher Hill, A Turbulent, Seditious, and Factious People: John Bunyan and his Church 1628-1688 (Oxford: Calderon Press, 1988), 19. Also published in the U.S. as A Tinker and A Poor Man: John Bunyan and His Church, 1628-1988.

                 [5] Richard Greaves, Glimpses of Glory: John Bunyan and English Dissent (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002), viii.

John Bunyan Puritan Puritan Reformed Journal Sectarianism

An Interview with Brian G. Najapfour about his co-edited book Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer

  1. How has your prayer life grown since writing/editing this book and fleshing out all of the doctrines taught by these reformers and puritans?

Before answering your question, allow me to first express my heart-felt gratitude for this privilege of being interviewed by you. By God’s grace, since I started this project, I have noticed a growth in my prayer life. However, I realize that the more I study the subject of prayer, the more I see my own prayerlessness. And the more I see my prayerlessness, the more I realize my great need of the Holy Spirit in prayer.

Indeed, my study of the subject has made me more aware of two basic truths: first, because of my indwelling sin, my soul acts unfriendly toward prayer; and second, because of my indwelling sin, I need the Holy Spirit’s assistance. For me to be able to pray, therefore, I have to constantly remind my soul that prayer is not a foe but a friend. Prayer is such a difficult work that it requires strong discipline. Martin Luther (1483-1546) is not exaggerating when he declares, prayer is “the hardest work of all” (p. 9). I am not embarrassed to admit that sometimes I find it more enjoyable to play basketball than to pray to God. Sometimes prayer becomes boring to me. Writing in his treatise I Will Pray with the Spirit (1662), John Bunyan (1628-1688) understands what I mean here when he says:

May I but speak my own experience, and from that tell you the difficulty of praying to God as I ought; it is enough to make you poor, blind, carnal men, to entertain strange thoughts of me. For, as for my heart, when I go to pray, I find it so loath to go to God, and when it is with him, so loath to stay with him, that many times I am forced in my prayers; first to beg of God that he would take mine heart, and set it on himself in Christ, and when it is there, that he would keep it there (Psalm 86:11). Nay, many times I know not what to pray for, I am so blind, nor how to pray, I am so ignorant; only (blessed be grace) the Spirit helps our infirmities [Rom. 8:26] (cited in p. 116).    

Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin, commenting on this quote, notes, “From personal experience, Bunyan well knew the allergic reaction of the old nature to the presence of God. So were it not for the Spirit, none would be able to persevere in prayer” (p. 117). Since my indwelling sin makes me unfriendly and even ignorant towards the necessity of prayer, I need the assistance of the Spirit. Why? Because in the words of Bunyan, a “man without the help of the Spirit cannot so much as pray once; much less, continue…in a sweet praying frame” (cited in p. 118). O my blessed Holy Spirit give me more grace to pray!

 

This interview is by Chadd M. Sheffield, a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. To continue reading the interview, click here.

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“A Holy Life”: Bunyan’s Theology of Piety

The Puritans are well-known for their strong emphasis on purity both in doctrine and in practice. In fact, this very emphasis is obviously one reason why they have been labeled puritans. In chapter one, a case was made that on the ground of this same emphasis, Bunyan can be deservedly regarded as a Puritan. Bunyan undeniably held the essence of Puritanism which may be described in two words: God (doctrine) and godliness (practice). The Puritans believe that right doctrine of God prompts holy practice, and that the practice of holiness becomes only superficial when it does not emanate from the proper knowledge of God.

Charles Hambrick-Stowe contends that ‘“at its heart… Puritanism was a devotional movement, rooted in religious experience, and that ‘the rise of Puritanism and the settlement of New England ought to be understood as a significant episode in the ongoing history of Christian spirituality.”’[1] This reinforces the importance of reading Bunyan in light of his spirituality.

Bunyan’s pursuit in all of life—especially in preaching and in writing—was personal piety. With the help of the Holy Spirit, he made every effort to “be a pattern, and example of piety.”  From Bunyan’s own testimony:


[1] Cited in Dewey D. Wallace, Introduction to The Spirituality of the Later English Puritans: An Anthology (Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1987), xi.

 

Note: This article is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of Brian G. Najapfour, “‘The Very Heart of Prayer’: Reclaiming John Bunyan’s Spirituality.” Th.M. thesis, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, 2009. Click here to continue reading the article.

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A Summary of John Piper’s “To Live Upon God that Is Invisible: Suffering and Service in the Life of John Bunyan”

The phrase—“to live upon God that is invisible” in the title came from John Bunyan’s (1628-1688) own mouth. He said that after reading 2 Corinthians 1:9: “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.” Here Bunyan realized that if ever he would suffer rightly, he must first consider himself dead to anything precious to him in this world which includes his very own loved ones; and second, he must live upon God that is invisible, which means for him to endure sufferings he must focus on things that have eternal value. Such a realization became Bunyan’s passion throughout his life. With God’s help, after Bunyan became a believer, he had endeavored to serve the invisible God faithfully even in the midst of his sufferings. This attitude is what John Piper wants to promote among Christians, especially among pastors.

 

Click here to read the entire paper.

Note: Piper’s “To Live Upon God that Is Invisible: Suffering and Service in the Life of John Bunyan” was a paper he delivered at the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors, 1999.

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The Puritan Practice of Meditation

“Meditation applieth, meditation healeth, meditation instructeth.” –Ezekiel Culverwell.

Spiritual growth is intended to be part of the Christian life of believers. Peter exhorts believers to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). The Heidelberg Catechism says that true Christians are members of Christ by faith and partake in His anointing. By Christ’s power they are raised up to a new life and have the Holy Spirit given to them as an earnest; by the Spirit’s power they seek the things which are above (Col. 3:1). Spiritual growth is only to be expected, since it is impossible that those, who are implanted into Christ by a true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.

 

The article is by Joel R. Beeke, president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He is also a pastor of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Click here to read his entire article.

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A Puritan’s Perspective of Galatians 2:20

Introduction

It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.[1]

Galatians 2:20 is one of “those” verses, and the Puritans are some of “those” people.  They are both difficult to put in neat structured categories and tend to invoke interesting reactions.  Galatians 2:20 provides a concise, mysterious, and powerful picture of the Christian life incorporating within one small verse elements related to justification and the spiritual life that flows from one who has been reconciled with God in redemption.  The Puritans, on the other hand, were a group of religious non-conformists seeking to remove the lasting elements of Catholicism from the church.  As a group, they loosely began in the early to mid 1500’s and were, as a recognized group, essentially over by the late 1600’s.[2] As Lea aptly admits, “Just as it had a vague beginning it gently slides into obscurity.”[3]

In light of those observations, the purpose of this article will be to summarize and critique William Bridge’s (1600?-1671) perspective of Galatians 2:20[4] as presented in a series of five sermons preached over eight weeks in 1648.[5] Before beginning, a couple of qualifications need to be made.  Constructing someone’s exegetical thoughts from a sermon is generally a challenge.  This work proves to be no exception.  Since the Puritans were so keenly focused on application, care must be taken in this reconstruction, because their sermons are not intended to be read as exegetical commentaries.   Additionally, this article will seek to focus on those exegetical insights that are granted to the reader verses Bridge’s points of application.[6]

 

The article is by Adam McClendon, a Ph.D. student in Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.

Click here to read his entire paper.


[1]The Holy Bible : English Standard Version.(Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Gal 2:20b.

While most English translations place “I have been crucified with Christ” at the beginning of verse twenty, most commentators place it at the end of verse nineteen.  Bridge alludes to the implications of the believers having been crucified in Christ throughout sermons one and two, specifically in his discussion related to justification.  Nevertheless, it seems that he understood this phrase to belong to verse nineteen which is why it is not formally mentioned in relationship to the text of 2:20.  As a result, “I have been crucified with Christ” is not included in this citation.  For discussion concerning whether it should be included with nineteen or twenty see Richard N. Longenecker, Galatians, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 41 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990, 92).

[2]Both a concise definition concerning who the Puritans were and clear dates concerning when they may have begun or ended are beyond the scope of this paper.  Nonetheless, a few comments seem warranted here.  The beginnings and ending of Puritanism as well as what parameters define the category itself are difficult to determine.  They are a people passionate for purity in the Christian life who regularly demonstrated a heart devoted to God and his word.  For the Puritan, no authority equaled that of God’s, not the King’s and certainly not the Pope’s.

Two brief complications in providing a specific definition of the group will be mentioned.  First, one has to determine whether Puritanism should be seen foremost as a political, theological, or spiritual movement. (See Stephen J. Yuille, Puritan Spirituality: The Fear of God in the Affective Theology of George Swinnock [Colorado Springs, CO: Paternoster, 2007], 8-17.)  Certainly components of all three can be seen.  Second, the word “Puritan” was generally not self-descriptive but was used pejoratively similar to modern day terms such as “bigot, killjoy or extremist.” (John Coffey, “Puritanism, Evangelicalism and the Evangelical Protestant Tradition,” in The Advent of Evangelicalism, ed. Michael A. G. Haykin and Kenneth J. Steward [Nashville, TN: B&H Academics, 2008], 255.)  Puritans were in a variety of churches and many if not most of their leaders were pastors.  There were no “First Puritan Churches” or “Puritan meetings”; rather, the term described a group of people from a variety of backgrounds over an extended period of time who were functioning in various locations and vocations from Old to New England.

Concerning their dates, because of their separatist leanings and the persecution they endured, some might argue that the Puritans as a group ended in 1689 with the passage of the Act of Toleration; however, at minimum, it should be acknowledge that there were a variety of theological elements that brought cohesion to those who would be within this group that did not immediately dissipate with the passing of the Act of Toleration.  For a basic, but incomplete, list of some of those characteristics, see Kapic, Kelly M. and Randall C. Gleason, eds., The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 23-32.

For more information concerning these and other difficulties see “Puritanism: The Problem of Definition” in Basil Hall, Humanists and Protestants 1500-1900 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1990), 237-254; Coffey, “Puritanism, Evangelicalism and the Evangelical Protestant Tradition,” 255-8; Kapic, The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics, 16-8; Thomas D. Lea, “The Hermeneutics of the Puritans,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 39 (1996): 271-2; Barrington R. White, Barrington, ed. The English Puritan Tradition (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1980), 12.

[3]Lea, “The Hermeneutics of the Puritans,” 272.

[4]For another extended treatment of this passage by a Puritan, see Richard Sibbes, “The Life of Faith,” and “Salvation Applied,” in Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander B. Grosart, vol. 5 (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001), 357-408.

[5]See “Background” below for more detailed information concerning the sermons.

[6]One of the real treasures of Bridge’s sermons is his application.  While these are not examined in this article, here are a few specifically related to Christ in the believer.  1. Christ in us results in a deep satisfaction in life.  2. Christ in us results in an inseparable communion with Christ.  3. Christ in us results in a life that we proclaim to others.  4. Christ in us results in a forgiven and forgotten past.  5. Christ in us results in finding our identity in Christ.  6. Christ in us results in a “more blessed and glorious Communion with Christ than the other way.  For Union is the root of Communion…” (Bridge, 84.)  7. Christ in us results in the ability to “come with boldness unto the throne of grace, and with unlimited expectations of mercy from God…” (Ibid., 86.)  8. Christ in us results in the experience of “life, growth, and conviction” (Ibid., 15-20.)  9. Lastly, Christ in us results in the ability and responsibility to follow God’s law.

Piety Puritan Sermon Spirituality William Bridge