Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Haykin (page 1 of 2)

How to React to the Fall of Rome – Part 2

In the previous post we saw that the ancient church’s view of a historical phenomenon (namely, the Roman Empire) shifted dramatically within the space of a few generations, on account of their particular experiences with that empire.

I would suggest that we have seen something somewhat similar take place over the past few generations up until our day–though not with an empire, per se.

I think it is particularly interesting to see how many Christians lament over the end of modernism the way Jerome mourned the fall of Rome. So many of us weep over modernism as if it was a Christian creation, designed for the spread of the gospel–God’s chosen means for reaching the world.

In reality, there is little that is further from the truth. In and of itself modernism was never a friend to the gospel. Secular modernist philosophers and scientists have always used modernism as a means of attacking and discrediting the claims of the Christian faith.

For all the ways that modernism has provided a platform for displaying the truthfulness of Christianity (text criticism, archaeological studies of ancient cities, much of creation science, etc.), it was never a ‘Christian’ view.

The trustworthiness of Christianity in a modern mindset boils down to little more than making a ‘case for Christ’ logically. The trouble is that Christianity, by its very nature, will not fit in these categories.

All that we are as Christians is based on the claim that Jesus Christ was entirely God and entirely man, lived a perfect life fulfilling God’s law, suffered and died to take on the curse of the law for us who receive his righteousness, and that God really did physically and literally raise him from the dead.

But here’s the deal: I can’t prove that to you in a scientific way. I can point to evidences, but that’s all. There is something necessarily personal and experiential (existential?) about the Christian faith. What we believe is not relativism, because our believing does not determine whether something is true or false, but our faith is what saves us.

In other words, it’s something personal, internal, ‘unprovable’ that makes all the difference in the world. That’s what our religion is based on. This is the kind of thing that modernists can’t grasp. They want something to touch, to examine, to test, to prove.

So what then? Do we rejoice over the fall of Rome? Do we rush off to align ourselves with the newest invaders who have come to expose Rome’s weaknesses? Do we embrace all that is postmodernism with open arms?

I suggest that we do what Augustine did. We use this opportunity to look around and evaluate from the perspective of eternity. What about modernism was evil and passing? What was good? What reflected God? How was modernism used for the spread of the kingdom?

And then, we ought to begin asking some careful questions about the ’empire’ that is coming upon us. How can we use its strengths and its weaknesses to further the cause of the kingdom? How does postmodernism provide ways for the gospel to go forth that modernism never would?

In the end we must remember that neither modernism nor postmodernism is ‘God’s perspective.’ These philosophical mindsets are of man, and they will pass. We need to examine the world around us closely so that we can see how to better hope in, trust in, and point to the world that is to come.

How to React to the Fall of Rome – Part 1

Looking over my notes today from my early church history course, I noticed something interesting. It’s nothing new or profound, but it caught my attention anyway. The church’s response to the fall of Rome was weird, in many ways.

I think it’s necessary to lay some background before we move on.

From the founding of Christianity (Pentecost somewhere around 33AD) to 64AD the Christian church enjoyed religious protection, since it was seen by Rome as a Jewish sect. When Rome burnt in 64AD, however, Nero needed someone to blame and so he blamed the Christians.

Nero’s actions set the precedent for persecution of Christians that would last the next few hundred years. Rome was ruled by pagans who hated Christians. From the heart of Rome all the way up to places like Gaul (southern France) Christians were persecuted.

It is important to note that throughout this time period, Christians saw the hand of Satan at work in the Roman Empire, as both he and they sought to destroy Christ’s church.

Skipping ahead a few centuries, we find that in 312AD a Roman Emperor (Constantine) becomes a Christian. This is part of a monumental shift for the way Christianity and Rome came to relate. Though (contrary to popular belief) Constantine did not legislate Christianity, he did legally protect Christians from persecution.

As Christianity gained favour with the upper segments of society (it’s popular to like what the emperor likes), Rome grew in favour with the Christians as well.

Within a few generations, it seems, Christians had forgotten that Rome had for so long killed and persecuted their forefathers in the faith. Now Rome was a friend to them, and they could see it as nothing else.

This is seen nowhere more clearly than in Jerome’s reaction to the fall of Rome. In his writings, he laments the fall of the Roman empire, citing Scriptures originally speaking of Jerusalem, and now using them in reference to Rome! Christians like him wept and lamented that this ‘Christian’ empire could fall.

This is a far cry from the view of Christians who had lived only a few generations before him, who saw Satan at work through the Roman empire.

How could this shift have happened?

It happened because Christians like Jerome were so consumed with what they could see in their own time, that they lost sight of what the scriptures truly do say about kingdoms, empires, and earthly regimes.

Just as a side note, in closing, it must be noted that my personal hero, Augustine, did not fall prey to such a short view. In response to Jerome, Augustine would write letters to him, admonishing him to look past Rome to the City that will never fall. Likewise, against the pagans who said that the fall of Rome meant the fall (and failure!) of Christianity, Augustine wrote the City of God which functions as a theodicy and an apologetic to the philosophers of his day.

What does all this have to do with us and how we view history today, as it unfolds? That’s for another post.

TBS Principal’s Banquet

I was quite blessed with the privilege of speaking at this year’s Principal’s Banquet for the Toronto Baptist Seminary. I was to give a ‘student’s perspective, in three minutes or less.’ I was given the task of explaining why I chose to come to TBS, and why I continue to study at TBS. In other words, from a student’s perspective, I should answer the question, ‘Why should someone continue to support the work at the seminary?’

Below is the manuscript I had written out. It is close to what I actually said.

My name is Julian Freeman and I just finished my second year as a full-time student at TBS. I count it quite a privilege to be here tonight and to have the opportunity to speak to you about why I have chosen to study at TBS and why I continue to study at TBS. I do think it is somewhat unfair for them to give me such a broad, open-ended question, and then only give me a few minutes to talk about my reasons, but here is my best effort anyway.

The first thing that drew me to TBS was the doctrinal statement. I had an opportunity to do my undergraduate degree at a school where I had significant differences in doctrine with some of the professors. This was a benefit to me as it exposed me to many different viewpoints on many different issues. However, when it came time for me to do my graduate work, my work which would be preparation for pastoral ministry, I knew that I had to go to school where I would no longer have to second guess the ones teaching me, but would be able to receive the truth as it was taught emphatically from scriptures.

TBS plays an absolutely crucial role in the training of men for pastoral ministry in Canada, because to the best of my knowledge it is the only complementarian school in Canada and it is also one of the few schools which still emphasizes the doctrines of grace. In these crucial areas our school still stands firm, with the word of God as our authority.

Another key factor in my choosing of TBS was its location. I was born and raised in Toronto, and my church involvement before seminary was in Toronto as well. Attending seminary close to home has allowed me to maintain my closeness to my local congregation, and has allowed them to continue to play a crucial role in my personal and spiritual development as I prepare for ministry. There are simply no other seminaries in the area where a student can go to get a solid, biblical education in preparation for pastoral ministry. The only alternative is to go to the United States, be removed from our local churches and Canadian context, and perhaps never come back. Having a school like TBS here, in Canada, helps ensure that our guys stay here and continue to minister in our context–right where we need them.

The main reason why I have loved being at TBS, however, and what keeps me committed to the school is the professors themselves [men like the kerux, Kirk Wellum, and Michael Haykin]. Never have I once questioned their commitment to us as individuals, as brothers and sisters in Christ, and as those training for future ministry. The professors have always made themselves available for us to speak about what issues concern us, be they spiritual, doctrinal, or personal. Over and over again I have been amazed by the grace of God at work in these men that they so freely give of their time and their talents so sacrificially in order to benefit us and through us, to grow God’s kingdom.

I am so thankful to our Lord for what he is doing in our midst at TBS: he has given young men like me who have sensed God’s calling on our lives an opportunity to learn God’s truths from God’s word, as taught by godly professors who are concerned for God’s glory in the growth of his kingdom. Please do continue to pray that God would continue to increase the work he is already doing amongst us at TBS.

Good Stuff to Read

If you’re like me, you can’t help but feel horribly ignorant with regard to much of our Christian heritage. I know a few of the main figures, but very little aside from the biggest names.

It has been a wonderful blessing to study this past year or so under Dr Haykin at TBS because he has done so much to bring church history to life for me. Fortunately, he does it in a way that challenges you with very practical application to the Christian life that we live now. It is no mere academic exercise.

I’m currently going through a couple of Dr Haykin’s books and have enjoyed another one previously, so I thought I’d recommend them to whoever thinks they’d like to make themselves a little more familiar with a couple of our forefathers in the faith.


I had the chance to read this book several years ago. It simply contains about 50 of Watts’ lesser known hymns. Absolutely fantastic devotional material.


Oliver Cromwell is an absolutely fascinating character who is often written about and studied, but few have come to appreciate the Puritan spirituality that pervaded all of his life and his thought.


Whitefield is always a wonderful study. The devotion with which he writes stirs the heart.

These books are all available from the Joshua Press website and are all very inexpensive. The format is simple and easy to read: the first section contains writings by Dr Haykin overviewing the spirituality of the person in question. The other part of the book is made up of selections from their writings so that you can familiarize yourself with the figure in a firsthand sense by engaging with the primary sources (and you don’t even have to go to a library!).

These books are absolutely wonderful because they introduce you to some key figures of our faith without being incredibly demanding of your time or mental energy. And as with everything Dr Haykin does, these books are primarily concerned with practical spirituality and how our lives can be more conformed to the image of Christ by the power of the Spirit now because of what these men wrote so long ago.

Blame the Bad Christians…?

My good friend, Jon Warner, has a post over on his blog that got me thinking. In it, Jon questions the “labels” we live under as a result of “hero worship” in the Christian faith. He argues that even those “great saints” who have gone before us have had fatal flaws in their character which are significant enough that we should distance ourselves from labelling ourselves with their names.

 

There is a good amount of truth in this. I cringe anytime someone says something like, “oh… you’re a Calvinist…” with that look on their face as if to say, “now I’ve got you all figured out.” It is good to fight labels in the sense that we don’t want to either follow or be labelled as following a person’s teachings carte blanche. If we just accept something because someone we like said it, we’re in grave danger of exalting people to places in our minds that they don’t deserve. 

That being said, I think Jon is reacting against a type of Christianity that I am unfamiliar with. For example, Michael Haykin has posted a wonderful series on Eminent Christians through history on his blog. These posts have been insightful, encouraging, edifying, and challenging. There has been no hint of hagiography; all of the sketches picture great men of the faith who, even while being great, were still men.

This seems to be symptomatic of much of the angst and rebellion in the “younger evangelicals” these days: There is reaction to what is legitimately wrong, but they are unwilling or unable to see that there are those still within evangelicalism who have not made that particular mistake. As a result, lookout below, because here comes that nasty pendulum.

It would appear that the solution here is, as with many other problems, merely a matter of reasoning things through. Do we have much to learn from great figures of our faith? Yes. Have people gone too far in the past and made idols out of Christian figures? Yes. Do we need to avoid all labels as a result? No. Are labels sometimes frustrating? Yes, absolutely.

So what do we do? Well, first we actually have to read our Bibles. Believe it or not, the Bible might have a thing or two to teach us about how to view ourselves in the light of those who have gone on before. I wonder if some would even accuse the author of Hebrews of hero worship in Hebrews 11?

Next, we need to actually read church history… in a discerning manner. Then we ask questions: Were they right? Why? How can we advance / build off of what they said? Hopefully this will lead to a more reasoned approach to progressing Christian thought.

Ever wonder why we have this day?

Dr Michael AG Haykin has a wonderful and timely post on St Patrick here.

Whoever said history is irrelevant? Now next time you’ll have an answer when someone says, “Why do we have St Patrick’s day? Who is this Patrick guy anyway?”

Continuing on my love for the Church

As if I hadn’t been thinking about reasons why I love the Church enough lately, Dr Haykin comes to our church and preaches on “THE Church“!

Fantastic stuff!

Check out the sermon for free, here.

He preached that in our evening service. In the morning, I preached on divorce in the kingdom of God.

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