Tag Archives: History

The Gospel Coalition: Historical Anomaly?

Is The Gospel Coalition a historical anomaly? Not according to Ryan Kelly, TGC Council member and pastor of Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque. He sat down with Mark Mellinger to discuss historical precedents for parachurch networks like TGC.

Kelly cites John Calvin's 16th-century "company of pastors," a network of sharpening friendships among ministers, and past "prophesying conferences" in England for preaching and prayer. From the Westminster Assembly's interdenominational makeup to John Owen's occasional synods, Christian history includes other examples similar to today's networks. Consequently, he says, "What we're trying to do with TGC is not novel at all."

Moreover, TGC isn't just a website or a conference. Kelly is also part of a regional chapter made up of dozens of pastors who gather quarterly for fellowship, prayer, theological discussion, advice, encouragement, and more. The group plans to host its own regional conference in March.

Watch the full eight-minute video to hear Kelly discuss learning from our predecessors, conferences as self-indulgent vacations, "sheep tracking," and more.

Is TGC a Historical Anomaly? from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

We Need Gospel Patrons

In the early 1500s God raised up William Tyndale, a passionate and gifted young scholar who learned Latin, Greek, and Hebrew in order to translate the Scriptures into English. Tyndale wanted to bring his nation a Bible they could read and a God they could know, but he faced two challenges. First, Bible translation was illegal, the equivalent to heresy. Second, Tyndale didn't have the financial means to focus his time exclusively on such a massive project.

441px-Unknown_man,_formerly_known_as_William_Tyndale_from_NPGIt was a London businessman whose generosity bailed him out and so changed the course of the English-speaking world. When Humphrey Monmouth met Tyndale and heard about his ambition, Monmouth took a risk to provide for him, protect him, and partner with him. For six months he housed Tyndale and enabled him to work diligently on the translation. And when it was done, Monmouth leveraged his business connections with other merchants to use their ships to smuggle the contraband Bibles throughout England. Both men paid a high price for this endeavor. Monmouth ended up in prison. Tyndale ended up dead. But together they lit a flame that still burns in our generation.

Within two years of their deaths, the King of England ordered that every parish church should receive its own copy of the English Bible. Within 75 years, King James authorized an updated English translation, of which 80 percent to 90 percent was directly carried over from Tyndale's translation. For the next 450 years the King James Bible became the most influential book in the English-speaking world. And even today any English Bible you or I or any of the more than 600 million English speakers pick up is unashamedly built on Tyndale's foundation. History remembers Tyndale, but it has largely forgotten that the catalyst behind this massive movement of God was a generous businessman.

More Than Philanthropists

Men like Monmouth are more than philanthropists. They are "gospel patrons." The word patron occurs only once in the Bible, in Romans 16:2. It's a reference to Phoebe, the apostle Paul's patron. But throughout Scripture there are many examples of gospel patrons, although they are generally found in the verses we read right over on our way to the "good stuff."

For example, how did Jesus and his disciples fund their three years of preaching and ministry tours after they left behind their fishing nets and carpenter's belts for public ministry? They did not have a miracle meal of fishes and loaves for every lunch. Luke 8:1-3 records that three well-connected and generous women—Mary, Joanna, and Susanna—came alongside Jesus' ministry and generously provided for him.

Soon afterward [Jesus] went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.

Generosity and Progress

But is patronage a relic from a bygone era? Absolutely not! In the book Operation World, Jason Mandryk says "Generosity, evangelistic vitality, and ability to dream big are major factors in the surge of gospel progress" in the United States. Generosity and gospel progress go hand in hand.

Consider the early years of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. In one of his sermons pastor Mark Driscoll shared how the generosity of a few gospel patrons changed everything for the future of their church and ministry:

This guy named Brad showed up at the church, and he and his wife were very sweet and very godly, and I'll never forget the day they sat me down and said, "We believe in what God is doing, and so we want to help pay for the renovation of this little church building."

At that same time a couple showed up and they said, "You know, we love what God's doing here, and we love church planters and we love young pastors and we love Jesus, and we think God's got big things for Mars Hill." And they also started being very, very, very generous.

And it was at that time that a few very generous people made a difference. Had they not, to be honest with you, I don't think Mars Hill would've made it. I think we would've probably just ceased to exist. But because of the generosity of a few people, that morning service went from forty to eight hundred. That was the absolute game-changer in the history of Mars Hill.

We don't often get to hear these kinds of stories, but gospel patrons have done more to spread the good news of Jesus Christ than any of us know.

A year ago I crossed paths with Don Carson and shared some of my research with him. His response shocked me. Without blinking he said, "Behind The Gospel Coalition there are gospel patrons. I could tell you who they are right now, but I want to honor their desire to remain anonymous." Without them, this platform that provides gospel-centered content every day simply would not exist.

There are more stories that could be told from history, from Scripture, and even from today. But there are also many stories still to be written by God. As much as we need to raise up and equip the next generation of gospel preachers and missionaries, we also need to call forth those who will partner with them, the next generation of gospel patrons. They may not be the guy on a stage with a mic or the long-term missionary overseas, but they too have a vital part to play in God's work. The calling of a gospel patron has a long and beautiful history, filled with gripping stories of those rare men and women whose generosity changed the world.

Where Did All These Pentecostals and Charismatics Come From?

Where in the world did all these Pentecostals and charismatics come from? In the explosive growth and geographical extension of Pentecostal and charismatic groups, we are witnessing one of the most if not the most stunning episodes of Christian expansion ever. In the not-too-distant future Pentecostals will likely make up the majority of Christians worldwide.

A Nigerian pentecostal churchYet Pentecostals and charismatics remain mysterious even to other Protestants, despite the fact that the origins of the contemporary Pentecostal movement are well known. A cluster of events around the turn of the 20th century shaped Pentecostalism's distinctive character and launched it as one juggernaut of a Christian movement.

The Start: Topeka

In October 1900, 29-year-old Agnes Ozmen matriculated at the freshly founded Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas. Former Methodist, now Holiness pastor Charles Fox Parham directed students to read the book of Acts with heightened alertness to every mention of the Spirit. Consensus emerged on two points: (1) outward manifestations always accompany the Spirit's activity, and (2) speaking in tongues is the outward sign, the proof of baptism in the Holy Spirit.

A watch night service was announced for New Year's Eve. Sometime in the wee hours of January 1, 1901, Parham placed his hands on Miss Ozmen at her request, praying that she would receive baptism by the Holy Spirit. Witnesses report that Miss Ozmen, for the next three days, spoke and wrote only in Chinese. Parallel with the event reported in Acts 2 at the feast of Pentecost, the miraculous "tongue" reportedly spoken at Topeka was a known, extant human language foreign to the speaker. Only rarely amid the subsequent spread of the movement did reports of such technically "Pentecostal" tongues arise. Famously, in the summer of 1960, Rabbi Jacob Rabinowitz discovered Irishman John Gruver speaking (unbeknownst to Gruver) Hebrew during an Assemblies of God worship service in Pasadena. But the vast bulk of Pentecostal tongues have been, ironically, not Pentecostal, but Corinthian—unknown tongues, heavenly languages.

Theologically, the events at Topeka retain the strongest claim as the scene of the birth of Pentecostalism. The consensus regarding the tongues and the Spirit resulting from the Parham-prompted Bible study combined with the watch night prayers, and Ozmen's tongues epitomizes early Pentecostal identity. Interpretation of these events gave birth to new doctrine that turned Holiness believers into the first self-consciously Pentecostal followers of Jesus Christ. Here's what they believe: speaking in tongues is the normative external sign of the baptism with the Holy Spirit that is the spiritual birthright of every Christian.

Holiness Cradle

Such a reading and application of the book of Acts was long in the making. A century and half earlier, John Wesley had taught that a second work of grace post-conversion was possible, desirable, and pursuable by converts to Jesus Christ. The Methodist movement Wesley inspired gave birth to the Keswick Convention and conferences and the Wesleyan-Holiness and Higher Life movements out of which Pentecostalism sprang.

These Holiness churches emphasized the importance of Holy Spirit-produced second and even third works of grace. One group, for example, identified regeneration, sanctification, and baptism in the Spirit as three constituent outpourings of the Spirit proper to the normal Christian life. Holiness Christians wrangled among themselves about the number, nature, significance, and proper sequencing of such experiences.

A distinctive and quite technical language developed among these Holiness Christians. Terms such as "second blessing," "entire sanctification," "being filled with the Holy Spirit," "baptism of the Holy Spirit," or "baptism by the Holy Spirit" became identity markers amid a proliferating movement giving birth to countless independent churches as well as full-blown denominations like the Pilgrim Holiness Church and the Church of the Nazarene.

All these Holiness groups insisted that the miraculous gifts reported in the New Testament continue beyond the apostolic age into the present-day church. Though some Holiness believers chafe at this reality, early Pentecostals were essentially Holiness Christians with one additional feature—the insistence that speaking in tongues is the normative outward sign of the normative baptism by and in the Holy Spirit.

Azusa Street

The second pivotal event occurred when African American Holiness-turned-Pentecostal pastor William J. Seymour made his way to Azusa Street in Los Angeles to preach. Seymour, a former student of Parham and son of a slave, witnessed the outbreak of a revival that would not abate for three years. This multi-racial, multi-class eruption of miraculous gifts (charismata) pumped out Pentecostal evangelists, missionaries, and ministers.

The spiritual lineage of almost all early leaders among Pentecostals who soon dispersed throughout North America and beyond trace back to this extraordinary time in greater Los Angeles. The defining theological distinctive of Pentecostalism was distilled at Topeka. The launching pad of what would become global Pentecostal advance was situated on Azusa Street.

Organizing and Theologizing

Now we consider a third decisive development. From the beginning many Pentecostal churches began as independent entities and chose to remain so. But hundreds of Pentecostal denominations arose as well, including this one: "The founding fathers and mothers of the Assemblies of God met in Hot Springs, Arkansas, on April 2-12, 1914, to promote unity and doctrinal stability, establish legal standing, coordinate the mission enterprise, and establish a ministerial training school." It would be difficult to exaggerate the significance of this event. Of the some 280 million Pentecostals worldwide, more than 67 million belong to the Assemblies of God.

Two words capture the heart of theological conviction underlying both Pentecostalism and the Holiness movement from which it sprang—continuity and restoration. Against "cessationists" who insist that the miraculous gifts reported in the New Testament (tongues, healings, prophecies) ceased with the close of the apostolic age, Pentecostals contend for their continuance. The relationship between then and now is one not of disjunction but continuity. Thus, where the miraculous gifts are absent, Christians should seek to restore them.

But do Pentecostals care about anything else? Yes, and like so many other Protestants, they're willing to fight with and separate from one another over all sorts of things. This 1947 observation by Canadian Pentecostal pastor H. H. Barber provides a helpful window into the theological and ecclesiological diversity of Pentecostalism:

In the city of Winnipeg are people who claim to be Pentecostal who are hyper-Calvinist [i.e., they hold to a strict doctrine of predestination], some who are strong Arminians [i.e., they hold that man has free will]; some who look upon the doctrine of the Trinity as a pagan superstition [the so-called "Jesus Only" groups], others who are staunchly Trinitarian; some who believe in baptismal regeneration, others who deny any regenerative virtue of baptism. Some cherish a rabid type of independence; others are loyal to the requirement of ordered denominational affiliation.

When push came to shove, some Pentecostal churches and denominations have proved themselves protective of orthodox and evangelical Christianity. The emergence of "Jesus Only" deniers of the Trinity within the Assemblies of God precipitated a schism and resulted in The Statement of Fundamental Truths (1916), one-third of which was dedicated to affirming the most ancient and fundamental confession of Christian believers. Today the official website of the Assemblies of God (USA) gratefully identifies itself with Martin Luther, John Wesley, and the First Great Awakening. Not just tongues, not even just the Trinity, but insistence upon the inerrancy and authority of the Bible and justification by grace alone through faith alone typically belongs to the irreducible minimum Pentecostal confession.

Such continuities between Pentecostals with older streams within the Christian tradition should not surprise us. Early Pentecostals believers did not materialize out of thin air but came forth from Holiness churches who themselves emerged from Anglican, evangelical, and fundamentalist communities of faith. We do well to recall that Pentecostalism arose from a Wesleyan-style watch night service during which the particular petition raised to God followed two months of meticulous individual and communal Bible study. These facts speak to the diverse, deep, and complex Christian rootedness of Pentecostal origins.

Pentecostals and Prosperity

The roots of the so-called prosperity gospel and health-and-wealth gospel that grew up out of Pentecostal soil trace back to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Early Pentecostal encouragement to look for material gain from the hand of God issued forth not from McMansion dwellers and Mercedes drivers but from impoverished preachers who knew what it was to go to bed hungry. The bearers of real material poverty seldom glamorize its sufferings and often bring alertness to certain biblical teachings. Does not God place his children in a garden paradise and take them to a promised land where he makes their crops, livestock, and jewelry heap up and overflow? Does he not promise ultimately to set his adopted children down at a messianic feast in a New Jerusalem traversed along streets of gold? Was not Jesus the Great Physician? Does not God himself make us expect and yearn for the end of crying and pain and death?

By the 1980s the conviction that God wills the physical health and the material wealth of every follower of Jesus Christ essentially supplanted preaching about much of anything else within many Pentecostal churches. The means for accessing such benefits was also identified—"name it and claim it." From the ecclesial soil of Pentecostalism grew first the prosperity gospel and then the Word of Faith movement. Many academic Pentecostals decried such displacement of the heart of the gospel, and older, more confessionally rooted Pentecostals often avoided the worst excesses of these sub-movements. But the majority of the Pentecostal world flourishes in essentially independent communities of faith, allowing the prosperity gospel and its Word of Faith counterpart to spread with little real resistance. Can orthodox and evangelical Christianity survive where a robust prosperity gospel takes hold? On this point Pentecostals disagree among themselves. But even as Bible-believing Christians rightly criticize this development within Pentecostalism, they would do well to give serious attention to the impressive array of passages in both testaments to which these communities point.

Charismatics of a Different Sort

So what about the charismatics? Aren't they the same? Yes and no. Pentecostals are charismatics in that they pursue and report experience of the charismatic gifts. But the modern global charismatic movement exploded in the 1970s among Roman Catholics and within Protestant denominations as "the gifts" prized by Pentecostals appeared among them. The Vineyard Church is widely viewed as the first charismatic denomination. The charismatic movement emerged apart for Pentecostalism, but these communities cross-pollinated with their gift-practicing siblings in significant ways. Some charismatics adopted the prosperity gospel, Oral Roberts being the most spectacular example of such merging of and bridging between Pentecostalism and charismatic renewal.

The modern charismatic movement provided an unexpected and fairly astonishing validation of Pentecostal theology as practice of the gifts spread within the established, non-restorationist Christian world. But these new charismatics also posed a challenge to Pentecostals, who seemed to have something of a corner on both teaching and experience where the gifts were concerned. Significantly, the new charismatics rarely treated tongues or any other outward manifestation as the necessary sign of Spirit baptism, making them immediately more compatible with others inside and outside their denominations who did not manifest the gifts.

Options for Orthodox Onlookers

What should those of us who do not speak in tongues and do not witness regular healing miracles make of these growing movements? Where "Jesus Only" denial of the Trinity or the quest for health and wealth supplants the gospel itself, our duty seems clear. We must declare, "That is not Christian." Like Paul, love sometimes demands divisive dogmatism: "If we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than what we have preached to you, a curse be on him" (Galatians 1:8).

But what about Pentecostals and charismatics who confess the doctrines of the Trinity and the person of Jesus Christ in ancient, classic, orthodox fashion? What of those who cherish the Reformation solas, heartily affirming justification by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone? Surely a kind of theological and relational Golden Rule is in order: do unto them what you would have them to do unto you. We can love them without affirming convictions and practices with which we disagree. In the same way divergence over baptism and church governance results in a real separation between, for example, Southern Baptists and Presbyterians, without either community suspecting that the other languishes outside the body of Christ.

Ought not orthodox and evangelical confession achieve a core level of recognition and trust between diverse Protestant communions? Ought not such confession elicit and nurture considered patience towards one another? Again, like Paul, love sometimes demands from us dogmatic patience and refusal to separate: "Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:4). Discernment is the great burden of the church, but we must shoulder this responsibility with the seriousness demanded by the unity of the church and the purity of the gospel.

9 Things You Should Know About the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing

Fifty years ago on Sunday, September 15, 1963, a bomb exploded at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The blast killed four little girls: Addie Mae Collins (14), Carole Robertson (14), Cynthia Wesley (14), and Denise McNair (11). Here are nine things you should know about the bombing.

1. The church, originally known as the First Colored Baptist Church of Birmingham, was founded in 1873. This was just 10 years after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and two years after the founding of the city of Birmingham. The original church on 16th Street was demolished in 1908. The city condemned the building because of structural inadequacies, but church members believe that city leaders considered the church, with its soaring steeple, to be too grand for an African American congregation.

2. Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was the largest and most elite black church in Birmingham. African Americans in the South were basically forbidden from assembling anywhere but inside a church, so the church also functioned as a civic hall. Many members of 16th Street held teaching and professional jobs. Fear that members would lose their jobs initially made church leaders hesitant about involving their congregation in the burgeoning civil rights movement, though the church eventually became the rallying point for the movement in Birmingham.

3. September 15 was Youth Sunday, a tradition in Baptist churches in which young people lead the worship service. The boys wore dark pants and white shirts, and the girls wore white dresses. Carole Robertson wore her first pair of heels that day.

4. The Sunday School lesson for the morning was "A Love that Forgives." The sermon (which was never preached) was to be based on Luke 23:34: "Then Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.'"

5. There were actually five girls in the ladies' restroom in the church basement, primping before the service, when the bomb went off. Sarah Collins, the younger sister of Addie Mae, survived with serious injuries. Her eyes and face were full of glass. She lost one eye and underwent many reconstructive facial surgeries.

6. Eight-year-old Condoleezza Rice heard the explosion from two miles away at the Presbyterian church pastored by her father.

7. The stained-glass window of the Good Shepherd survived intact, except for the face of Jesus, which was blown out. One of the other shattered windows was replaced with a stained glass window of a black crucified Christ paid for with money donated by the people of Wales.

8. Four members of the Ku Klux Klan—Robert Chambliss, Thomas Blanton, Herman Frank Cash, and Bobby Frank Cherry—planted 19 sticks of dynamite under the church. No one was indicted for the murders until 1977, when Chambliss was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Herman Cash died in 1994 before he was ever charged. Blanton was convicted in 2001 and Cherry in 2002. Both were sentenced to life in prison. Blanton is the only one of the four still living.

9. At the funeral for the girls, Martin Luther King Jr. offered these words of comfort:

And so my friends, they did not die in vain. God still has a way of wringing good out of evil. And history has proven over and over again that unmerited suffering is redemptive. The innocent blood of these little girls may well serve as a redemptive force that will bring new light to this dark city.

King's words would prove true as the death of four little girls galvanized the sympathy of the nation and the world for the cause of the civil rights movement. Survivors of the blast would never fully recover from the trauma, but 50 years later, they work to forgive their enemies and honor the legacy of four little girls.

Further information:

While the World Watched by Carolyn Maull McKinstry (Tyndale House, 2011)

Four Little Girls, a documentary by Spike Lee (1997)
  

Big Question: What Day Changed the Course of Christian History?

For the inaugural article in our new series "Big Questions," The Gospel Coalition asked four Christian historians, "After AD 70, what day most changed the course of Christian history?"

Robert Louis Wilken is William R. Kenan professor emeritus of the history of Christianity at the University of Virginia. His most recent book is The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity.

A good case can be made for the Muslim invasion of the Middle East in mid-seventh century, let us say AD 650. No event during the first millennium was more unexpected, more calamitous, and more consequential for Christianity than the rise of Islam. Few irruptions in history have transformed societies so completely and irrevocably as did the conquest and expansion of the Arabs in the seventh century. And none came with greater swiftness. Within a decade three major cities in the Byzantine Christian Empire—Damascus in 635, Jerusalem in 638, and Alexandria in 641—fell to the invaders. Most of the territories that were Christian in the year 700 are now Muslim. Nothing similar has happened to Islam. Christianity seems like a rain shower that soaks the earth and then moves on, whereas Islam appears more like a great lake that constantly overflows its banks to inundate new territory.

George Marsden is professor emeritus in history at the University of Notre Dame and the author of Jonathan Edwards: A Life.

I think it has to be the day that Constantine was converted to Christianity. That had huge effects both for good and for ill ever after.

Philip Jenkins is the distinguished professor of history and co-director for the program on historical studies of religion for the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. He is the author of of The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia—and How It Died.

I would choose May 29, 1453, known throughout the Eastern churches as "the day the world ended." Although the Byzantine Empire by that point was a pale shadow of its former self, it was still a ghostly shadow of the Roman Empire, and the seat of the Orthodox Church that once dwarfed the Catholics in power and prestige. On that day, though, the Roman capital of Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks, beginning a period of long centuries when most Eastern Christians would survive under the grudging tolerance of Islamic rule. The event may be symbolic, but it still marks a decisive turning point in Christian history.

Thomas S. Kidd is professor of history at Baylor University. He is writing a biography of George Whitefield and previously published The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America.

On October 19, 1740, the First Great Awakening's most compelling preacher, George Whitefield, spoke at the church of the Great Awakening's most compelling theologian, Jonathan Edwards. This moment signaled the beginning of evangelicalism, the most dynamic movement in modern Christian history. Although Edwards and Whitefield did not always see eye-to-eye, they represented two aspects of evangelicalism at its best.

Edwards was the brilliant pastor of Northampton, Massachusetts, whose writings on doctrine and revival are some of the most rigorous the church has ever seen. Whitefield took the gospel to the ends of the earth (which, for this English itinerant, meant America), generating unprecedented excitement through impassioned oratory and skillful use of media. While Edwards represented the evangelical mind, and Whitefield embodied evangelical action, both still appreciated the other's strength. Edwards itinerated, too, and oversaw two major revivals at his church, while Whitefield strongly promoted Calvinist doctrine and risked permanent schism with his Methodist ally John Wesley because of it.

Whitefield and Edwards seemed to sense the significance of the moment: the normally stoic Edwards wept through much of Whitefield's sermon. Edwards thought the Whitefield's revivals might herald "the dawning of a day of God's might, power, and glorious grace."

What question should we ask next? Send your suggestions to me at [email protected].

Calvin on Lent and Ministry to Roman Catholics

The life and ministry of John Calvin provides insight into a range of ministry related issues—from biblical exegesis to training pastors to the effect of preaching upon civil government. But what, if anything, does Calvin teach us about ministry among Roman Catholics? It turns out that he teaches us a valuable lesson.

Contrary to those who would portray Calvin as a clerical despot, bent on micro-managing religious practice in his Genevan fiefdom, there is instead much evidence demonstrating his concern for the outward thrust of evangelism. Through each successive edition of his Institutes, for example, he retained his dedication to the French king. Some believe that this signified Calvin's commitment to nurturing the Protestant church in France, a movement for which he equipped pastors and missionaries. Whether it was in forming the Geneva Academy in 1559 (to train church leaders), his tireless routine of writing letters of encouragement to oppressed Huguenots, or in caring for refugees who had escaped the fires of persecution, the centrifugal impulse of Calvin's Christianity moved beyond the borders of Geneva and into the world.

It is interesting to notice how Calvin's missional outlook informed his approach to ministry among Roman Catholics, something with which he had much experience (given his time period when virtually everyone was from a "Romanist" background). Michael A. Mullett, in the recent update of his book John Calvin, stresses this point with regard to the standards and protocols that Calvin implemented for the church in Geneva: "we should try to understand the importance [Calvin] placed on the educational function of the liturgy," he writes, "deliberately using it to instruct a population of ex-Catholics in Protestant ways" (101). Through such instruction, Calvin sought to guide newcomers from patterns of superstition into a biblically chaste religion.

We observe Calvin's intentionality in his comments about Lent, for example. In the Institutes 4.12.19-21, the French reformer enumerates reasons for taking "precaution lest any superstition creep in, as has previously happened to the great harm of the church." He first quotes Joel 2:13 in opposition to religious hypocrisy. Second, citing Augustine, he cautions readers to avoid Lenten fasts as a work of merit. He then goes on to tackle the problems of legalism and spiritual pride. In all of this exhortation, Calvin is helping ex-Catholics evaluate familiar traditions in the light of Scripture. While recognizing a proper observance of Lent--one that flows from a heart of gratitude—he opposes superstitious distortions. By way of conclusion, Calvin writes:

Wicked laws were passed which bind consciences with deadly chains. The eating of meat was forbidden, as if it would defile a man. Sacrilegious opinions were piled upon one another, until the depth of all errors was reached. And not to overlook any depravity, they began, with a completely absurd pretense of abstinence, to mock God.

Reason for the Rhetoric

It is easy to make direct application from Calvin's polemic, especially when it involves a similar liturgical phenomenon such as Lent. The case of Lent is particularly interesting because, as in Calvin's period, some today may display penitent works for reasons of superstition or merit-seeking. Is such an error any less grievous now than it was then, and, if not, shouldn't we address it with the same degree of candor? I would say yes to the first question and probably not to the second. Let me explain.

With regard to our rhetorical engagement with Catholics, we must recognize that we live in a different time period from Calvin's. In the 21st century we don't link Christian faith to physical violence. However, it was far different for the 16th and 17th centuries when religious solidarity and national destiny went hand-in-hand. In such a society, the idea of religious pluralism was new and frightening. With what church does one identify? Even saying it this way is misleading. There was hardly a pluralistic choice. When Luther published his Appeal to the German Nobility, for instance, he was not proposing an alternative option. It was, for him, a necessary replacement of an apostate church institution. In addition to generating profound existential angst among rank and file Christians, such transition created a social and political revolution, which the wars of religion vividly remind us.    

In this setting, words were employed to heighten concern, awaken emotions, and motivate action. In this clash of competing worldviews, where the stakes were life and death, rhetorical conventions permitted and even promoted an aggressive confrontation aimed at demeaning opponents. In this polemical universe, you could not punch below the belt, because there was no belt marking off acceptable and unacceptable blows. My friend Jason illustrated this point during seminary. The consummate Calvinist, Jason once mentioned nonchalantly to our classmate Linford, a beloved Mennonite friend: "If we were living 500 years ago, I'd be drowning you about now." The strength of their friendship allowed for such a bizarre statement. Perhaps the most bizarre part, however, was its truth.

Outreach in Our Day

With regard to polemics, we live in a new day. The influence of Christian virtue on verbal etiquette has delivered us from the violent vituperations of yesteryear. In other words, we can disagree with charity. This is not to say that the Reformation is therefore over. Far from it. The same fundamental issues of difference that separated Catholics and Protestants in the 16th century largely exist today. But instead of drowning or impaling our Catholic conversation partners, we may now enjoy a cup of coffee with them at Starbucks, pray for their families, and cherish them as friends.

This sort of humility doesn't mean that we have compromised our conviction of what constitutes truth any more than being meek suggests that we lack strength. Jesus was all powerful, and yet he humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:1-11). Only after reaching informed convictions, having taken time to listen, learn, and think, do we possess the requisite courage to relate to others in a vulnerable, humble way. Conversely, when we attack the jugular of the one who disagrees with us, we demonstrate our insecurity. Once again, Jesus is our example. Although God, Jesus did not exploit his deity, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant (Phil 2:6-7).

So what is the lesson that Calvin teaches us about ministry to Catholics? It starts with understanding the religious assumptions of those Catholics whom we serve. With such a perspective, Calvin initiated a process that called superstition into question in favor of biblical faith and practice. Whether in evangelism or in catechizing members at Saint-Pierre Cathedral, Calvin's "Reformed" vision consisted of just that: reforming religion in the light of Scripture. The same opportunity is before us. By asking informed questions of our Catholic friends, questions that reveal the limitations (or outright error) of sacred tradition, we can serve a process of reflection in which biblical truth comes into sharper focus and eventually dominates life.

Dare to Be Immoral

If you only knew Christians from television, why would you want to become one? You have only a few kinds of media role models, none of them appealing. You could be a goody-two-shoes rube, most likely from the Midwest or South, like Ned Flanders from The Simpsons or Kenneth Parcell from 30 Rock. You could be a judgmental hypocrite like Angela Martin from The Office and take only the Bible and The Purpose-Driven Life with you on a desert island but sleep around with your coworkers. Or you could be a deranged serial killer. As Gene Veith observes, you can usually identify the culprit in a suspenseful TV drama when you find the most religious character.

Our journalistic sensibilities don't exactly help matters. It's not news when Christians serve soup to the homeless. But it's always news when a church leader misappropriates benevolent funds for selfish gain. The world resents our moral standards and gloats over our failings. Somehow we've perpetuated the myth that what sets evangelicals apart is our moral superiority rather than an acute sense of our moral inability.

"Evangelicals' distinctive moral outlook, inherited from their fundamentalist forebearers, is dark and somewhat puritanical (or Victorian)," write public policy experts Robert Putnam and David Campbell, authors of the influential study American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. "[Evangelicals] share a view of the world as sinful and of God as a harsh judge. For them, heaven, hell, and judgment day are realities, not metaphors, and moral issues are framed in absolute, black-and-white terms."

The only problem with this summary is that I doubt Putnam and Campbell could find any evangelicals who would describe their faith this way. Whose testimony says, "I was looking for an unflinching moral standard, and I found it in the harsh Christian God"? Even so, evidence suggests that Putnam and Campbell accurately describe how outsiders at least have viewed evangelicals at least since the tumultuous social revolutions of the 1960s and probably before. Statistics analyzed by Putnam and Campbell lead us to believe that the 1960s unleashed a counter-revolution of concern about declining moral standards. And many of these concerned citizens found their way to evangelical churches in the 1970s and 1980s. Somehow we failed to convince the watching world, maybe even ourselves at times, that the church only accepts immoral sinners who confess their need for a Savior.

No Going Back

In the days ahead, however, you won't need to convince anyone of your immorality. You will be judged and found woefully wanting. No longer suspected of faux moral superiority, you will be accused of real moral inferiority. The revolution recounted by Putnam and Campbell has come full circle. Rather than Victorian prudes, evangelicals will be likened to Jim Crow segregationists. The presenting issue might be homosexuality, given rapidly changing public opinion. Already you can see how the mechanics of power and influence have turned the allegedly judgmental into the actually judged. Never discount the human ability to justify ourselves. We judge one another as immoral for not recycling. For not buying organic. For voting against the anointed candidate. For sending our children to the wrong schools. For eating the wrong fast food. For buying the wrong shoes.

The backlash against immoral evangelicals will sting all the more because we bear much blame for the pattern of retribution. We wielded "majority rules" politics to try and roll back the excesses of the 1960s when the "Silent Majority" backed Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972. And when that effort failed, the "Moral Majority" resurrected to bolster Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984. Even while winning our share of political battles, we lost the culture, so now we can't even win the political battles. There is no going back. There is nothing left to recover. There is no majority to recover it anyway. There must be a better way.

Indeed, there is. Our situation does not differ altogether from the challenge endured by early Christians in the Roman Empire. By the standards of state religion, deemed essential to secure divine favor and battlefield victories, Christians were regarded as sacrilegious. "[T]o many Romans, including some of society's most influential citizens, Christians practiced an impious religion whose way of life was seditious and subversive of the commonweal," Robert Louis Wilken writes in The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity. So emperors, including the infamous Decius in AD 250, imposed mandatory pagan sacrifices designed to divide and conquer the small but growing Christian community. Though many Christians succumbed to the persecution—whether by death or by capitulation—the church grew in stature and number. 

Put to Shame

We face nothing approaching these threats. Yet we marvel at these resilient believers, memorialized in the remarkable testimony of martyrs such as Cyprian of Carthage. Do we not worship the same God? Do we not read the same Scriptures? Do we not follow the same Jesus? Remember, Jesus was not faulted for his holiness. The Pharisees, accusing him of immorality, asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus answered his would-be judges, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. . . . For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matt. 9:11-13).

We are not the moral majority. We are sick sinners. But neither can we remain silent. We shout good news about a Savior who wants more than morality from us. We do not shy away from the political process when we can enact and enforce laws that will serve the common good. Indeed, we seek common ground even with political opponents. But we do not argue on the basis of our numerical or moral superiority. We tread carefully knowing how sin inclines all of us to judgment and self-righteousness, whatever our politics. We all have blind spots. So neither lament nor activism ever outpaces our gratefulness for grace. Along with the apostle Paul, we say,

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:12-16)

These are your marching orders: lean on the "perfect patience" of Jesus so that through your example many might "believe in him for eternal life." Dare to be immoral in society's eyes for the sake of the kingdom. And return kindness for insults, "so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame" (1 Peter 3:16).

Southern by the Grace of God: Lincoln, Slavery, and the Sins of the Father

From the pages of The Atlantic to the comments of Facebook, I have been reading with much interest the debates rekindled by the movie Lincoln. As a romantic, I took my wife to finally see the movie on our anniversary. Standing in the concession line, I noticed a man in front of me wearing a t-shirt with the image of an American flag intertwined with a Confederate flag. Boldly printed on the back were the words "American by Birth, Southern by the Grace of God." As the shock of what I just paid for a large Diet Coke began to wear off, I wondered if this was some kind of premonition.

There are two things regarding the Civil War I have known since childhood. First, my paternal great-grandfather (four times removed) fought and died for the Confederacy in the Battle of Atlanta. Second, on my mother's side, our long-forgotten relatives once owned slaves. In fact, the house where I grew up is only a 15-minute ride from where these poor imprisoned souls worked, slept, and lived a life I cannot fathom. Truthfully and unfortunately, I've never really thought about this too much. It seemed like ancient history to me; however, the past was about to catch up with me.

As the much-anticipated movie unfurled before my eyes, I could not fully concentrate on the masterful performance of Daniel Day Lewis as the Great Emancipator. Instead, I kept wondering what the African American man sitting in front of me was thinking as slavery, racism, and hatred took center stage. When the credits rolled and the lights gradually appeared, my first inclination was to tap him on the shoulder and apologize profusely. Instead, I quietly exited the theater angry that chattel slavery was ever legal in this county and saddened that anyone ever raised a gun in support of this institution.

Soul Vexed

I am not a film critic or historian, even though I like to pretend at times. I understand that movies of this particular genre cannot present the multifaceted nature of the subjects they seek to capture. I also realize that directors are often prone to over characterization and simplicity. Historically speaking, I know the Civil War is a complicated mess with roots that reach beyond the American Revolution and deep into European history. However, as a descendant of the Old South, two scenes spoke deeply to my vexed soul.

The first is when Lincoln visits a military hospital. While inside greeting patients, his son remains outside and follows two soldiers pushing a wheelbarrow, which is leaving a trail of blood. This ultimately leads him to a pit full of dismembered body parts. It is a gruesome scene that epitomized for me the brokenness of man. Throughout the film, director Steven Spielberg presents the depravity of mankind as a central character. From the unethical political deals to the horrific battle scenes to Honest Abe himself, we see the hideous stain that sin has left on every human heart. I understand it is impossible to fully grasp the motives and beliefs of those who came before me. However, I do know the only hope for the very real sin of the father as well as the ever-present sin of the son. It is the trail of blood that leads to a place of death outside the walls of Jerusalem.

The other scene takes place in the White House after the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. Lincoln moves closer to a window because he hears a commotion. As he opens it, the light and thundering sound of church bells proclaiming justice and victory invade the room. For a moment, my heart jumped with excitement. It was such a poignant reminder that one glorious day our King will return bringing justice and peace and ultimate victory for every tribe, tongue, and nation. On that day, the rebellion will come to an end, and God's people by his grace shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.

Publisher Pulls David Barton's Revisionist History of Thomas Jefferson

The Story: After being criticized as factually inaccurate by historians and boycotted by evangelical ministers for glossing over racism, publisher Thomas Nelson decided to cease publication and distribution of David Barton's controversial book, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You've Always Believed about Thomas Jefferson.

The Background: Barton, president of Wallbuilders, an organization "dedicated to presenting America's forgotten history and heroes," recently published a book claiming that America's third president was a "conventional Christian" and a a civil rights visionary.

As World magazine reported, several Christian historians who have examined Barton's books and videos agree, as Jay W. Richards says, that the works are full of "embarrassing factual errors, suspiciously selective quotes, and highly misleading claims." Additionally, a group of Cincinnati pastors and church leaders initiated a boycott against Thomas Nelson because, they claim, the book glosses over Jefferson's racism and justifies his ownership of slaves.

"David Barton falsely claims that Thomas Jefferson was unable to free his slaves," Damon Lynch, pastor of New Jerusalem Baptist Church, said in a press release. "In fact, Jefferson was allowed to free his slaves under Virginia law, but failed to do it. The Jefferson Lies glosses over Jefferson's real record on slaveholding, and minimizes Jefferson's racist views."

According to World, Thomas Nelson evaluated the criticisms, and after doing their own review, determined that the historical details "were not adequately supported."

"Because of these deficiencies," Casey Francis Harrell, Thomas Nelson's director of corporate communications told World, "we decided that it was in the best interest of our readers to stop the publication and distribution."

Why It Matters: In 1950, British biologist Sir Peter Medawar said that French philosopher Teilhard de Chardin "can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself." A similar criticism could be made about Barton. While his books and videos have deceived thousands of Christians about the historical record, Barton appears to be sincerely convinced of the superiority of his own interpretations.

Yet despite his claims to being an "historical expert," Barton tends to make sloppy, factual errors and extrapolations that are wholly unsupportable. For instance, he claims the U.S. Constitution is laced with biblical quotations. As he told James Robison on Trinity Broadcast Network:

You look at Article 3, Section 1, the treason clause, direct quote out of the Bible. You look at Article 2, the quote on the president has to be a native born? That is Deuteronomy 17:15, verbatim. I mean, it drives the secularists nuts because the Bible's all over it! Now we as Christians don't tend to recognize that. We think it's a secular document; we've bought into their lies. It's not. [emphasis in original]

Needless to say, nowhere in the Constitution is the Bible quoted verbatim. Consider Deuteronomy 17:15 (because the verse is only a clause, I'll include the previous verse):

When you come to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, 'I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,' you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. [Deuteronomy 17:14-15]

Now lets look at part of Article 2 of the Constitution, the section Barton thinks is a direct biblical quote:

No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President;

While there is a vague similarity, without additional evidence it is hard to imagine how anyone could make a connection  between the two passages. Does Barton have a quotation from a "founding father" making that connection? No, because none exists. Indeed, the fact that no professional historian---secular or Christian---ever noticed this "verbatim" quotation before would lead most people to assume that such an interpretation should be viewed with skepticism. But not Barton. He appears to subscribe to a type of gnostic contrarianism, thinking that secret knowledge that goes against the conventional wisdom is not only correct but self-confirming.

Unfortunately, many evangelicals who would dismiss the use of such revisionist methods by someone like historian Howard Zinn or novelist Dan Brown unquestionably accept them when used by a fellow Christian like Barton. Many are unaware, of course, that Barton has long been considered an unreliable source. But too many are aware of the legitimate criticisms and dismiss them because they want to subscribe to Barton's vision that America was founded as a "Christian nation." Indeed, as Tom Gilson laments, "Inevitably some Christians will be angry with those who have shined a light on David Barton's errors."

However, Gilson recommends a better approach: "Far better they recognize that the best way to rally around him is to encourage [Barton] to stick close to the truth. Far better we all stick close to the truth."

Women in the Tapestry of Christian History

Diana Lynn Severance (Ph.D., Rice University) is an historian serving as director of the Dunham Bible Museum at Houston Baptist University. Her most recent book, Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History, exposes and celebrates the crucial role of women in the history of the Christian church. Perhaps too often we practice a kind of "chronological snobbery," as C. S. Lewis termed it, assuming that we today understand everything much more clearly than the unsophisticated people of previous centuries. On some subjects that assumption might work. On most, we might wisely practice more humility.

The subject of women's roles is a complicated one: certainly we have made much progress, but perhaps we would do well to look back more carefully to see what we can learn from those who have gone before. Severance helps us do that. Her book is full of snippets of stories and quotations that make the reader want to spend time delving into the original sources. I came away from her book and from this interview convinced that our contemporary discussion of women's roles would be much more profitable if it were better informed by a clearer historical perspective.

Your book focuses on women in church history. Why is history---and this particular history---important for all of us in the church today?

God is a God of history. The Bible itself, God's inspired revelation, is a book of history, in that much of it is a historical record of God's working with and bringing redemption to his people. The life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus are events central to all of history---as seen in the commonly used dating system of B.C. and A.D. Paul in his address on Mars Hill (Acts 17) told the Athenians that the God who made us all so orders the boundaries and times of nations to bring people to himself. In a way we cannot fully know now, God is working through nations and their histories to bring glory to his name. When I study history, I delight in discovering threads of the story that show Christians' influence in God's tapestry of history.

Looking especially at Christian women in history is important for several reasons. I'll briefly mention four.

  1. Wherever Christianity has gone, the condition and status of women has improved. In today's world, wherever Christianity has flourished, men and women are both recognized as valued members of society; wherever Christianity has been largely rejected, women have few rights and can be treated as something less than a full person. The history of the treatment and position of women itself is a useful apologetic for the Christian faith.
  2. Many historians have focused on great men with little attention given to women, who certainly make up a large segment of humanity! Their story needs to be told and integrated into the larger history.
  3. Recent feminist historians have produced a plethora of revisionist writings driven more by the feminist agenda than by the facts and records of history. An accurate narrative of women's history is needed apart from re-imagining and re-constructing the actual records.
  4. A look at Christian women in the past can encourage and challenge women today. History offers examples of women faithful to God in many different social spheres and facing many difficult conditions---just as women face today. This "great cloud of witnesses" both encourages and admonishes us.

You expose women's roles in previously less-exposed places . . . in the martyrdom of the early church, for example. 

Jesus said that the disciples are not above the master, and as he was persecuted, so his disciples will be persecuted. Throughout church history, Christians have suffered persecution. In the first centuries of the church, if a person refused to declare that Caesar was Lord, it could mean the death sentence---and the sentence was applied to both men and women. Women as well as men were thrown to the wild beasts in the arena, becoming martyrs for their faith. The very Greek word martyr means "witness," and a very powerful witness for the truth of Christianity was that women as well as men were ready to endure torture, intense pain, and a terrible death with joy because of their faith in Jesus. My book details several of the accounts from court records and friends of these women telling of their suffering as well as their joy in Christ even as they died for his sake. Reading these accounts made me feel how glib and shallow so much of our American Christianity is today. Suffering and persecution strengthened the faith and character of these women.

Some of today's "women's issues" might benefit from a historical perspective---abortion, for example. How can the early church instruct us here? 

Abortion and infanticide were both practiced and commonplace throughout the ancient Roman Empire. Abortions were induced by special potions as well as by surgery and often put the woman's life at risk. When a child was born, it was shown to the father, and the father decided if the child should live or not. It was rare for a family to have more than one girl, for girl babies were the most frequently destroyed. Babies were often left along the roadside for wild beasts or birds to consume. The Christians, however, did not approve of either abortions or infanticide. They began collecting the infants left to die of exposure, brought them into their homes, and cared for them. The caring practices of the Christians caught the attention of the pagan world and demonstrated that women had value, dignity, and respect within the Christian community.

Women have not always been viewed as worthy candidates for education. How can women like fourth-century Paula encourage and inspire us?

Paula was truly amazing. She was a woman of great wealth but had a passion to learn the Scriptures. She became a patroness of Jerome, sponsoring much of his Bible translation work and finding Bible manuscripts for his translation. She peppered him with endless questions about Scriptures, learning as much as she could. She even learned Hebrew so that she could pray the Psalms in their original language! Jerome himself praised Paula's learning and her passion for the Scriptures. Paula is just one of the early demonstrations of the truth that wherever Christianity has flourished, education and the particularly education of women has increased. This becomes clearly seen during the Reformation and the missions movement of the 19th century. Martin Luther was among the first to encourage education for girls as well as boys, and William Carey and later missionaries often were the first to establish schools for girls in their region of work.

Reading your book, I loved the glimpses into lives of remarkable women I'd never even heard of---Marie Dentiere, for example, who lived during the Reformation.

There were so many women I had never heard of whom I came to admire after researching their stories. One of my favorites was Dhuoda from the ninth century, shortly after the time of Charlemagne. She wrote a wonderful advice manual for her son, who was separated from her for several years. This mother's heart and Christian concern for her son, as well as her wise instructions, speak to us across the centuries. The early queens of the German and British regions, such as Margaret of Scotland, were so influential in bringing their husbands to Christ and Christianity to their people.

Marie Dentiere, as you mentioned, lived during the Reformation. She wrote the first history of the reform in Geneva and is the only woman whose name is inscribed on that great Reformation wall in Geneva. I was especially fascinated by Katherine Parr, the last wife of Henry VIII, and her very strong Christian witness and influence. Though I had heard of her before, standard history texts do not mention she was a Christian and had a Bible study in the palace. Some of the writings of these women have been preserved, and we can, as it were, actually hear their own voices and thoughts.

You tell of women who served God in both extraordinary and ordinary ways---often through their homes and families. Do certain examples or patterns stand out?

Two of my long-time favorites whom I came to value more as I studied were the poet Anne Bradstreet and Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley. Both were extraordinary women in the way they lived for the Lord as wives and mothers through many crises and difficulties. We see from Anne's poetry, for example, how she can take the disaster of her house burning down to fix her mind more on the heavenly home God has for her. For Anne, every event shone with a spiritual purpose.

In one sense, the pattern to be seen over the centuries of Christian women is the variety of women and the variety of ways the Lord used them. There were singles, married, widowed, queens, teachers, writers, mothers, patronesses, women serving through hospitality and charitable works . . . the categories are endless. This is consistent with the New Testament, where we find women in ministries of "prayer, mentoring other Christians, supporting the Church leaders, showing hospitality, fellow-laboring as missionaries, instructing other women, evangelizing and sharing the Word with others, teaching children and helping those in need and distress" (to quote from Feminine Threads). Some today assert that women must have positions of ordained pastoral leadership within the church. What we find in history, as in the New Testament, is that women even without such positions have roles and ministries of tremendous influence in the body of Christ.

Your book brings out the significant role of women in the missions work of recent centuries. What can we learn?

Women's role in missions was especially important in the examples of their lives and their ministries to other women. In societies where women were isolated within harems and separate quarters, the women missionaries could enter and present Christian truth in ways that men could not. The family life of the missionaries was tremendously important to the unchristian cultures as an example of Christian marriage and home life. The exemplary life of the missionary woman was a tremendously powerful witness and testimony to the gospel of Christ.

What words would you leave with us concerning the feminine threads in the tapestry of Christian history?

The lives of Christian women over two millennia offer examples of the grace and mercy of God as well as encouragement and challenges to live life for his glory and honor. Though often with differing roles, both Christian men and women are important to the tapestry of history God is weaving. I'm looking forward to spending eternity with these Christian women who have gone before.