My blog posts revolve around my interests and vocation as a historian: the intersection of history and contemporary church life, the intersection of history and contemporary politics, serendipitous discoveries in archives or on research trips, publications and research projects, upcoming conferences, and speaking engagements.
I also blog for two other organizations, the Canadian Baptist Historical Society and the Centre for Post-Christendom Studies.
The views expressed in these blogs represent the views of the authors, and not necessarily those of any organizations with which they are associated.
Making the Most of Our “Last Days in Office”: Martin Niemueller, the Unjust Steward, & Post-Christendom
In 1956/57, Dr. Martin Niemueller – the famous German pastor imprisoned by the Nazis – went on a speaking tour in Canada in partnership with the Canadian Council of Churches. Niemueller lamented how the troubles of the day such as the rise of communism, racial tensions, and social injustices threatened the West.
It was as if the barbarians were at the gate and a new Dark Age was nigh. Christendom was seen to be on its way out, and the “stewardship of the white races [was] coming rapidly to an end.”
In light of the crisis facing the church in the West Niemueller pointed to Jesus’ parable in Luke 16 often coined the “Unjust Steward.” It was an application of the text that was fascinating, provocative, and controversial then – and perhaps even now.
I have been working through my pile of stacked books, trying to beat it down so that it does not tip over (and so that I can pile more books on). Here are my summer reads so far, in no particular order (although the last one is pretty depressing).
There is nothing like going back to the sources when there are questions about how things should be done. That being the case, in good Protestant fashion I let out a rallying cry ad fontes (“back to the sources”) and looked at the historical records of my Baptist denomination.
Theodosius and Saint Ambrose (1615-1616) by Peter Paul Rubens https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodosius_and_Saint_Ambrose_(Rubens).
The recent events in the United States regarding the Catholic Church’s refusal of communion for pro-abortion politicians reminds me of an ancient tradition expressed in the famous words of Bishop Ambrose: “The emperor is within the church, not above it.”
I have visited Oxford, UK, many times over the past thirty years. However, it is embarrassing to say that as a historian of Christianity I only heard of St. Frideswide this year (thanks to Louis for pointing her out to me!).
This year I was able to go to Oxford University for archival research, and I made sure that I visited places associated with her (in particular the parish church and well in Binsey). The following are some pictures as well as some brief comments.
The expression “proxy war” has been bandied about the last few weeks, but not many people really know what it means. And that is a problem for Christians who seek to engage the state on such matters. That being the case, the following is a brief summary of some “rules of a proxy war” to help Christians make informed decisions about issues related to justice and the right use of state-sanctioned violence.
The last few months I have felt like a kid in a candy store. It has been over two years since I have been able to get into an archives and do research - but over the past few months I have been able to go to the United Church Archives in Toronto, Knox College Library in Toronto, the Presbyterian Archives in Toronto, and the Baptist Archives at Regent's Park College, Oxford, UK. And there are few better places on the planet than archives! The following are some of my serendipitous discoveries.
“You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” Leon Trotsky
The following are some basic and preliminary convictions to consider and questions to ask when reflecting on a military conflict. These convictions and questions can be explored in detail in Gordon L, Heath, Christians, the State, and War: An Ancient Tradition for the Modern World (Lexington/Fortress, 2022). The following blog series is also a helpful place to begin thinking about wars both now and in the future: https://www.gordonlheath.com/war-now-and-the-future.