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.
As I continue my summer reading in the writings of the early church I have been struck by a few choice quotes in writings related to Polycarp, the famous bishop of Smyrna.
I recently presented a paper at the Canadian-American Theological Association on some survey results related to my interest in the intersection of Canadian churches, war, and Hans Mol's "priests to prophets" paradigm. The results of my research have also been recently published in Peace Research.
The students surveyed were from seven Christian educational institutions. Here are some of the results of the survey. If you want to see the full details and analysis, see Gordon L. Heath, “Priests to Prophets in a Post-Christendom Canada?: A Survey on Views on War,” Peace Research 53, 1 (2021): 50-75.
Here are brief comments on the survey results.
First, the results indicate a range of perspectives, especially in regard to age and denominational affiliation—a caution to making sweeping statements about views of “the church.”
Second, the survey indicates a resiliency of the traditional just war position, challenging assumptions about a move to the margins being concomitant with a move to pacifism.
Third, the results do indicate a resistance to associating a war effort with support from the pulpit, as well as showing support for the churches’ ongoing mission to engage the state in matters of foreign policy. In that regard, the responses reflect Mol’s conclusions in regard to a more prophetic vision for the churches. The churches may be on the margins, but, if the results reflect a larger picture, they do not intend to remain silent.
Image from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Clemens_Romanus.jpg
My summer reading has begun, and right now I am reading through the Apostolic Fathers. The following is a prayer included in Clement of Rome's Letter to the Corinthians (c. late 1st century). I include it here for the obvious historical interest, but also because it is a helpful guide when wondering how to pray for politicians in vexing times.
Lord, you gave to our politicians on the earth the power of government by your magnificent and indescribable might; may we know the glory and honour given to them by you and be subject to them, and in doing so not resist your will.
Lord, give them health, peace, harmony, and stability so that they may exercise well the authority given to them. For You, O heavenly Lord and King eternal, give to rulers glory and honour and power over the things that are on the earth.
Lord, direct their counsel according to that which is good and well-pleasing in your sight, that, devoutly in peace and humility exercising the power given them by you, they may know your blessing.
To you Lord, the only one who has power to do these things and more abundant good with us, we praise you through the High Priest and Guardian of our souls Jesus Christ, through whom be glory and majesty to you both now and from generation to generation and for evermore. Amen.
The above is my own adaptation of the prayer found here.
The recent outcry over the Israel Defence Forces possible use of social media to deceive the enemy in order to gain a tactical edge reveals that some people are unaware of the most basic reality of wartime – governments and the military control the flow of information. They also create some false information too.
Here is an upcoming triennial conference (online virtual due to Covid 19). Here is the link for further details: click here
The title of my plenary address is "Queen Victoria and General Gordon: Baptist Heroes in the Age of Empires".
I have been a professor for over two decades but the nagging sense of being an imposter still hovers around and within. In my recent reading I came across a few brief comments by authors from the world of long ago who would seem to be able to relate.
Truth is often hard to come by, especially when it comes to a nation admitting its faults. It is also hard for people to call a spade a spade when it comes to the actions of other nations, especially when that nation is an important ally.
Here is a new book edited by Steve Studebaker and myself. It is a series of chapters making connections between the Reformation and today's modern world. Click here for the link.
Should I stay or should I go?
I often hear that question from leaders as they talk about how they are fed up with what they see as troubling trends within their denomination. Their concern is apostacy, and their proclivity is to flee and find moral or doctrinal purity somewhere else. They may even seek to start a new movement that is exactly what they think a New Testament church should be.
I was recently asked by a student if I had any books on leadership that I could recommend. I realized at that moment that I needed a quick go-to reference for my recommendations. What follows are some books that I have found to be helpful and are a good starting point for someone wanting to read about Christian leadership.