One of the great parts of editing, writing, and compiling a Christian nonfiction book is the collaboration with enthusiastic believers. Especially those with the mindset of a teacher- like any good pastor. Two examples of such are Pastor Doug Kuiper and Pastor Allen Brummel, of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (www.prca.org). The following are excerpts taken from the book, “Top Ten Most Influential Christians- since the Apostles”- those written by the noted pastors. All four of these historical persons have had a major effect on Christianity, and are worthy of study:
Written by Rev. Douglas J Kuiper
Arius was born in the middle of the third century AD (possibly 256) in northern Africa. He lived much of his life in Alexandria, Egypt. He became a deacon in the church at Alexandria in 311, and a presbyter in 313.
Arius is known as the father of Arianism, a teaching that denies Jesus Christ is truly God. While in Alexandria, Arius taught that God was eternal, but that Christ had a beginning and was created—that Jesus was not eternal. Arius and his views were condemned by a council of African bishops who met in Alexandria in 321. He was removed from his church office and excommunicated. His teachings were condemned at the first great meeting of the Christian church—the Council of Nicea in 325.
After the Council of Nicea, Emperor Constantine banished Arius to modern day Greece. When a council at Jerusalem determined in 335 that Arius was not guilty of heresy, Constantine recalled him from exile, and the church at Constantinople was ready to readmit him in 336. The night before he was readmitted, he died suddenly of an apparent attack of cholera.
His views live on among those who deny that Jesus is God. (Columnist’s Note- Arius is considered one of the biggest heretics the Church has ever known, however his effect on Christianity leads him to be included within the book, and this column.)
Written by Rev. Douglas J Kuiper
Philip Melanchthon was born on February 16, 1497 in what is now Germany. A brilliant scholar, he became knowledgeable in almost every area of learning, but especially in the Classics. At age fourteen, he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Heidelberg; at age seventeen, his Masters degree from the University of Tubingen. He stayed briefly in Tubingen to lecture, then in 1518 became professor of Greek and Latin at the University of Wittenberg. He held this position until his death on April 19, 1560.
In the Protestant Reformation in Germany in the 1500s, Melanchthon played a key role; he was Martin Luther’s close friend, assistant, and successor. As professor, Melanchthon contributed to the cause of the Reformation by teaching the original languages of the Scriptures and lecturing on the Scriptures to future pastors. He helped establish grammar schools and universities throughout Germany and wrote textbooks so the common people could be better educated in the cause of the Reformation. First published in 1521, his Loci Communes (“Commonplaces”) was the first systematic theology written by any Reformer. He wrote some of the confessions of the Lutheran Church, including the Augsburg Confession, and he attended many conferences with Roman Catholics and with the Swiss Reformers, representing the German side of the Reformation.
A less controversial personality than Martin Luther, Melanchthon was willing to make some compromises with Roman Catholicism. Especially, Melanchthon developed the idea of synergism—the teaching that man’s will works with God’s will to accomplish man’s salvation. Both Martin Luther and John Calvin had strongly insisted that neither man’s will nor man’s activity play a role in accomplishing man’s salvation. This development of Melanchthon served to divide further the German Lutherans and the Calvinistic Reformed in Switzerland and the Lowlands.
King James 1
Written by Rev. Allen J. Brummel
James was born on June 19, 1566 at the Edinburgh Castle. At only thirteen months, he was declared King James VI of Scotland. He was raised as a Presbyterian Calvinist. As a gifted student, he was able to translate any chapter of the Bible from Latin to French to English at the age of eight. In 1603, he succeeded Queen Elizabeth and became King James I of England. King James died at age fifty-eight on March 27, 1625.
While there is much controversy over the political effectiveness of King James VI of Scotland who became King James I of England, his impact on the English language and the worship of the English church can not be disputed. Recognizing the need to unite the Protestant religious community, James initiated meetings between the Puritans and leaders of the Church of England. In the process, he disappointed the Puritans, who desired that he implement more of the tenants of Scottish Presbyterianism in England. The Catholics were also offended by his intolerance for their religious convictions and orchestrated an unsuccessful plot to kill the king. The most significant decision that came out of the religious meetings was the authorization of a new translation of the Bible. Tremendous strides had been made in Hebrew and Greek Studies, and King James had considered for some years the benefit of a new translation from the original languages without marginal notes. He put the resources of the crown behind the work of translating and appointed 54 men to commence with the work in 1607 with six companies working on various parts of the translation. In 1611, the translation was approved by all the companies, and the Authorized Version appointed by King James was to be read in all churches.
The King James Version of the Bible celebrated four hundred years in 2011. It continues to be one of the best selling and most loved English versions. King James’ influence on the development of the English language and worship of Christ is felt throughout the world yet today, especially by those who still use and cherish the King James Version or Authorized Version of the Bible.
Written by Rev. Allen J. Brummel
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was born June 19, 1834, in Kelvedon, Essex, England to a part-time pastor and his wife. In his childhood, he demonstrated many gifts—chief of which was an eagerness to read. He is said to have been reading the Puritan writers before he reached his teens. It was on January 6, 1850, at the age of sixteen years, that Charles confessed to be converted to Christianity and was baptized in a local river. By seventeen, he was called to a village church where his speaking and leadership gifts were immediately recognized and appreciated as the church grew from forty to four hundred people in short order. At nineteen, he was called to pastor the Park Street Chapel in London. Although the location, name, and affiliation of the church changed, he remained with this flock until his death on January 31, 1892, at the age of fifty-six. His wife Susannah and twin sons Charles and Thomas survived him.
Despite the fact that Charles Spurgeon never had a seminary instruction, he became perhaps the most influential Protestant preacher of the nineteenth century. He was devout to Calvinism. The flock he led grew to become independent of all denomination affiliation. After outgrowing the Park Street Chapel, the congregation built the Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1861 in London. As the world’s largest Protestant church, it was able to seat six thousand people. It is estimated that Spurgeon preached to more than ten million people in his lifetime. His sermons were transcribed, edited, and made available for purchase after he preached, with over twenty-five thousand copies of each sermon regularly sold and translated into twenty different languages. Spurgeon started a college where hundreds of pastors were trained for the ministry, established an orphanage, and began a publishing house.
His writings continue to be the most read of any preacher since the time of the Apostles; his collected works fill sixty-three volumes and number between twenty and twenty-five million words. Not only did Spurgeon make a tremendous impact on the religious community in London, but his Calvinistic teaching spread through the world and continues to influence preachers and churches today. Of great relevance today, in addition to Spurgeon’s sermons, are his daily devotions which encourage Christians with the message of God’s faithfulness and love prompting them to greater thankfulness and obedience to their Lord.