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Video Posted: Horton at Saddleback

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010 by Shane Rosenthal


I had a great time at the Lausanne “Global Conversation” held at Saddleback Church and hosted by its pastor, Rick Warren.  It was a privilege to be part of a distinguished panel of evangelical leaders from a wide variety of backgrounds.  Before the panel discussion, Rick Warren interviewed me for his Purpose-Driven network.  In the first interview he focused on my books and the work of White Horse Inn.  In the second, he focused on the question, “What is the Gospel?”  I appreciated the generous spirit in which Rick asked the questions and encouraged me to lay out the case we have for a new Reformation.  It’s great to be able to discuss our differences as well as our common convictions in a spirit of friendship as well as mutual challenge.  Our mission at White Horse Inn is to go to any forum that invites us where we have a chance to clarify what we are convinced is the proper message and mission of the church.  Thanks for your prayers—and for making such opportunities possible.  May God continue to open doors for an ever-wider hearing!

Michael Horton recently participated in a panel discussion on global evangelism at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.  It was part of the 12 Cities / 12 Conversations tour sponsored by the Lausanne Movement, and a video of this conversation is now available online.   In addition to Horton, other panelists include Skye Jethani, Jim Belcher, Jena Lee Nardella, Miles McPhereson, Soon Chan Rah, and Kay Warren. FYI, the discussion doesn’t get rolling until around 16 minutes into the video (after all the introductory remarks).


Five for Friday

Friday, September 18th, 2009 by Eric Landry

Five for Friday is our new blog series in which we interview Reformation pacesetters: those who are leading the way for Reformation in the own communities and churches. This week, we’re pleased to introduce you to Dariusz Brycko, the executive director of the Tolle Lege Institute, a Grand Rapids based outreach to Poland. If you know of a Reformation pacesetter that we should interview, please drop us an email with a brief explanation of their work and their contact information.

What impact, historically speaking, did the Reformation have in Poland?

Initially, the Reformation had a great impact on Poland! To be more specific, it was Prussia, at the time a vassal of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which became the first Protestant state by adopting the Augsburg Confession. (Today, the Prussian territory still belongs to Poland and is called Mazury, but today’s Mazurians are not native to those lands and know very little about the Protestant heritage of the region in which they live.)

Furthermore, many “early Protestants,” such as the followers of Jan Hus (John Huss), were so heavily persecuted in Bohemia that they fled to Poland. This included Amos Komenski (Johannes Comenius), famous for his pedagogical ideas and a candidate for the first president of Massachusetts’ Harvard College. In 1555, the Czech Brethren united with the Polish Reformed (and even today some members of the Polish Reformed church continue to uphold their Czech heritage).

Many influential members of the Polish gentry and nobility were so interested in the Reformation cause that they invited John Calvin to come lead the Polish reformation. Calvin turned down this invitation, explaining that he already had accepted a job in Geneva. However, he dedicated his Commentary to the Book of Hebrews to the Polish king, and together with other Reformers (especially Bullinger) was always interested in the Polish situation. He carried on extensive correspondence with members of the Polish Reformed congregations.

Poland also had a reformer of its own, Jan Laski (Johannes a Lasco). Laski knew Calvin well, and before his work in Poland he led the Reformed Churches in Emden, East Frisia as well as the Stranger Churches in London.  Abraham Kuyper rediscovered Laski’s important contribution to the Reformation cause, and his influence upon John Knox and Presbyterianism has become well-recognized. While in Poland, Laski promoted an irenic union between the Reformed, Lutherans, and Czech Brethren. This union took place ten years after his death when, in 1570, Polish Protestants united under the Consensus of Sadomir.

Even into the seventeenth century, Poles continued to contribute to the Reformation cause, producing some of the most important Reformed scholastic thinkers of the era, such as Bartholomew Keckermann (who was ethnically German), the famous professor of philosophy in Gdansk, and Jan Makowski (Johannes Maccovius), professor of theology in the Frisian Franeker Academy. Interestingly, Makowski was one of the most popular professors in the history of the academy and attracted many Polish students who later returned to Poland to serve the church. I guess I should also mention that Makowski married a sister of Rembrandt’s wife and thus was related to the acclaimed Protestant painter.

This is only to sketch the impact of the Reformation on Poland in very broad strokes. I still have not mentioned Protestant thinkers and theologians such as the father of Polish literature, Mikolaj Rej, or prolific pastors such as Jakub Zaborowski, Bartlomiej Bythner, Daniel Kalaj. Also, I have not mentioned the schism within the Polish Reformed church that resulted in the birth of the Polish Brethren (later known as Unitarians) and their controversial Italian leader, Faustus Socinus.

In sum, Polish Protestants in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries were a vibrant community, which produced many important thinkers. To underestimate their influence is to have an incomplete understanding of the Reformation in Europe’s Early Modern period.

How did Poland’s existence behind the Iron Curtain help or hinder the cause of Reformation?

Before I answer this question, readers need to understand that the cause of the Reformation was already severely hurt even before the Iron Curtain went up. This was due to the 123 years of cultural and religious oppression from Germany, among others.

In 1795, Poland as a state disappeared from the map of Europe and was divided between Lutheran Prussia, Orthodox Russia, and Catholic Austria. In the German and Russian partitions, Polish culture and Catholicism were persecuted, and being Polish was often associated with being Catholic. Poland as a state was reborn only in 1918, but World War II, followed by 40 years of imposed Soviet Communism, in many ways stood in continuity with the political and religious struggle from the previous century against these non-Catholic aggressors.

The election of Karol Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II confirmed to many that Catholicism was the best guardian of Polish culture and that to be Polish was to be Catholic. Unfortunately, very few people realize today that this idea was foreign to Marshall Josef Pilsudski, the father of the modern state of Poland, who converted to the Reformed Church.

So, as I have said, the cause of Reformation was hindered before the Iron Curtian went up. What might have further hindered it was that some Protestant clergy and missionaries collaborated with Communists, but this was also true for Roman Catholics. In many ways, life behind the Iron Curtain was very beneficial to Polish Christians (both Protestant and Catholics), where true believers, pastors, and priests sometimes shared the same prison cell; and, as Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Part of what Tolle Lege tries to do is to nourish the soil in which these seeds have been planted.

What are the greatest dangers to Reformation now that they are no longer under the influence of Russia and Communism?

The greatest dangers to the Reformation (and also to Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy) in Poland are secularism, liberal theology, and materialism. However, what endangers specifically Polish Protestantism (especially Evangelicalism) is the church growth movement, the prosperity gospel and, recently, Federal Vision.

What does your group try to do to influence Polish Reformation?

Tolle Lege Institute is not a church and it does not seek to do what the church is called to do.  Thus its goal is to support the educational efforts of Protestant churches (Confessional and Evangelical) in the areas in which they continue to struggle.

We seek to accomplish this purpose by translating and publishing classic works of Protestant theological literature as well as works that will guide people to a better understanding of classic, orthodox Reformed theology.

We are now getting ready to print in Polish our first book (about 1000 pages long), which is the translation of Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson’s Meet the Puritans. This will be the first comprehensive guide to Puritan theology on the Polish market.  Once we have funds, we would like to put together a selection of actual Puritan writings, which will serve as a companion to the first volume. We hope that these two volumes will be popular not only with Protestant Christians but also in university circles interested in Early Modern studies and American history.

We are also raising funds to translate J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism. We believe that this work will address questions of theological liberalism common to all Christian, not just Protestants.

There are still many other important classic Protestant works which have not been translated to Polish. This long list includes, for example, the works of John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Herman Bavinck, and Louis Berkof.

Finally, our dream is to establish a small research center in Poland where clergy, scholars, journalists, and skeptics could come to research the Protestant contribution to Christianity. However, in order to do this we need to find committed supporters because work in Europe can be very costly.

How can donors who are willing to stand with you help the cause?

There are few specific ways in which donors can help our cause:

  1. Potential donors can contribute to the translation of a specific book. We do not start a translation project until we have all the necessary funds. Anyone can participate in helping with the costs of the books for which we are currently raising money, or even propose a book that they would like to see translated and published in Poland. As long as the book meets our criteria, we would be happy to consider adopting it as our project.
  2. Potential donors can also donate to our general fund, which allows Tolle Lege to exist and develop. This has been by far the greatest need, since it is much easier to find support for specific books and projects.

Donations can be mailed to:

Tolle Lege Institute
P.O. Box # 150101
Grand Rapids, MI 49515

or made with major credit card via our website.

I always encourage any new donors to get in touch with us personally and let us know if they have questions or suggestions, and why they are interested in supporting our work.

Dr. Dariusz Brycko is the executive diretor of the Tolle Lege Institute.

Five for Friday

Friday, September 11th, 2009 by Eric Landry

We’re starting a new feature at the WHI blog, Five for Friday. Five for Friday is so named because we’ll ask five questions of pastors, missionaries, theologians, and regular Joes/Joans who are working for Reformation and post their answers on Fridays. Clever, I know.

If you know of people who are leading the way forward to a new Reformation in their native countries, within their denominations, or in their congregations, we’d love to feature their stories. Send us an email and we’ll send them our five questions.

Our inaugural guest is Sebastian Heck, who is working to establish a Reformed presence in Germany, starting in Heidelberg.

What historical connection does Heidelberg have with the Protestant Reformation?

When Frederick the III became elector of the Palatinate, the region surrounding Heidelberg, the city of Heidelberg quickly rose to become one of the most prominent centers of Reformed theology in all of Europe. Through the assiduous publication of Reformed literature as well as the training of hundreds of Reformed pastors who went out from Heidelberg to many different contries, Heidelberg eventually merited the name “the Geneva of the North.” While the Lutheran Reformation had begun almost 50 years earlier, in the early 1560s, Germany experienced what many call a “second Reformation” - the Reformed Reformation. One of the best known and most beloved products of that time is the Heidelberg Catechism which, upon publication in 1563, was immediately translated in many different languages and became the confessional statement uniting Reformed believers across European borders. While Geneva affected primarily Switzerland and France, Heidelberg led to the founding and prospering of Reformed churches in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and many other countries. Even the United States would soon benefit from Reformed believers emmigrating and bringing the robust faith of the Heidelberg Catechism to the shores of the New World.

Germany is in most people’s minds associated with Martin Luther and Lutheranism. What is the state of confessional, Reformational Lutheranism in Germany?

It is true that people usually associate Reformation Germany with Martin Luther and Lutheranism and not so much with the Reformed faith, but Germany did have a strong Reformed church, at least for a few decades.  There are two major expressions of Lutheranism in Germany today. The first is the Lutheran State Churches. The better and healthier of these are usually the ones that were heavily affected by Pietism. Pietism served as a cushion against liberalism and higher criticism. In general, the State Churches tend to be quite liberal and miss one, two, or all three of the marks that we believe make a true church. The buildings, the liturgies, the hymnody and psalmody might still be there, but unfortunately the gospel has been excused, and along with it the proper administration of the sacraments. The second expression of Lutheranism is the so called “Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church” with about 200 congregations, a sister church to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. It is by far the more conservative of the two, but even this church is struggling with the influx of liberalism as well as issues such as pressure to allow women ordination.

What are the greatest dangers to reformation in modern day Germany?

The greatest danger to reformation in modern day Germany is simply this: that no one might be interested in doing it. Many believers, both in Germany and outside of it, have capitulated and no longer believe reformation to be possible. Disbelief in the sovereignty of God is a great hindrance to any work of reformation. But so is an exceedingly broad and superficial evangelicalism, or even an “evangelical,” non-confessional version of Reformed Christianity in Germany.

What we need is not necessarily Martin Luthers or John Calvins, but faithful, well-trained pastors who are willing to suffer and be persecuted - and churches that rely utterly and completely on the promises of God as well as the means he has ordained for the planting, the growth, and the perseverance of the church. Any compromise in these areas is bound to suffocate any impulse towards reformation.

What does your group try to do to influence German Reformation?

Reformation2Germany is an endeavor to do three things: (1) to plant confessional Reformed churches that rely on a Word & Sacrament ministry, i.e. the means of grace, (2) to publish Reformed ressources, both popular and academic, both contemporary and classics, through our publishing house Wortverlag, (3) to train pastors. We believe all these things need to be there and to feed into each other for any work of reformation to be sustained. As there is currently no confessional Reformed denomination in Germany, with the first church plants we are laying the ground work for a new Reformed denomination in Germany and hope to be able to train our own pastors.

How can donors who are willing to stand with you help the cause?

As you can imagine, the entire work of Reformation2Germany needs solid outside funding. It is next to impossible, at least initially, to garner any support from within Germany, given the state of the churches there. For convenience sake, we maintain a project support account with Mission To The World (PCA) where you can easily donate. Please find detailed information on our website. Even with a small but faithful donation you can help bring the reformation back to the Land of the Reformation and return a favor that has once been granted to you.

For further information, to donate or to sign up for the Reformation2Germany newsletter, please visit our website.

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