About Jim

I am a Pastor, and Lecturer in Church History and Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College.

Different People Should be Treated Differently

Luther once observed

luther… you may deal harshly with the liars and hardened tyrants, and act boldly in opposition to their teachings and their works, for they will not listen. But the simple people, whom they have bound with the ropes of their teaching and whose lives are endangered, you must treat quite differently. You must with caution and gentleness undo the teachings of men, providing them a defense and explanation, and in this way gradually set them free. This is what St. Paul did when, in defiance of all the Jews, he would not permit Titus to be circumcised [Gal. 2:3], and yet he circumcised Timothy [Acts 16:3].

You must treat dogs and swine differently from men; wolves and lions differently from the weak sheep. With wolves you cannot be too severe; with weak sheep you cannot be too gentle. Living as we do among the papists today, we must act as though we were living among heathen.

Indeed, they are heathen seven times over; we should therefore, as St. Peter teaches [I Pet. 2:12], maintain good conduct among the heathen, that they may not speak any evil of us truthfully, as they would like to do. They are delighted when they hear that you make a boast of this teaching and give offense to timid souls. This affords them a pretext for denouncing the whole teaching as offensive and harmful, for they have no other way of demolishing it; they have to admit that it is true.*

Luther is always so… engaging and insightful.  A true man for all seasons.

*The Christian in Society II, (LW Vol. 45, pp. 73–74).

#ICYMI- Twitter Theology That Makes Me Sigh: And The Truth About Calvin’s Income

The sigh inducing claim:


The truth

In his Preface to the Book of Psalms, Calvin says: ‘People circulate ridiculous rumours respecting my treasures, my great power, and my wealthy sort of life. But if a man satisfies himself with such simple fare and such common clothing, and does not require more moderation in the humblest than he himself exercises, how can it be said that he is a spendthrift and fond of self-display? My death will prove what they would not believe in my life’ (Me non esse pecuniosum, si vivus quibusdam non persuadeo, mors tandem ostendet).

His salary, when he occupied the chief ecclesiastical position in Geneva as preacher in the cathedral and minister of its congregation, never exceeded about £160 in our money, and he was provided with a house and garden.*


[Calvin’s] work as pastor and professor was never lucrative. He was indeed so pressed by poverty, as his letters to Farel show, that more than once he had to sell his books. His actual salary was a florin a week (about five francs and a half). It was therefore necessary for him to take boarders. But as these pensioners were themselves poor students, Calvin’s income was not thereby greatly increased.*

Aside from those bitlets there are loads of historical evidence in the literature about Calvin’s simplicity of life and poverty.  Osteen of Geneva my ____________.

*C. H. Irwin, John Calvin: The Man and His Work (Bellingham, WA: The Religious Tract Society, 1909).

Quote of the Day

“The business of the truth is not to be deserted, even to the sacrifice of our lives. For we live not for this age of ours, nor for the princes, but for the Lord. To admit for the sake of the princes any thing that will diminish or vitiate the truth is silly, not to say impious. To have held fast to the purpose of the Lord is to conquer all adversaries.”—  Huldrych Zwingli

“Like ‘Ilu Are You Wise”: Studies in Northwest Semitic Languages and Literatures in Honor of Dennis G. Pardee

Available in print, or freely in PDF.

This volume honors Dennis G. Pardee, Henry Crown Professor of Hebrew Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago and one of the preeminent experts in Northwest Semitic languages and literatures, particularly Ugaritic studies. The thirty-seven essays by colleagues and former students reflect the wide range of Professor Pardee’s research interests and include, among other topics, new readings of inscriptions, studies of poetic structure, and investigations of Late Bronze Age society.

Brunner on ‘Sola Fide’

“By faith alone” then, means not I, but God alone creates my redemption, my salvation, the saving and redeeming of the world; He alone is good, He alone brings to the desired goal — “with might of ours can naught be done;” — that means to rely on God alone, to make God our whole defense. Does not that make man lazy? Ask a Luther, a Zwingli, a Calvin whether this “God alone” faith made them lazy! Examine the lives of others who have really received this “God alone” faith in all of its depth and magnificence, and inquire whether it has made them morally indifferent or ethically lazy. It is the great mystery of God that men do not become strong until they know their weakness, and expect all things from the power of God. — Emil Brunner


zwingli9235In … 1519 the plague appeared in Switzerland.  As it had not yet come to Zurich, Zwingli went on a holiday that summer to Pfaefers, about sixty miles south-east of Zurich. In the village was a large Benedictine monastery, in which he probably stopped. There Zwingli was when the news reached him that the plague had broken out in Zurich.

As it was the duty of the people’s priest to be on service in the city during plague time, he hastened back, and did his duty faithfully. The plague was very severe, for 2500 died of it out of an aggregate population in the three parishes of only 17,000. It broke out on St. Lawrence’s day (Wednesday, August 10, 1519), reached its height September 12th, and subsided in Christmas week, yet lingered for a year after that.

Zwingli fell a victim toward the end of September, and was very sick. By November he was able to write again. But his recovery was slow. On November 30th, he complains that the disease had left his memory weakened, his spirits reduced, so that his mind wandered when preaching, and after preaching he felt thoroughly exhausted. On December 31st, he reported himself as well again, and that the last ulcer caused by the malady had healed.

But his rejoicing was premature, as on March 27, 1520, he complains that he had eaten and drunk many drugs to get rid of his fever, and still his head was weak, although he was daily growing better.*

Zwingli never shirked his duty, never fled the scene, never acted out of fear or in a quest for self preservation. Always his eyes were on the Church for which he felt an all encompassing responsibility. Even if he was wrong on things from time to time, his motives were always stellar.

S. Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (1484–1531),(pp. 131–132). New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

The Foes of Truth…

…  find great difficulty in refuting the enemies of pure and sound doctrine: possessed of serpentine lubricity, they escape by the most artful expedients, unless they are vigorously pursued, and held fast when once caught.  — John Calvin

Preach it, John!  Or, put in language that our precious teens can grasp, the enemies of truth are slippery and evasive and sneaky and they do whatever they can to escape when cornered by the facts.  They have to be held down by force.

Think, for example, of David Barton.

The Blinding Force of Self-Love

zw941.jpgMay everyone learn to know himself—by another in no wise is one known—although the defenses of self-love are so strong that very few persons, if any at all, break through to a knowledge of their own selves.

Under no other teacher or guide than God alone, the builder of man, will it ever be granted to see the secrets of the human heart. For as He created man, so He knows all the headwaters of his cunning and the source whence they come. All of which Jeremiah signified by the words [17:9]: “Who can know it?” doubtless not supposing that any one would venture to avouch that he had knowledge of it, except the God who fashioned it. Hence, at once, he adds: “I, the Lord, who search the heart and try the reins.”

From the Lord God, therefore, the Creator of man, is the knowledge of man to be sought, no less than the knowledge of Himself, though for different reasons. The knowledge of God is denied to our understanding because of its feebleness and His glory and splendor, but the knowledge of man, because of his boldness and readiness in lying and dissembling, as has been said.*

“Know Thyself”?  Socrates, that’s not possible.  We don’t know who or what we are until God reveals it to us.  Self love blinds us so thoroughly that we can’t see clearly enough to know anything until, like Paul, after his experience on the road to Damascus, God opens our eyes.

*The Latin works of Huldreich Zwingli, Volume 3. (C. N. Heller, Ed.) (p. 76). Philadelphia: Heidelberg Press.