The ‘wars’ that have raged around ‘worship’ are anything but new. Even though they may only been expressed explicitly in these terms in the recent history of the church, they are as old as the church. Indeed they are as old as our race itself. The very moment the serpent questioned the principle God gave in the garden to regulate how he should be honoured, the conflict had begun.

The battle raged throughout the history of Israel with the forms and manner of worship, so carefully spelled out by God through Moses, being repeatedly abandoned or distorted. Even in the New Testament, when God had revealed the full glory of what worship entails through his Son, the apostles had to spend a great deal of time calling the church back to the kind of worship that is pleasing and acceptable in God’s sight.

So too in Church history: word-shaped and word-directed worship that seeks to exalt God ‘in spirit and in truth’ (Jn 4.24) has too often been corrupted by the desires of worshippers taking precedence over the revealed desire of the One who seeks our praise.

An often forgotten fact about the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century is that is was not primarily about a right understanding of salvation; but, rather, the right understanding of worship. In his tract, The Necessity of Reforming the Church, John Calvin states the two main reasons that lay behind the Reformation. The first was ‘a knowledge of the mode in which God is truly worshipped’ and the second, ‘…of the source from which salvation is to be obtained’. Although the Reformers did indeed see the vital need to bring the church back to a biblical understanding of the latter, this was ultimately in order to restore the church to biblically ordered worship.

There are many facets to these battles waged around the chief end for our existence – that we might ‘glorify God and enjoy him forever’ – but one in particular stands out. It is the notion that the essence of worship was radically altered in the transition between the Old and New Covenant epochs.

This claim arises not merely from the obvious shift from the elaborate anticipatory forms and rules for worship in Israel to their simpler and less visually orientated successors in the church, but from something deeper. It is the claim that ‘worship’ in the New Testament is primarily about ‘ministry’ or ‘mutual edification’ and not the act of adoration in which the church engages as the high point of the week on the Lord’s Day. Indeed, according to some conservative scholars, it has very little to do with ‘public worship’ in any formal sense.

I. Howard Marshall promoted this view and David Peterson developed it more fully in his chapter, ‘Worship in the New Testament’ in D.A. Carson’s book, Worship: Adoration and Action (Baker Book House) and further again in his own work entitled, Engaging with God (IVP; Apollos). It has gained widespread acceptance in many churches, radically altering the contours and content of what happens when God’s people gather to ‘worship’.

Much of their argument revolves around the language of ‘worship’ used in the New Testament and how it relates to the types of public gathering in which this language is used. They understand this to relate to Christians honouring God through ‘service’ to one another in the church rather than doing so through ‘acts of worship’ in any formal sense towards God alone.

So, for example, the classic text in Acts, which speaks of those who had recently brought to faith on the Day of Pentecost devoting themselves to ‘the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers’ (Ac 2.42), is understood primarily on the horizontal plane. It is the members of the church ministering to one another under apostolic instruction for discipleship and witness to the wider world.

Several things need to be noted by way of response and challenge to this view, albeit briefly and in summary form.

The first is the failure of Peterson and those who espouse his view of worship to recognise not only the progress of redemptive history and revelation, but also its organic unity. As with others who argue for a radical disconnect between the Old and New epochs of God’s covenant dealings with his people, if the organic element is overlooked, then something substantive is lost.

The second question, given Peterson’s acknowledgement of worship’s being not only expressed through Godward living, but also in some expression of formal praise, is which of these constitutes the highest expression of praise. From the glimpses of worship in heaven throughout Scripture – for example the vision of God’s glory in the Temple (Isa 6.1-4) and worship in heaven itself (Rev 4.1-11; 5.11-14; 7.9-12; 19.1-10) – we see that the formal act of worship is the highest expression of praise.

Thirdly, Peterson fails to recognise the weight given to the formal expressions of worship found in the New Testament. This comes out notably in Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians in relation to public worship.  He states explicitly that an unbeliever who is present when God’s people meet for worship will ‘fall down and worship God’ (1Co 4.25) in response to his sense of God’s presence on the occasion.

Although it is undoubtedly true that God is glorified through his people ministering to one another when they gather, if the worship of God on earth is meant to mirror that of heaven, then there has to be an occasion for all eyes – both individually and corporately – to be directed towards God. The high point of worship is when God’s people give him their undivided attention and devotion.

The most telling thing of all with regard to Peterson’s theology of worship is that it appears to ignore almost 2,000 years of church history (not to mention its roots in Old Covenant Judaism). David’s words surely capture what this looks like when he declares, ‘and in [God’s] temple, all cry, “Glory!”’ (Ps 29.9). Or, as the late Eugene Peterson once said, ‘The four most important words a Christian can hear in any given week are, “Let us worship God!”’


Mark Johnston is a pastor in Wales and a Trustee of the Banner of Truth. This article was published at PLACE FOR TRUTH. 



Myth #1: It’s only for theology experts.

The doctrine of the Trinity is for everybody who is saved by Jesus. Or, to say that just a little more elaborately, it’s for everybody who has been drawn to the Father through faith in the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit (see 2 Cor. 13:14). Or, to say it again, it’s for everyone who has been adopted by the Father who sent the Son to redeem us, and sent the Holy Spirit of adoption into our hearts to make us cry out to God, “Abba, Father” (see Gal. 4:4–6). Or, to say it another way, it’s for everyone who is in communion with other believers through our common access to the Father in Christ by the Spirit (see Eph. 2:18).

Or, to be more precise, it’s for everybody who wants to understand how any of this deep salvation works, and what the gospel reveals about the God who stands behind it. That’s because the doctrine of the Trinity is the only view of God that makes sense of Christian salvation. That’s one reason the church baptizes in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (see Matt. 28:19): it’s the birthright of all the born-again.

There are, of course, experts in the doctrine of the Trinity, who have thought about it with precision and depth, and studied it in an academic way. But any subject can be apprehended simply on the one hand and studied in depth on the other hand: there are experts in everything, and their expertise doesn’t mean the thing they’ve studied becomes their exclusive property. The Trinity is too important to be left to theological experts.

Myth #2: It isn’t really in the Bible; the early church made it up.

This myth is probably based on the observation that the keywords we traditionally use in talking about the Trinity are not Bible words: Trinity, for example; but also person, nature, relation, and so on. But all those words are just labels—intended to be helpfully concise—that we attach to things we do see in Scripture. The grand story of the one true God fulfilling his promises by being with us in the Father’s sending of his Son and Spirit is a sprawling, two-testament reality of God making himself known in the act of redemption. Instead of telling that entire story every time we ponder the identity of the God of the gospel, Christians since the time of the early church fathers have tended to use the shorter, portable words. But when they started this pattern of usage, the church fathers never wanted credit for creativity. They insisted, in council after council, commentary after commentary, catechism after catechism, that they were saying what Holy Scripture said.

Some modern Christians have a kind of phobia about following the patristic lead here, preferring to use nothing but Bible words for Bible truths. They will inevitably end up having to solve the same problems the early church solved (finding heretics within their ranks using Bible words with different meanings, figuring out how to communicate the faith to the next generation, and so on), two thousand years after the fact and with their own modern idiosyncracies smuggled in unawares. Other modern Christians are overzealous about deferring to tradition and are happy to credit the church fathers with inventing a doctrine that can’t be found in the Bible. To them, the church fathers themselves respond, “no, thank you.” They never intended for us to believe in the Trinity on their own testimony; they bent all their efforts to show that God had revealed his own triunity in Scripture.

The doctrine of the Trinity is the only view of God that makes sense of Christian salvation.

Myth #3: It’s irrelevant to the spiritual life.

Since God’s triunity is bundled together with the gospel, it is the foundation of the spiritual life of every believer. The more you understand the deep structure of the spiritual reality you experience in Christ and the Spirit, the more you understand and are experiencing the deep things of God for us. If you think the Trinity is irrelevant to your spiritual life as a Christian, you are probably being fooled by a kind of experiential optical illusion. What I mean is this: you can come to believe in Christ, get saved, and commune with God in the Spirit for some time before you begin to think about the Trinity. Since everything was going fine for you as a Christian before you started thinking about the Trinity, you might think the Trinity is some kind of unnecessary doctrine that ought to be tucked away in your mind somewhere as true but doesn’t affect your life. But in fact, the reason everything was going fine before is that you were immersed in the reality of the Son and the Spirit bringing you actively and dynamically into the love of the Father all along. To recognize this underlying reality ought to be an invitation for you to go deeper into what you have already begun experiencing in the Christian life.

There is one sense in which I suppose you might call the Trinity irrelevant to the spiritual life of believers. You might call it irrelevant in the sense that it is absolutely independent of believers: it’s true whether you appreciate it or not. God would be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit even if the Father had never sent the Son and the Holy Spirit, or even if the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had never created anything or anybody to receive their blessing or believe in them. But God’s independence from everything that is not God turns out to be an important thing for us to recognize. In other words, it’s very relevant for you to know that God would be God without you.

Myth #4: It is illogical.

Sometimes we use shorthand for the doctrine of the Trinity, and say that “our God is three in one,” or “three and one.” That sounds like a contradiction. But if you plug in the relevant nouns, the contradiction goes away: God is three persons in one being. That may be a mystery, but it is not necessarily a contradiction. The problem with the short phrase, “three in one,” is that it might suggest “three Gods in one God,” or “three persons in one person,” or “three beings in one being.” The short phrase takes the entire scope of the biblical message (that there is one God, and that this God exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and, by leaving out all nouns, compresses it into a form that sounds like algebra, and bad algebra at that. When God reveals himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, he doesn’t ask for a sacrifice of the mind. He does ask for humble teachability, which is the same thing we need in order to accept anything God reveals.

The Deep Things of God

The Deep Things of God

Fred Sanders

A specialist on the doctrine of the Trinity explains how the gospel is inherently Trinitarian. Now updated with an accessible study guide to make it more user friendly for pastors, theologians, and laypeople alike.

Myth #5: Analogies for the Trinity matter a lot and will help us understand it more deeply.

What is God the Trinity like? A three-leaf clover? Water in its liquid, icy, and steamy states? The sun radiating beams of light and waves of heat? The shell, yolk, and white of an egg? A mind remembering itself, knowing itself, and loving itself? A three-person committee with one agenda? A person with three jobs? No, God the Trinity is not very much like any of these things at all. Some of these analogies are downright false and should never be used; others are a little bit helpful for thinking about some isolated elements of the doctrine of the Trinity in an abstract way. None of them are important, and none of them will take you to the next level of understanding what the Bible is getting at with its revelation of the Trinity. The whole idea that it matters very much to figure out a good analogy for the Trinity is usually a sign that we’ve gotten hold of the doctrine by the wrong end. It’s possible to launch out on a quest for answers to questions that were never worth raising. If you keep your expectations very, very, very low, some Trinity analogies might be worth considering.

But it’s significant that God communicated the truth about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit without putting a single Trinity analogy in the Bible. What if God has actually already revealed what we need to know about what the eternal life of God is like, and did it without mentioning shamrocks or icebergs? What if the best way to understand the eternal fellowship of Father, Son, and Spirit is to understand that the Father sent the Son and the Spirit? What if the eternal God is like the Father sending the Son and the Spirit in the fullness of time, because from all eternity God is the Father, the eternally begotten Son, and the eternally proceeding Spirit? That would mean that when we tell the gospel story, we are already describing the character of God. That would mean that the Trinity and the gospel belong together as the basis of our faith and also as the beginning of our understanding.


While the book of Malachi is unique, rich, and rewarding, it’s promises of future purification can be difficult to square with the coming of Christ. Each of the Gospels reference the coming of John the Baptist and Jesus as the fulfillment of Malachi’s promises, yet the restoration of the sons of Levi (3:3), and the preservation of the Lord’s “covenant with Levi” (2:4) appears to be left undone. The difficulty is resolved through Christ’s atoning work as he purifies his elect and transforms them into priests to the Lord. Through a brief biblical theological study of Malachi’s fulfillment in the NT, this article seeks to prove that the priestly work of Christ fulfills God’s promises of purification in Malachi.

The Filth of the Priesthood

Malachi is a prophetic disputation which acts largely as an indictment against the priesthood for their impurity in almost every way. The people have already been exiled and restored to the land yet have returned to impurity as a dog returns to his vomit, dwelling in the land yet still living an exilic existence (Hag 1:6ff, Zech 2:6-7). They must purify themselves and return to the Torah (Mal 4:4), yet they are unable. Ultimately, the only hope is for God to act on their behalf by purifying the sons of Levi so that they can again offer righteous sacrifices to the Lord (Mal 3:1-4).

The Failure of the People

The Gospels identify John the Baptist as both Elijah the prophet (Luke 1:17 cf. Mal 4:5) and “my messenger” (Mark 1:2 cf. Mal 3:1a). Furthermore, the one for whom John the Baptist came to prepare the way for was the Lord Jesus (John 3:28), who should be identified with the Lord and the messenger of the covenant from Malachi 3:1b, who comes in order to purify the sons of Levi (Mal 3:2-4). The difficulty with this reading is that Malachi indicates that if Elijah the prophet fails to bring restoration, the Lord’s promise to purify the sons of Levi may not come to pass (Mal 4:6). This causes a difficulty in understand how this could fit with the death of Christ.

Thankfully, this conundrum came to the mind of the disciples after the transfiguration when they ask, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” (Mat 17:10). Jesus confirms the validity of their question by paraphrasing Malachi saying, “Elijah will restore all things.” Note that this statement is Jesus’ interpretation of the idiomatic promise that Elijah will “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Mal 4:5 cf. Mal 1:6, 2:10). Jesus then provides further explanation, “I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they please. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.

Jesus has already clarified that John the Baptist has been rejected (Mat 11:10), and his answer here further suggests that the curse in Malachi 4 is coming into effect, most evidently in his death upon the cross. This could also mean that the purification of the sons of Levi in Malachi 3 is also in jeopardy. Immediately after this exchange though, Jesus begins a practically uninterrupted series of family restorations, or teachings using familial terminology through Matthew 19 starting with a relationship between demon oppressed child to his father (Mat 17:14-21).  These theme of family restorations tips the reader off to a possible hope found in the ministry of Jesus. Even though John the Baptist failed to bring restoration like was promised because of Israel’s hardness of heart, Christ is, at least in some capacity, will bring about the reconciliation and restoration attributed to the messenger and Elijah the prophet (Mal 3:1, 4:5).

The Fulfillment in Jesus

While God has promised to bring about the ban on his people if John the Baptist is rejected, he still fulfills the promised purification of the sons of Levi through the priestly work of Christ on the cross. Those who are wicked will still experience the ban, but those who trust in the Lord are made to be priests of God and Christ, even if they are not biological descendants of Levi. The work of regeneration and sanctification is the application of the work of Christ upon his people and this work is the fulfillment of Malachi’s promise that the messenger, who is also the Lord, will purify the sons of Levi

Only after examining both the Gospels and the Epistles while considering the OT revelation will one understand the priestly work of Christ in purifying his people and transforming them into priests. First it is necessary to consider Christ’s purity. Malachi rebuked the priests and the people of Israel for offering polluted sacrifices because God required an unblemished sacrifice (Mal 1:7-14 cf. Lev 22:22). Christ was a sacrifice “without blemish” (Heb 9:14, 1 Tim 6:13-14, 1 Pet 1:19) and his perfection was allowed him to purify his people through his onetime sacrifice (Eph 5:25-17, Heb 10:1). Jesus’ active and passive obedience are vital to understanding his fulfillment of Malachi 3, since his righteous life needed to be imputed to an unrighteous people that they might become pure (2 Cor 5:21). In the cross, a double imputation takes place where Christ imputes his righteousness to his people while their sin is imputed to him. Christ’s passive obedience purifies his people as he remits their sins, bears the penalty for that sin, and reconciles them to God.  This work of Christ parallels nicely with the work of the messenger of the covenant and the Lord in Malachi 3. By his sacrifice on the cross, Jesus has purified his people and made them into priests. The work of regeneration and sanctification is the application of the work of Christ upon his people and this work is the fulfillment of Malachi’s promise that the messenger, who is also the Lord, will purify the sons of Levi. Regeneration and sanctification purify God’s elect and make them into priests to the Lord by the work of Christ on the cross, thought the Spirit. Hebrews makes clear that there will be no more levitical priesthood (Heb 7:11-28), but rather, the promises make in Malachi are fulfilled in the people who have become purified (Heb 10:14, 22) and are now a “holy priesthood” who “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5-6, 9 cf. John 17:19, Rom 12:1, Rev 1:6, 5:10, 20:6) and who are “priests of the gospel” (Rom 15:16 cf. Isa 66:20).

Jonathan Ahlgren is a doctoral student at THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY in Louisville, KY.


Quick, can you name the 10 Commandments?

Some of you who attended Bible drills as children might have your pneumonic at the ready. But many Christians are vaguely familiar with the commandments at best. Others who didn’t grow up in the church—like myself—may have never given a thought to memorizing such a list. After all, didn’t Christ come to fulfill the law? What does Sinai have to do with us?

Into this scene comes pastor and prolific author Kevin DeYoung with his new work, The 10 Commandments: What They Mean, Why They Matter, and Why We Should Obey Them. DeYoung isn’t interested in shaming the church for our lack of knowledge. Nor is he interested in a memorization challenge. He’s interested in equipping us for holiness and mission. He does so by clarifying points of confusion, using up-to-date examples, and pointing to the deep realities beyond the outward simplicity of the statements.

The 10 Commandments: What They Mean, Why They Matter, and Why We Should Obey Them
Crossway (2018). 208 pp. $17.99.

Are the 10 Commandments still relevant today? 

Do they still apply? Which ones? What do they mean in light of God’s mercy revealed in Jesus?

Highlighting the timelessness and goodness of God’s commands, pastor Kevin DeYoung delivers critical truth about the 10 Commandments as he makes clear what they are, why we should know them, and how to apply them. This book will help you understand, obey, and delight in God’s law—commandments that expose our sinfulness and reveal the glories of God’s grace to us in Christ.

Not Our Instagram Vibe

But first, DeYoung wants to frame the larger “why” at play in studying the Decalogue. The church isn’t ignorant of the 10 Commandments because we’ve tried hard and failed. No, there is a type of apathy involved. Along with that, we have a cultural allergy to authority and rules. Thunder, lightning, a booming voice, and chiseled tablets aren’t exactly our Instagram vibe right now.

This makes the introduction of this book more important than usual. DeYoung thoughtfully meets the culture by prodding us to see that we all care about morality, even when we say we don’t. We feign open-mindedness and tolerance, while establishing new rules that are right in our own eyes. Because of this, we need universal laws—a code that is transcendent, timeless, and wise. We need to see that these laws aren’t oppressive but good, because they were designed by Someone Good. DeYoung poignantly asks, “Have you ever thought about how much better life would be if everyone kept the Ten Commandments?” (21).

Yet even more, we need the gospel. Being convinced of the law’s goodness might fool us into thinking we actually can create the type of order they describe—if not in the whole world, then perhaps in our individual lives. As Tim Keller is fond of noting, we humans tend to ping from irreligion to legalism as quick as a pinball. DeYoung is just as quick to correct this tendency: “The Ten Commandments are not instructions on how to get out of Egypt. They are rules for a free people to stay free” (24).

Thunder, lightning, a booming voice, and chiseled tablets aren’t exactly our Instagram vibe right now.

From here, DeYoung takes us chapter by chapter through each of the 10 commandments. It’s clear that this work is written by a seasoned pastor: there’s always a structure of questions, exhortations, or examples to keep the audience on track. It’s a strength that DeYoung doesn’t use the same framing for each chapter. Like a good exegete of both Scripture and culture, he anticipates the particular confusions of each commandment and plans his treatment to engage them. This is an eminently practical book.

A particularly strong example is the way DeYoung clarifies and translates the second commandment. On first blush, a 2018 reader might not understand what making graven images has to do with her life. It sounds so far away and implausible. But DeYoung shows that the heart behind this law is “against worshiping God in the wrong way” (42). We begin to see that this happens today, just in different forms.

Yet in an age of individual expression, we still need to be walked through the “why” of the second commandment. Isn’t sincerity of intention enough? Here DeYoung exposes what is at stake in keeping this word: the glory of God in the world. The reader is invited to and coached in theological reflection, which adds a depth and richness to the faithful life that rote obedience could never achieve. Such moments happen frequently through 10 Commandments, and are its chief strength.

Reclaiming Treasure

In order for an even wider audience to be able to relate to the book, I wish DeYoung had included more examples beyond the nuclear family. And given the book’s strong beginning, a more robust epilogue that reiterated how God’s good law relates the gospel would’ve been appropriate. Nonetheless, DeYoung’s book is a helpful entry into the current climate. Personal moral failings and terrible atrocities continue to fill our screens and timelines. The church and the world are hungry for true righteousness, even if they don’t realize it.

What better time for us to rediscover and reclaim the treasure of the law, rightly understood in relationship to the gospel of grace?


“MEN HAVE FORGOTTEN GOD” (Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s 1983 Templeton Address)

 ‘Men Have Forgotten God’:

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1983 Templeton Address


THE NATIONAL REVIEW; December 11, 2018


Editor’s Note:This article, which originally ran in the July 22, 1983, issue of National Review, is adapted from the address Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn gave on the occasion of his acceptance, in London on May 10, 1983, of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. In announcing the 1983 award, the Templeton Foundation described Mr. Solzhenitsyn as “a pioneer in the renaissance of religion in atheist nations.” Mr. Solzhenitsyn ’s introductory remarks were made at the awards ceremony at Buckingham Palace, with Prince Philip presiding. The address proper was delivered later the same day at the London Guildhall. Today, December 11, 2018, is the 100th anniversary of Mr. Solzhenitsyn’s birth.



  1. The Response

Your Royal Highness: Permit me to express my appreciation to you for taking part in this ceremony. Your participation lends special dignity to these proceedings.


This is the first time that the Templeton Prize has been awarded to an Orthodox Christian. With gratitude that our share in the religious life of the world has now been accorded notice, I remain acutely conscious of my personal unworthiness to receive this award as I look back upon the venerable line of outstanding Orthodox churchmen and of Orthodox thinkers from Aleksey Khomyakov to Sergei Bulgakov. And I am very much aware that Eastern Slavic Orthodoxy, which, during the 65 years of Communist rule, has been subjected to persecution even fiercer and more extensive than that of early Christian times, has had—and still has today—many hands worthier than mine to accept it. Beginning with Vladimir Bogoyavlensky, metropolitan of Kiev, shot by the Communists before the walls of the Kievo-Pechersky Monastery at the dawn of the Lenin era, the list would extend to the intrepid priest Gleb Yakunin, who is enduring torments today, under Andropov: Forcibly deprived of all outward symbols of his priesthood, and even of the right to have the Gospels, Father Yakunin has for months at a time been held in a freezing stone cubicle, without bed, clothes, or food.


In this persecution-filled age, it is appropriate that my own very first memory should be of Chekists in pointed caps entering St. Panteleimon’s Church in Kislovodsk, interrupting the service, and crashing their way into the sanctuary in order to loot. And later, when I started going to school in Rostov-on-Don — passing on my way a kilometer-long compound of the Cheka-GPU and a glittering sign of the League of Militant Atheists — schoolchildren egged on by Komsomol members taunted me for accompanying my mother to the last remaining church in town and tore the cross from around my neck.


Orthodox churches were stripped of their valuables in 1922 at the instigation of Lenin and Trotsky. In subsequent years, including both the Stalin and the Khrushchev periods, tens of thousands of churches were torn down or desecrated, leaving behind a disfigured wasteland that bore no resemblance to Russia such as it had stood for centuries. Entire districts and cities of half a million inhabitants were left without a single church. Our people were condemned to live in this dark and mute wilderness for decades, groping their way to God and keeping to this course by trial and error. The grip of oppression that we have lived under, and continue to live under, has been so great that religion, instead of leading to a free blossoming of the spirit, has been manifested in asserting the faith on the brink of destruction, or else on the seductive frontiers of Marxist rhetoric, where so many souls have come to grief.

The statement of the Templeton Foundation shows an understanding of how the Orthodox spiritual tradition has maintained its vitality in our land despite the forcible promotion of atheism. If even a fraction of those words should find their way to my motherland past the jamming devices, this will bolster the spirits of our believers, assuring them that they have not been forgotten, and that their steadfastness inspires courage even here.


The centralized atheism before whose armed might the whole world trembles still hates and fears this unarmed faith as much today as it did 60 years ago. Yes! All the savage persecutions loosed upon our people by a murderous state atheism, coupled with the corroding effect of its lies, and an avalanche of stultifying propaganda — all of these together have proven weaker than the thousand-year-old faith of our nation. This faith has not been destroyed; it remains the most sublime, the most cherished gift to which our lives and consciousness can attain.


  1. The Templeton Address

More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”




Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”


What is more, the events of the Russian Revolution can only be understood now, at the end of the century, against the background of what has since occurred in the rest of the world. What emerges here is a process of universal significance. And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire20th century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: “Men have forgotten God.” The failings of human consciousness, deprived of its divine dimension, have been a determining factor in all the major crimes of this century. The first of these was World War I, and much of our present predicament can be traced back to it. It was a war (the memory of which seems to be fading) when Europe, bursting with health and abundance, fell into a rage of self-mutilation which could not but sap its strength for a century or more, and perhaps forever. The only possible explanation for this war is a mental eclipse among the leaders of Europe due to their lost awareness of a Supreme Power above them. Only a godless embitterment could have moved ostensibly Christian states to employ poison gas, a weapon so obviously beyond the limits of humanity.


The same kind of defect, the flaw of a consciousness lacking all divine dimension, was manifested after World War II when the West yielded to the satanic temptation of the “nuclear umbrella.” It was equivalent to saying: Let’s cast off worries, let’s free the younger generation from their duties and obligations, let’s make no effort to defend ourselves, to say nothing of defending others — let’s stop our ears to the groans emanating from the East, and let us live instead in the pursuit of happiness. If danger should threaten us, we shall be protected by the nuclear bomb; if not, then let the world burn in Hell for all we care. The pitifully helpless state to which the contemporary West has sunk is in large measure due to this fatal error: the belief that the defense of peace depends not on stout hearts and steadfast men, but solely on the nuclear bomb.



Only the loss of that higher intuition that comes from God could have allowed the West to accept calmly, after World War I, the protracted agony of Russia as she was being torn apart by a band of cannibals, or to accept, after World War II, the similar dismemberment of Eastern Europe. The West did not perceive that this was in fact the beginning of a lengthy process that spells disaster for the whole world; indeed, the West has done a good deal to help the process along. Only once in this century did the West gather strength — for the battle against Hitler. But the fruits of that victory have long since been lost. Faced with cannibalism, our godless age has discovered the perfect anesthetic — trade! Such is the pathetic pinnacle of contemporary wisdom.



Today’ s world has reached a stage which, if it had been described to preceding centuries, would have called forth the cry: “This is the Apocalypse!”

Yet we have grown used to this kind of world; we even feel at home in it.

Dostoevsky warned that “great events could come upon us and catch us intellectually unprepared.” This is precisely what has happened. And he predicted that “the world will be saved only after it has been possessed by the demon of evil.” Whether it really will be saved we shall have to wait and see: this will depend on our conscience, on our spiritual lucidity, on our individual and combined efforts in the face of catastrophic circumstances. But it has already come to pass that the demon of evil, like a whirlwind, triumphantly circles all five continents of the earth.

We are witnesses to the devastation of the world, be it imposed or voluntarily undergone. The entire 20th century is being sucked into the vortex of atheism and self-destruction. This plunge into the abyss has aspects that are unquestionably global, dependent neither on political systems, nor on levels of economic and cultural development, nor yet on national peculiarities. And present-day Europe, seemingly so unlike the Russia of 1913, is today on the verge of the same collapse, for all that it has been reached by a different route. Different parts of the world have followed different paths, but today they are all approaching the threshold of a common ruin.



In its past, Russia did know a time when the social ideal was not fame, or riches, or material success, but a pious way of life. Russia was then steeped in an Orthodox Christianity which remained true to the Church of the first centuries. The Orthodoxy of that time knew how to safeguard its people under the yoke of a foreign occupation that lasted more than two centuries, while at the same time fending off iniquitous blows from the swords of Western crusaders. During those centuries the Orthodox faith in our country became part of the very pattern of thought and the personality of our people, the forms of daily life, the work calendar, the priorities in every undertaking, the organization of the week and of the year. Faith was the shaping and unifying force of the nation.

But in the 17th century Russian Orthodoxy was gravely weakened by an internal schism. In the 18th, the country was shaken by Peter’s forcibly imposed transformations, which favored the economy, the state, and the military at the expense of the religious spirit and national life. And along with this lopsided Petrine enlightenment, Russia felt the first whiff of secularism; its subtle poisons permeated the educated classes in the course of the 19th century and opened the path to Marxism. By the time of the Revolution, faith had virtually disappeared in Russian educated circles; and amongst the uneducated, its health was threatened.


It was Dostoevsky, once again, who drew from the French Revolution and its seeming hatred of the Church the lesson that “revolution must necessarily begin with atheism.” That is absolutely true. But the world had never before known a godlessness as organized, militarized, and tenaciously malevolent as that practiced by Marxism. Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin, and at the heart of their psychology, hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions. Militant atheism is not merely incidental or marginal to Communist policy; it is not a side effect, but the central pivot. To achieve its diabolical ends. Communism needs to control a population devoid of religious and national feeling, and this entails the destruction of faith and nationhood. Communists proclaim both of these objectives openly, and just as openly go about carrying them out. The degree to which the atheistic world longs to annihilate religion, the extent to which religion sticks in its throat, was demonstrated by the web of intrigue surrounding the recent attempts on the life of the Pope.

The 1920’s in the USSR witnessed an uninterrupted procession of victims and martyrs amongst the Orthodox clergy. Two metropolitans were shot, one of whom, Veniamin of Petrograd, had been elected by the popular vote of his diocese. Patriarch Tikhon himself passed through the hands of the Cheka-GPU and then died under suspicious circumstances. Scores of archbishops and bishops perished. Tens of thousands of priests, monks, and nuns, pressured by the Chekists to renounce the Word of God, were tortured, shot in cellars, sent to camps, exiled to the desolate tundra of the far North, or turned out into the streets in their old age without food or shelter. All these Christian martyrs went unswervingly to their deaths for the faith; instances of apostasy were few and far between.


For tens of millions of laymen access to the Church was blocked, and they were forbidden to bring up their children in the Faith: religious parents were wrenched from their children and thrown into prison, while the children were turned from the faith by threats and lies. One could argue that the pointless destruction of Russia’s rural economy in the 1930s — the so-called de-kulakization and collectivization, which brought death to 15 million peasants while making no economic sense at all — was enforced with such cruelty, first and foremost, for the purpose of destroying our national way of life and of extirpating religion from the countryside. The same policy of spiritual perversion operated throughout the brutal world of the Gulag Archipelago, where men were encouraged to survive at the cost of the lives of others. And only atheists bereft of reason could have decided upon the ultimate brutality — against the Russian land itself — that is being planned in the USSR today: The Russian north is to be flooded, the flow of the northern rivers reversed, the life of the Arctic Ocean disrupted, and the water channeled southward, toward lands already devastated by earlier, equally foolhardy “feats of Communist construction.”


For a short period of time, when he needed to gather strength for the struggle against Hitler, Stalin cynically adopted a friendly posture toward the Church. This deceptive game, continued in later years by Brezhnev with the help of showcase publications and other window dressing, has unfortunately tended to be taken at its face value in the West. Yet the tenacity with which hatred of religion is rooted in Communism may be judged by the example of their most liberal leader, Khrushchev: for though he undertook a number of significant steps to extend freedom, Khrushchev simultaneously rekindled the frenzied Leninist obsession with destroying religion.


But there is something they did not expect: that in a land where churches have been leveled, where a triumphant atheism has rampaged uncontrolled for two-thirds of a century, where the clergy is utterly humiliated and deprived of all independence, where what remains of the Church as an institution is tolerated only for the sake of propaganda directed at the West, where even today people are sent to the labor camps for their faith, and where, within the camps themselves, those who gather to pray at Easter are clapped in punishment cells–they could not suppose that beneath this Communist steamroller the Christian tradition would survive in Russia. It is true that millions of our countrymen have been corrupted and spiritually devastated by an officially imposed atheism, yet there remain many millions of believers: it is only external pressures that keep them from speaking out, but, as is always the case in times of persecution and suffering, the awareness of God in my country has attained great acuteness and profundity.

It is here that we see the dawn of hope: for no matter how formidably Communism bristles with tanks and rockets, no matter what successes it attains in seizing the planet, it is doomed never to vanquish Christianity.


The West has yet to experience a Communist invasion; religion here remains free. But the West’s own historical evolution has been such that today it too is experiencing a drying up of religious consciousness. It too has witnessed racking schisms, bloody religious wars, and rancor, to say nothing of the tide of secularism that, from the late Middle Ages onward, has progressively inundated the West. This gradual sapping of strength from within is a threat to faith that is perhaps even more dangerous than any attempt to assault religion violently from without.


Imperceptibly, through decades of gradual erosion, the meaning of life in the West has ceased to be seen as anything more lofty than the “pursuit of happiness, “a goal that has even been solemnly guaranteed by constitutions. The concepts of good and evil have been ridiculed for several centuries; banished from common use, they have been replaced by political or class considerations of short-lived value. It has become embarrassing to state that evil makes its home in the individual human heart before it enters a political system. Yet it is not considered shameful to make daily concessions to an integral evil. Judging by the continuing landslide of concessions made before the eyes of our very own generation, the West is ineluctably slipping toward the abyss. Western societies are losing more and more of their religious essence as they thoughtlessly yield up their younger generation to atheism. If a blasphemous film about Jesus is shown throughout the United States, reputedly one of the most religious countries in the world, or a major newspaper publishes a shameless caricature of the Virgin Mary, what further evidence of godlessness does one need? When external rights are completely unrestricted, why should one make an inner effort to restrain oneself from ignoble acts?



Or why should one refrain from burning hatred, whatever its basis ― race, class, or ideology? Such hatred is in fact corroding many hearts today. Atheist teachers in the West are bringing up a younger generation in a spirit of hatred of their own society. Amid all the vituperation we forget that the defects of capitalism represent the basic flaws of human nature, allowed unlimited freedom together with the various human rights; we forget that under Communism (and Communism is breathing down the neck of all moderate forms of socialism, which are unstable) the identical flaws run riot in any person with the least degree of authority; while everyone else under that system does indeed attain “equality”― the equality of destitute slaves.


This eager fanning of the flames of hatred is becoming the mark of today’s free world. Indeed, the broader the personal freedoms are, the higher the level of prosperity or even of abundance – the more vehement, paradoxically, does this blind hatred become. The contemporary developed West thus demonstrates by its own example that human salvation can be found neither in the profusion of material goods nor in merely making money.


This deliberately nurtured hatred then spreads to all that is alive, to life itself, to the world with its colors, sounds, and shapes, to the human body. The embittered art of the 20th century is perishing as a result of this ugly hate, for art is fruitless without love. In the East art has collapsed because it has been knocked down and trampled upon, but in the West the fall has been voluntary, a decline into a contrived and pretentious quest where the artist, instead of attempting to reveal the divine plan, tries to put himself in the place of God.

Here again we witness the single outcome of a worldwide process, with East and West yielding the same results, and once again for the same reason: Men have forgotten God.

Confronted by the onslaught of worldwide atheism, believers are disunited and frequently bewildered. And yet the Christian (or post-Christian) world would do well to note the example of the Far East. I have recently had an opportunity to observe in Free China and in Japan how, despite their apparently less clearly defined religious concepts, and despite the same unassailable “freedom of choice” that exists in the West, both the younger generation and society as a whole have preserved their moral sensibility to a greater degree than the West has, and have been less affected by the destructive spirit of secularism.


What can one say about the lack of unity among the various religions, if Christianity has itself become so fragmented? In recent years the major Christian churches have taken steps toward reconciliation. But these measures are far too slow; the world is perishing a hundred times more quickly. No one expects the churches to merge or to revise all their doctrines, but only to present a common front against atheism. Yet even for such a purpose the steps taken are much too slow.


There does exist an organized movement for the unification of the churches, but it presents an odd picture. The World Council of Churches seems to care more for the success of revolutionary movements in the Third World, all the while remaining blind and deaf to the persecution of religion where this is carried through most consistently — in the USSR. No one can fail to see the facts; must one conclude, then, that it is deemed expedient not to see, not to get involved? But if that is the case, what remains of Christianity?


It is with profound regret that I must note here something which I cannot pass over in silence. My predecessor in the receipt of this prize last year — in the very month that the award was made — lent public support to Communist lies by his deplorable statement that he had not noticed the persecution of religion in the USSR. Before the multitude of those who have perished and who are oppressed today, may God be his judge.

It seems more and more apparent that even with the most sophisticated of political maneuvers, the noose around the neck of mankind draws tighter and more hopeless with every passing decade, and there seems to be no way out for anyone — neither nuclear, nor political, nor economic, nor ecological. That is indeed the way things appear to be.


With such global events looming over us like mountains, nay, like entire mountain ranges, it may seem incongruous and inappropriate to recall that the primary key to our being or non-being resides in each individual human heart, in the heart’s preference for specific good or evil. Yet this remains true even today, and it is, in fact, the most reliable key we have. The social theories that promised so much have demonstrated their bankruptcy, leaving us at a dead end. The free people of the West could reasonably have been expected to realize that they are beset by numerous freely nurtured falsehoods, and not to allow lies to be foisted upon them so easily. All attempts to find a way out of the plight of today’s world are fruitless unless we redirect our consciousness, in repentance, to the Creator of all: without this, no exit will be illumined, and we shall seek it in vain. The resources we have set aside for ourselves are too impoverished for the task. We must first recognize the horror perpetrated not by some outside force, not by class or national enemies, but within each of us individually, and within every society. This is especially true of a free and highly developed society, for here in particular we have surely brought everything upon ourselves, of our own free will. We ourselves, in our daily unthinking selfishness, are pulling tight that noose.

Let us ask ourselves: Are not the ideals of our century false? And is not our glib and fashionable terminology just as unsound, a terminology that offers superficial remedies for every difficulty? Each of them, in whatever sphere, must be subjected to a clear-eyed scrutiny while there is still time. The solution to the crisis will not be found along the well-trodden paths of conventional thinking.



Our life consists not in the pursuit of material success but in the quest for worthy spiritual growth. Our entire earthly existence is but a transitional stage in the movement toward something higher, and we must not stumble and fall, nor must we linger fruitlessly on one rung of the ladder. Material laws alone do not explain our life or give it direction. The laws of physics and physiology will never reveal the indisputable manner in which the Creator constantly, day in and day out, participates in the life of each of us, unfailingly granting us the energy of existence; when this assistance leaves us, we die. And in the life of our entire planet, the Divine Spirit surely moves with no less force: this we must grasp in our dark and terrible hour.


To the ill-considered hopes of the last two centuries, which have reduced us to insignificance and brought us to the brink of nuclear and non-nuclear death, we can propose only a determined quest for the warm hand of God, which we have so rashly and self-confidently spurned. Only in this way can our eyes be opened to the errors of this unfortunate 20th century and our bands be directed to setting them right. There is nothing else to cling to in the landslide: the combined vision of all the thinkers of the Enlightenment amounts to nothing.

Our five continents are caught in a whirlwind. But it is during trials such as these that the highest gifts of the human spirit are manifested. If we perish and lose this world, the fault will be ours alone.


Mr. Solzhenitsyn (1918–2008) won the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature.




The 3-Step Process for Formulating the 4 Gospels

Brant Pitre’s The Case for Jesus: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ is creative and compelling. Read along with Peter Williams’s Can We Trust the Gospels? readers will have an outstanding one-two punch.

Pitre includes a helpful summary of how oral tradition, memory, and discipleship played into the formation of the Gospels.

Stage 1. The Life and Teaching of Jesus

As a Jewish “rabbi” (rabbi), Jesus “taught” (didaskō) his “students” (mathētai) in the context of a rabbi-student relationship. His students lived with him and learned from him for some three years.

During this time, Jesus expected his students to “remember” (mnēmoneuō) what he said and instructed them to begin “teaching” (didaskō) others while he was still alive (see Mark 4:1-20; 6:1-13, 30; 8:18; 9:5; 11:21; and parallels).

Stage 2. The Preaching of Jesus’s Students

After Jesus’s death, the students of Jesus “remembered” (mnēmoneuō) what he had said and done, and they “taught” (didaskō) others about what they had seen and heard.

Their preaching was based on the skilled memories of trained students and the rehearsed memories of disciples who repeatedly preached about what Jesus said and did (see John 2:22; 12:16; 15:20; 16:4; Acts 4:2-20; 20:35).

Stage 3. The Writing of the Gospels

Eventually, the evangelists “wrote” (graphō) either what they themselves “witnessed” (martyreō) or what was “handed on” (paradidōmi) to them by “eyewitnesses” (autoptai) who were present with Jesus “from the beginning” (see Luke 1:1-4; John 21:24).

Pitre points out that to be a “disciple” is literally to be a student (Greek mathētēs; Hebrew talmid).

Being a student in the ancient world was radically different from what it is like today, when it simply means you may (or may not) listen to a fifty-minute lecture three times a week for a semester. Being one of Jesus’s students meant following him everywhere, and listening to him all the time, for anywhere between one and three years. As the Gospels make clear, it also meant remembering what he said (Matthew 16:9; Mark 8:18; John 15:20; 16:4).

He quotes John Meier:

Jesus called individuals to follow him literary, physically, as he undertook various preaching tours of Galilee, Judea and surrounding areas. . . . Following Jesus as his disciple meant leaving behind one’s home, parents, and livelihood. One could not follow Jesus simply by staying at home and studying his teachings or by going to his school-house and attending his lectures.

In another section he shows that there is virtually no evidence for the common claim that the Gospels were originally anonymous. But if we take seriously the evidence for their apostolic origin, it means one of two things:

They either contain the memories of Jesus’s students (the Gospels of Matthew and John) or are based on the memories of Jesus’s students that were passed on to their followers (such as Mark’s record of Peter’s preaching). Even Luke’s Gospel claims to be based on the testimony of those who were eyewitnesses “from the beginning” of Jesus’s public ministry (Luke 1:1).

He continues:

Notice how different this is from the now widespread theory that our information about Jesus is primarily based on decade after decade of anonymous storytelling. Of course uncontrolled stories about Jesus circulated; the Gospel of Luke even mentions anonymous “reports” (Greek ēchos) making the rounds during Jesus’s lifetime (Luke 4:37).

However, as I have argued in earlier chapters, that’s not what the four Gospels claim to be. They are not the last links in a long chain of anonymous rumors and stories. They are ancient biographies and authoritative accounts of the life of Jesus based on the testimony of his students. As such, they function in part precisely as controls over what was being said about Jesus.

He also highlights the fact that the disciples would have frequently rehearsed their memories, starting in Jesus’s lifetime. He quotes Richard Bauckham, “Frequent recall is an important factor in both retaining the memory and retaining it accurately,” and comments:

Anyone who is a teacher knows this to be true. I might not be able to tell you what I did last week, but I could give you a three-hour lecture about Jesus and the Jewish roots of the Last Supper with zero preparation because I have been talking about it all the time for the last ten years. That’s one key difference between rehearsed memories and incidental memories.

Pitre’s point is not about inspiration per se, but rather about the historical and cultural practice of moving from the original events to the written records.

For how divine inspiration relates to all of this, I have found J. I. Packer’s work to be clear and clarifying:

[For] the didactic inspiration of the biblical historians, wisdom teachers, and New Testament apostles. . . . the effect of inspiration was that after observation, research, reflection, and pray they knew just what they should say in God’s name, as witnesses and interpreters of His work. . . .

God so controlled the process of communication to and through His servants that, in the last analysis, He is the source and speaker . . .

Whether spoken viva voce or written, and whether dualistic or didactic or lyric in its psychological mode, inspiration—that divine combination of prompting and control that secures precise communication of God’s mind by God’s messenger—remains theologically the same thing. (Packer, “The Adequacy of Human Language,” in Inerrancy, ed. Normal L. Geisler [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1980], pp. 198, 199.



A major flaw of the English language is the usage of the same pronoun “you” for both singular and plural. A host of other languages have distinct words for the second person singular and the second person plural. This includes Greek and Hebrew, the languages in which the Scriptures were originally written.

This means we can easily misread the Bible when we assign an individualistic (singular) meaning to a concept that is meant to be corporate or community-based (plural).

One of the (many) things I appreciated about living in Texas was that Texans fixed this problem for English. In the southern parts of America, we have a perfectly good plural version of you: “Y’all!”

So we’d like to introduce you to a great tool for your Bible reading: The Texas Bible.

It’s not quite a new version of the Bible, but it is a plugin for websites like BibleGateway or YouVersion. Developed by John Dyer, an instructor at Dallas (where else?) Theological Seminary, it “fixes” the many places where the Greek and Hebrew use a second person plural but is unclear in English. For those instances, it replaces “you” with “y’all.”

Y’all can download a free Google Chrome extension here or access a ‘fixed’ YouVersion website with options at

PC: John Dyer (

Let’s try out the Texas Bible with some well-known Bible verses.

Romans 12:1

I appeal to y’all therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present y’all’s bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is y’all’s spiritual worship.

This passage is often referred to as “living sacrifices,” as if each person serves as his or her own individual sacrifice. But the Texas Bible makes it clear that Paul tells the church in Rome that y’all together are a living sacrifice. Consider how to apply this to y’all’s local churches today.

Matthew 5:14-16

“Y’all are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let y’all’s light shine before others, so that they may see y’all’s good works and give glory to y’all’s Father who is in heaven.

Jesus taught his disciples that they were (together) the light of the world, not individual little lights. What do y’all think this means about the good deeds of Christians today?

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

Do y’all not know that y’all are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in y’all?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and y’all are that temple.

This one is my wife’s pet peeve. The passage is quoted all the time, when churchgoers teach others to take care of their physical bodies: exercise, don’t smoke, don’t get tattoos, etc. But Paul was writing to a plural audience, telling the bitterly divided church in Corinth that they together were the temple of God. How would y’all apply this to y’all’s local church today?

Y’all don’t need to learn Greek and Hebrew to read the Bible more accurately. The Texas Bible is a great tool to help y’all’s Bible reading. What new insights can y’all get from it today?

Daniel and Sanjung Eng live in Cambridge, United Kingdom with their three daughters. Daniel is a preacher, teacher, and PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of “James: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase.” Sanjung manages the family and household, and teaches music lessons. She actively serves in music ministry and women’s Bible study at Christ Church, Cambridge.