Friday, June 12, 2015

America's moral revolution: Uncommon Christian counter-culture among those not celebrating

That which was condemned is celebrated.

That which was celebrated is condemned.

Those who will not join the celebration are condemned.

So the British theologian and journalist Theo Hobson has stated on what a society's moral revolution looks like with a 3-step criteria. (Quoted by American culture commentator, author and seminary president Albert Mohler in Oklahoma's The Baptist Messenger, "The Gospel, Sexuality and the Church," posted March 16, 2015.)

Count the James Brainerd Taylor-inspired Uncommon Christian Ministries as among those not celebrating America's moral revolution but which is rejoicing in Jesus' "words of eternal life" (John 6:68):

"Whoever believes in [the Lord Jesus Christ] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the Son of God."
John 3:18

"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."
Romans 8:1

Relatedly, here is an insightful 9-minute video interview with Dr. Mohler on "How to Survive a Moral Revolution." It was given at The Gospel Coalition national conference in Orlando, Florida, April 13-15, 2015. Also available is a written transcript of some highlights of the same interview--see here.

Monday, May 18, 2015

"The Life of David Brainerd [1718-1747]: A Documentary," new DVD

Those familiar with the Second Great Awakening evangelist James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829) will be interested to know that a new DVD on Taylor's famed First Great Awakening missionary cousin has been released.

"The Life of David Brainerd: A Documentary" by Silvius Motion Pictures sells for $14.99.

The 57-minute DVD can be used individually or for a small group study. Also available is a 44-page companion devotional booklet ($4.49). Both can be purchased online from the distributor, Church Works Media.

Here is the DVD's description by the Cleveland, Ohio-based producer:

Explore the life and influence of David Brainerd (1718-1747), the subject of the most popular book written by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), America's greatest theologian. The documentary answers the questions, Who was David Brainerd, and why has he had such a lasting international influence? It emphasizes David's sufferings and weaknesses, demonstrating that God loves to use weak things to show off his strength--a much needed emphasis in today's evangelical church.
The DVD includes footage from more than a dozen places where Brainerd lived. It features diary narrations by Tim Keesee (Frontline Missions International) and interviews with exceptional scholars on the topics of David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards and evangelical spirituality.

One day, it's hoped that a similar documentary DVD and companion devotional will be produced and published on the once equally famous James Brainerd Taylor. (In An Uncommon Christian: James Brainerd Taylor, Forgotten Evangelist in America's Second Great Awakening [2008], see Appendix B, "David Brainerd and James Brainerd Taylor, A Comparative Chart.")

Monday, April 6, 2015

Evangelical Theological Society, annual Midwest regional meeting . . . April 10-11, 2015, Chicago . . . Theme: Sexual Holiness

Though my lecture is not on the important and timely theme of "The Church and Its Call to Sexual Holiness" (1 Thessalonians 4:4b, New Testament) I'll be delivering a lecture at the annual Midwest regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society on Friday, April 10, 11:00-11:40 a.m. This year, the meeting is being hosted by Chicago's Moody Bible Institute.

"'Mr. James Brainerd Taylor, I presume?': The American Inspiration Behind David Livingstone's 'Uncommon' Christianity" is a lecture I delivered at various places in 2013, the bicentennial anniversary year of the birth of the famed Scottish missionary-explorer David Livingstone (1813-1873). (See my March 1, 2013, blog post for an online summary of the lecture that is based on my recent research discovery from a Livingstone letter manuscript housed at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh.)

Though a repeat lecture, the presentation does provide an opportunity to inform others about the forgotten "uncommon Christian" evangelist James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829). And my attendance provides an opportunity to get to know members of my new ETS region. This is my first Midwest meeting since leaving ETS's Pacific Northwest region in 2013.

The lecture is one of fifty-five that are being delivered during the two-day meeting. The topics range from various academic fields, including Historical Theology, New Testament, Old Testament, Same Sex Attraction, Systematic Theology and Theology.

Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon
The plenary sessions are on "The End of Man: Homosexuality and the Human Telos" (Dr. Douglas K. Blount, Dallas Theological Seminary) and "Homosexualist Readings of Scripture by Two New Testament Scholars, William Loader and James Brownson" (Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary). This will be my second time hearing from Dr. Gagnon. I had the privilege of hearing him at the ETS-Pacific Northwest annual regional meeting in Tacoma, Washington, in April 2013.

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Divinity School and Princeton Theological Seminary, Prof. Gagnon is considered the foremost Evangelical Protestant scholar on the issue of homosexuality in relation to Christianity and the Bible. Among many other writings--in print and online via his website--he is the author of The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Abingdon Press, 2001, 522 pages).

For those interested--and via his website and and Gagnon has appeared in many videos, most of which are available online and at no cost. This includes his 7-part online video series "The Bible and Homosexual Practice." Some of his writings and videos have been translated into other languages. Click here ("The Church in a Homosexual Culture") and here ("Same-Sex Temptations in the Church") for 30-minute audio podcast interviews with Dr. Gagnon on John Piper's

From the ETS website, here is the background to this academic society that consists of over 3,000 members. Among other societies and associations, I've been a member of ETS since 2007. The minimum requirement for full membership is a Master of Theology degree (Th.M.), of which I earned in 2005 from Toronto Baptist Seminary.
Founded in 1949, the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) is a group of scholars, teachers, pastors, students, and others dedicated to the oral exchange and written expression of theological thought and research. The ETS is devoted to the inerrancy and inspiration of the Scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Society publishes a quarterly journal, the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS), an academic periodical featuring peer reviewed articles, as well as extended book reviews, in the biblical and theological disciplines. ETS also holds national and regional meetings across the United States and in Canada.

Friday, January 3, 2014

"An Uncommon Christian" and "Of Intense Brightness" now available as e-books

As of today (January 3, 2014), Uncommon Christian Ministries is pleased to announce that both An Uncommon Christian: James Brainerd Taylor [1801-1829], Forgotten Evangelist in America's Second Great Awakening (University Press of America, December 2007, 255 pages, Foreword by John F. Thornbury) and the edited anthology companion volume Of Intense Brightness: The Spirituality of Uncommon Christian James Brainerd Taylor (University Press of America, June 2008, 168 pages, Foreword by James M. Houston, Epilogue by Peter Adam) are now available on Kindle and Nook.

The e-books are currently 39-45% off the books' retail price, with the Kindle edition offering the "text-to-speech" feature.

To purchase an e-book edition, see here (Kindle) or here (Nook) for An Uncommon Christian, and here (Kindle) or here (Nook) for Of Intense Brightness. "Sneak preview" sample pages of each book are provided on the online retailers' website.

NOTE: The paper and e-book edition of UCM's third book--Uncommon Christian Evangelism with James Brainerd Taylor (or, God's Co-Worker: 21st-century Evangelism with Uncommon Christian James Brainerd Taylor)--is planned for publication in 2015 or 2016. Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

John F. Thornbury, uncommon Christian pastor, author and fellow admirer of James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829) . . . 44-year pastorate at the same Pennsylvania church, 1965-2009

As an example of delayed gratification, I finally met in-person a favorite biographer of mine and the author of the Foreword to my An Uncommon Christian: James Brainerd Taylor, Forgotten Evangelist in America's Second Great Awakening (University Press of America, 2007).

On November 20, 2013, I met Dr. John F. Thornbury for lunch in Lexington, Kentucky. Afterward, he invited me to his home where I met his wife (Reta) of 50 years, viewed his personal library, talked about his son (author and president of New York City's King's College, Dr. Gregory Alan Thornbury) whom I had heard speak in Louisville just weeks prior, learned about his bookbinding hobby and prayed for and with him. A blessed time of fellowship it was!

John F. Thornbury (right) and Francis Kyle (left).
Lexington, Kentucky, USA. November 20, 2013.

It was during the early years of my Christian life in Washington State (October 1992- ) and my Canadian student days at Bible college and seminary (1994-2000) that I first learned of Dr. Thornbury. The introduction came through the reading of his biographies David Brainerd: Pioneer Missionary to the American Indians (Evangelical Press, 1996) and God Sent Revival: The Story of Asahel Nettleton and the Second Great Awakening (Evangelical Press, 1993).

Since the famed missionary David Brainerd (1718-1747) was a maternal cousin of James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829), and since the itinerant evangelist Asahel Nettleton (1783-1844) was a ministerial mentor to Taylor, I was very pleased that in 2006 Dr. Thornbury agreed to write the Foreword to my An Uncommon Christian. To my surprise and delight, he was already familiar with J. B. Taylor and the once-popular Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor (American Tract Society, 1833). If I recall correctly from our conversation, a copy of the 19th-century memoir was given to him as a gift by an older female member of a Kentucky church he pastored in the 1950s or early 1960s. He asked that I sign his 1833 copy, of which I happily complied.

Here is an excerpt from Dr. Thornbury's Foreword to An Uncommon Christian:

The second reason I recommend this book is evangelical and is, of course, related to the first. Kyle refers to James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829) as "an uncommon Christian" and he obviously was. Today we might refer to him as an "extraordinary" believer, who in his love for the triune God his self-denying spirit, and his intense desire to win the lost, lived above the level that most of us experience. The last part of this book gives credible proofs, based on those who knew him intimately, that he was, if we may so speak, "sold out to God." For many today, even those who hold high offices in the church, their commitment to Christian principles seems almost half-hearted when we look at the standard of behavior set by Jesus and the apostles. Aside from the gross wickedness that has plagued some prominent Christian leaders today, even the best of believers, it seems, are offering to God an alloy of consecration rather than the whole-hearted affection for God, his word, and his church, that the Christian faith deserves.
There is no doubt about it: believers can be instructed, motivated, and inspired by reading the lives of the saints of the past. In the life of James Brainerd Taylor, we see what God's grace can do in the life of one of his children. It shows how, in the midst of great suffering and hardship, a Christian cannot only blossom with the beautiful flowers of piety, but can be happy in the process. In one respect, the subject of this biographical work excelled his maternal relative, who he was so much alike, David Brainerd (1718-1747). He never suffered from the chronic depression that dogged the Indian missionary. Though often plagued by illness and though even at times persecuted for his loyalty to the gospel, Taylor seemed largely to live on the high plateau of joy in the Lord. In this respect, he was like another man, J. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), who I read somewhere stated with humility, but with profound gratefulness, that for many years not a cloud of doubt had passed between himself and his Savior.

An Uncommon Christian.
University Press of America, 2007.
Foreword by John F. Thornbury.
Because Brainerd, Nettleton and Taylor were all born in Connecticut, the land of my (non-Christian) upbringing (ages 5-20), my interest in them--and their historical eras of the First Great Awakening (1730s and 1740s) and Second Great Awakening (ca. 1790-1830)--was and remains high.

Interestingly, all three studied at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut, but with different outcomes: Brainerd was expelled in 1742, Nettleton was a member of the Class of 1809 and Taylor died while a student on medical leave from Yale Seminary in 1829 (he died and was buried in Virginia).

Concerning Brainerd, Dr. Thornbury pastored near where Brainerd ministered to the Delaware Indians in eastern Pennsylvania. In An Uncommon Christian, I include an 11-page appendix entitled "David Brainerd and James Brainerd Taylor: A Comparative Chart."

In addition to his biographies on Brained and Nettleton, A Pastor in New York: The Life and Times of Spencer Houghton Cone [1785-1855] (Evangelical Press, 2003) is Dr. Thornbury's third biographical work.

His other, non-biographical works include The Doctrine of the Church: A Baptist View (Pilgrim Publications, 1971); Help Us To Pray (Evangelical Press, 1991); A System of Bible Doctrine (Evangelical Press, 2003) and You Want to Get Married! For those who have wedding plans or wish to (self-published, 2008). These works are in addition to his contributions to various books and journals.

What is fascinating about Dr. Thornbury is that his writing ministry was in addition to his family life (he and his wife of over 50 years raised two kids) and pastoring the same Pennsylvania church for 44 years (1965-2009).

After serving churches in Kentucky and leaving Winfield Baptist Church in Winfield, Union County, Pennsylvania, in 2009, he returned to his native Kentucky. Since 2011, he has been serving as the Pastor of Worship at Bellepoint Baptist Church in Frankfurt, the capital city of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

For an insightful August 12, 2009, online interview with Dr. Thornbury, see here. Also, see here for "a handful of brief observations . . . made from afar" regarding Dr. Thornbury's longevity in pastoral ministry. Lastly, a sampling of his sermons (2004-05) can be found here.

John F. Thornbury.
Bellepoint Baptist Church.
Frankfurt, Kentucky, USA.

Dr. John F. Thornbury, Mrs. Reta Thornbury and Dr. Francis Kyle.
Lexington, Kentucky, USA. November 20, 2013.

Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry.
Crossway, 2013.
By Gregory Alan Thornbury, son of John F. Thornbury.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary . . . celebrating 20th anniversary as president (1993-2013)

The fall semester of 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of R. Albert Mohler, Jr.'s presidency at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

Dr. Mohler is the 9th president of the 154-year-old seminary, the oldest and largest of the six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries.

The anniversary is to be celebrated with gratitude as much kingdom good has taken place at SBTS--and within the Southern Baptist Convention (est. 1845) and the Evangelical Protestant church at-large--through the godly and strong leadership of Dr. Mohler.

The October 15, 2013, chapel service at SBTS honored the milestone. A resolution "of thanksgiving and appreciation" was given to Dr. Mohler by the school's board of trustees. See here to watch the video of President Mohler's 32-minute chapel message on that special day. His message was titled "What Do You Have That You Did Not Receive? (1 Cor. 4:7): Gratitude and Christian Discipleship." A written summary of the chapel message is available online.

In the October 2013 issue of the SBTS campus publication Towers, the insightful article "Twenty years and counting: Mohler reflects on his presidency at Southern Seminary" appears. Click here to read the online version. And see here to read online the entire 28-page issue, including the photo essay "Twelve hours with the president."

Titled "Recovering A Vision: The Presidency of R. Albert Mohler, Jr.," here is a 25-minute documentary chronicling Dr. Mohler's presidency during the past two decades:


+ The SBTS campus is located just 4 miles from Immanuel Baptist Church (est. 1887), my new home and ministry base in Louisville, Kentucky (May 30, 2013- ).

The Conviction to Lead (2012)
+ On October 10-11, 2013, I had the privilege of attending Dr. Mohler's leadership seminar at SBTS. The 2-day seminar was based on his book The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters (Bethany House, 2012). See here to read a summary of the seminar.

At the end of the seminar, attendees were invited to Dr. Mohler's presidential home to view a portion of his legendary personal library of over 40,000 volumes. This was my second visit to the library, the first being in April 1999 when I visited the SBTS campus to consider their Ph.D. program. With Dr. Mohler himself as the guide, here is a 7-minute video of his library/study from the 2010 Together for the Gospel conference.

+ Dr. Mohler's 20-year SBTS presidency (1993-2013) nearly parallels my Christian life thus far (1992-2013). He at the academic institutional level and me at the personal and ministry level (in U.S., Canada, Israel)--I join him in giving thanks to the Lord for every obstacle overcome, temptation resisted and challenge met during the past two decades.

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Est. 1859
Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Monday, September 30, 2013

Carl F. H. Henry (1913-2003), "A Centennial Celebration," September 26, 2013

"If we see Billy Graham as the great public face and generous spirit of the evangelical movement, Carl F. H. Henry was the brains." So wrote David Neff, the editor of Christianity Today, an American national magazine founded by Graham and Henry in 1956.

The year 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the most important 20th-century theologians and leaders within Protestant Evangelicalism. Dr. Henry was born on January 22, 1913, to German immigrants who settled on Long Island in New York.

Carl F. H. Henry (1913-2003): A Centennial Celebration

A Centennial Celebration. Louisville, Kentucky.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In honor of the anniversary, I had the privilege of attending the one-day conference, "Carl F. H. Henry: A Centennial Celebration" on September 26, 2013. 

With about 100 in attendance, including some relatives of the late Dr. Henry, the conference took place at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. (To my delight, SBTS is located just four miles from my new home and ministry base [June 2013- ] in Louisville, Kentucky-- Immanuel Baptist Church.)

All 5 speakers (Paul House, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Richard Mouw, Greg Alan Thornbury and John Woodbridge) and 4 discussion panelists (David Dockery, Mark Galli, Timothy George and Russell D. Moore) knew or had at least met Dr. Henry. So personal reminisces were interspersed throughout the academic conference, making the event quite insightful and enjoyable.

For a full, post-conference report by SBTS' Towers magazine, see here.

To watch Dr. Mouw's opening 45-minute message during the SBTS morning chapel hour, click here.

To watch the 32-minute panel discussion, with Dr. Mohler as the moderator, see here.

And here is Dr. Mohler's 51-minute talk entitled "The Indispensable Evangelical: Carl F. H. Henry and Evangelical Ambition in the Twentieth Century":

Among the highlights from the "theologian's play day" (so Dr. Mohler, SBTS President) was a free photocopy for conference attendees of the first-ever issue of Christianity Today (vol. 1, no. 1, October 15, 1956). From 1956-68, Dr. Henry served as the magazine's founding editor.

By Greg Alan Thornbury. 2013.
Also, the lecture from the new president (2013) of The King's College (Manhattan, New York City) and author of Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry (Crossway, 2013), Greg Alan Thornbury, was a real treat. Dr. Thornbury is the son of John F. Thornbury, a longtime pastor (1965-2009) of Winfield Baptist Church in central Pennsylvania.

The now semi-retired Dr. J. F. Thornbury wrote the Foreword to my An Uncommon Christian: James Brainerd Taylor [1801-1829], Forgotten Evangelist in America's Second Great Awakening (University Press of America, 2007).

Dr. Henry: Online Resources

For an introduction to Carl F. H. Henry, here are 7 online resources that UCM hopes will prove helpful.

Biography by Bruce J. Evensen via American National Biography Online

"Happy 100th Birthday, Carl F. H. Henry"
(blog entry by Justin Taylor, January 22, 2013)

"Rev. Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, 90, Brain of Evangelical Movement"
(obituary by Laurie Goodstein, New York Times, December 13, 2003 . . . see here for other obituary notices)

"Papers of Carl F. H. Henry - Collection 628"
(stored at the Billy Graham Center Archives at Illinois' Wheaton College . . . provides a detailed biographical summary of Dr. Henry's life and ministry)

Wikipedia article on Dr. Henry

Various articles in Christianity Today, 2003-10

+ Henry Center for Theological Understanding (Deerfield, Illinois)

Henry Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS).
Deerfield, Illinois, USA.

Conference (Henry Center)
October 11, 2013
"Remembering Carl Henry:
Evangelicalism Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow."