The Rhino Room | 3 Most Important Christians

Church History, Rhino Room, The Church

Rhino Room

Curious about the Rhino Room? Read our introduction here.

You can find previous Rhino Room responses here.

Who are the three most important Christians from the time of (and not including) the apostles until today?

Wayne Brandow (Pastor, Bible Baptist Church of Galway, New York)

The three most important Christians from the time of the Apostles until the present day no doubt vary from person to person, however, for me it is Augustine, Luther, and Edwards. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo died as the barbarians were at the gate of his city. It was an ominous time, yet Augustine served the church well with his Confessions and The City of God.   Instead of being the end of the church, His works helped in its triumph over the barbarian threat. Martin Luther was the obscure monk who shook his world to its foundations. Catapulted into fame, he brought the church back to a biblical foundation and the evangelical truth of justification by faith. Jonathan Edwards brought forward Puritan heart religion. Evangelical and reformed, his writing on revival and the publication of Brainerd’s journal stirred the imagination and created a thirst for missions and revival.

Robert Cole (Pastor, Berean Baptist Church of Ceres, California)

The three most important Christians, in my opinion, all share something in common (other than Christ, obviously). They were all used by God in awakenings of the Christian faith.

1. Augustine(354-430).  He was used by God to shape the way people think about God. In the midst of an extremely hedonistic, secularist world, he challenged the manner in which people think. Jerome said Augustine,”established anew the ancient Faith.” An awakening. Important indeed.

2. Martin Luther (1483-1546). He was used by God to challenge the heresy of the Roman Catholic Church and begin what would become a world wide reformation. Turning the attention back to the Word of God as the source of truth and authority over all of life. This was indeed an awakening. Important indeed.

3. Carolyn Walker (1974-present). She was used by God to bring an offensive gospel to an offensive, perverse sinner.  To most, an ordinary girl. To this writer, an instrument in my salvation. Used by God in my own awakening. Important indeed.

Matt Foreman (Pastor, Faith Reformed Baptist Church of Media, Pennsylvania)

Pretty standard for the first two –
1) Augustine – The most influential theologian of the early church.  His ecclesiology became the baseline for the Roman Catholic Church; his soteriology for the Protestant church.

2) Calvin – The premier theologian of the Reformation.  Many outside of Reformed circles are simply unaware of how much Calvin’s thought influenced subsequent history – not only in theology, but in politics, economics, ethics, etc.

3) Martyn Lloyd-Jones – This one may be obscure and surprising, and certainly reveals a theological bias.  But since I believe that the recovery of Reformed theology and the Reformed Resurgence is a good thing, there is simply no figure more historically important in that recovery than Lloyd-Jones.  At a time when the influence of Reformed theology was at its weakest, Lloyd-Jones was used by God to provide an example of powerful preaching and church practice, and to begin a movement that has reshaped the current landscape.

Nicholas Kennicott (Pastor, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)

Augustine is at the top of the list. Augustine’s City of God is unmatched in Christian writing. He was foundational in clearly articulating biblical soteriology and showing a true example of experiential divinity.

Martin Luther is either loved or hated. While there are certainly many things that could be said about some of Luther’s ideas and practices, he is undoubtedly a man that God used in a way that can be said of no other in the recovery of true biblical teaching in the face of great apostasy. He is, in my opinion, a hero of the faith.

William Carey is known as the father of modern missions. His challenge to the church to engage in world evangelization set a course for missions that has remained relatively unchanged since the late 18th century. Without Carey, we would be much further behind in our task to fulfill the great commission.

Chris Marley (Pastor, Miller Valley Baptist Church of Miller Valley, Arizona)

Hendrix, Dylan… wait. Wrong list. Everyone is going to say Augustine, which I have to follow. He is the one who soteriologically founded reformational doctrine and ecclesiologically established medieval Roman identity. Just to be different, I’ll put Anselm as my second, because of the influence he had in centering Western Christianity (I believe rightly so) on forensic justification. For the Reformation, which you have to choose someone on that topic, it’s hard to choose between Luther, whom God used to catalyze the whole thing, or Calvin, whom God used to systematize it, but in the end, I think Luther was more essential even though I agree far more theologically with Calvin. I do hope someone chooses Spurgeon or Carey though, as cases can be made for either, and we need some Baptists on the list.

Keith Thompson (Pastor,Grace Reformed Baptist Church of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania)

  1. Emperor Constantine.  I know there are still debates as to whether his “conversion” was motivated by genuine faith or political savvy, but either way, the Lord used him to legitimize the Christian faith allowing the message of the cross to spread freely. Ramifications of his conversion have echoed through the centuries resulting in Christian thought and morays being the foundation of Western Civilization.
  2. Although not an individual Christian, my #2 goes to the British Navy which defeated the Spanish Armada.  Had it not been for that naval victory, it is widely speculated that there would be no protestants.
  3. How can I not put John Calvin in my top 3? Although Luther is credited with starting the Reformation, Calvin’s Institutes gave invaluable intellectual credibility to the Protestant cause. Even secular historians often put the Institutes in their list of the top 5 most influential books of all time.

Douglas Van Dorn (Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church of Northern Colorado)

3. Martin Luther. I wanted to pick Calvin here, but though Calvin systematized Protestant theology, it was Luther, standing on the backs of previous martyrs and reformers, who had the nerve to stand up to the entire medieval system of abuses and perversions that was the Church in his day. Are there any more famous words than “Here I stand?”

2. Constantine the Great. I know that many question whether he even was a Christian. I don’t put him here because of the brilliance of his own personal faith, but rather because without Constantine, there would be no Nicea—the bedrock of all orthodoxy. Also, Constantine—for better or for worse—changed the course of Christianity forever, turning it from a backwoods sect where believers could very possibly be put to death, to the official religion of the greatest Empire in world history. Plus, he has a great city named after him. Or wait, is that Istanbul? No, its Constantinople.

1. Augustine was perhaps the most prolific writer of the first thousand years of church history. His City of God was the cornerstone of shaping Western Christian thought, his views of salvation and his Confessions were profoundly biblical and experiential. He was the full package and the most influential Christian outside of the New Testament.

The Rhino Room | Covenant of Grace in the Old Testament

Rhino Room, Theology

Rhino Room

Curious about the Rhino Room? Read our introduction here.

You can find previous Rhino Room responses here.

Is the Old Covenant an administration of the Covenant of Grace?

Nicolas Alford (Pastor, Grace Baptist Church of Taylors, South Carolina)

A couple years ago I would have said yes to this question without hesitation. However, investigating the view broadly known as 1689 Federalism has helpfully refined some of my thinking. I’m still studying this issue, so this answer is offered somewhat tentatively. As is always the case in theology, precise definitions are necessary. The Covenant of Grace is Christ’s fulfillment of the Covenant of Works for his elect. Therefore, if ‘administration’ means that the Covenant of Grace and the Old Covenant were coextensive, in that unregenerate (still in Adam) Old Covenant members were also in the Covenant of Grace (in Christ), then absolutely not. Only the New Covenant is coextensive with the Covenant of Grace. However, I believe we can say that the Covenant of Grace was administered ‘through’ the Old Covenant, and that the Old Covenant was also highly gracious– but that doesn’t make it the Covenant of Grace.

Wayne Brandow (Pastor, Bible Baptist Church of Galway, New York)

The mosaic legislation is commonly called the “Old Covenant.” The answer is yes!

Throughout the Bible from the pre-Mosaic coverings of skins for Adam and Eve, to the Passover Lamb, to the Day of Atonement, to the Cross, grace has been the underlying theme. There is only one way a person can be saved in both the Old and New Testaments and that is by grace through faith.

It is proper to speak of the administration of the Covenant of Grace under the Old and New Covenants. The law of God present in the Old Covenant (Ten Commandments) it is not done away with in the New. The law shows us that we ought to love God and our neighbor. Endeavoring to do so we realize it is an impossibility apart from God’s grace, new heart (regeneration), and faith.


Nicholas Kennicott (Pastor, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)

I believe the Covenant of Grace is the New Covenant, thus the Old Covenant is not an administration of the Covenant of Grace. The New Covenant was promised in Genesis 3:15, however its fulfillment is based upon the finished work of Christ. Nevertheless, the promised covenant was from God, thus guaranteeing its fulfillment as a gracious covenant. All of the other covenants throughout the Old Testament are types and shadows pointing to the finished work of Christ and/or specific to Israel’s life in the land of Canaan, but are not in and of themselves the Covenant of Grace even though they may be said to have a gracious nature. All of the covenants in the Old Testament anticipate, look forward to, and reveal the coming work of Jesus the Messiah. They graciously anticipate what is coming, but are not identical with the Covenant of Grace.

Chris Marley (Pastor, Miller Valley Baptist Church of Miller Valley, Arizona)

As Mel Brooks once said, “…the theory of yes and no…” Mosaic Covenant is kind of a mixture of Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace. It’s like a scale model that shrinks all the elements of Redemptive History down to an observable scale even before many of the elements had happened. So it’s covenant of grace, covenant of works, and neither all at the same time. The sacrifices, priesthood, tabernacle, furniture, etcetera are only functional as shadow conduits to the Covenant of Grace and ineffectual by themselves, a major theme of Hebrews. This question is actually simpler for Baptists, because we’re not trying to keep a circumcision/baptism connection. We can delineate how BC saints were saved through the Mosaic system, while under it, but not by it. They were saved by grace through faith, not the Mosaic/Old Covenant.

Douglas Van Dorn (Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church of Northern Colorado)

The problem with this question is that “Covenant of Grace” is a man-made theological construct rather than a biblical term. Therefore, we can’t do exegesis upon the phrase from the Bible. Thus, it probably isn’t possible to answer the question without first begging it.

If, however, we equate the new covenant and the Covenant of Grace (which I believe everyone does), we can ask whether OT covenants are the same as the new covenant. The biblical answer to this is that they are not for—as Hebrews teaches—they have inferior covenant heads, covenant sacrifices, covenant priests, covenant (ceremonial) laws, and covenant blood. OT covenants are typological of the new covenant. They anticipate the new covenant. God saves OT saints by faith alone in anticipation of the new covenant (Rom 3:25). OT covenants were cut by Jesus Christ (Israel’s God, i.e. the Angel of the LORD, see Jdg 2:1). But only the new covenant has Christ as the one obeying the terms of the covenant. It is the final great covenant that all of redemptive history anticipated.

A Review of Blind Spots by Collin Hansen

Book Reviews, Books, Christian Living

When it comes to blind spots in the Christian life, we have two options: Admit we have them, or lie. I’ve never held a theological or philosophical position assuming it was wrong. Who does that? But it’s either the height of arrogance or ignorance to think it’s not possible that I have some wrong ideas, hold certain ideas in imbalance, or haven’t adequately considered viable alternatives. Challenging me to think clearly and critically about my own positions, I was helped tremendously by Collin Hansen‘s latest book entitled Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned Church (Hansen is the Editorial Director for The Gospel Coalition).

In my own understanding and interacting with other Christians outside my tradition and theological framework, I will be the first to admit that I haven’t always done a great job. I could have easily been the one writing Hansen’s words: “With my highly attuned gift for discerning others’ motives, it didn’t take long for me to see what’s wrong with everyone else. Then I blamed them for not seeing the wisdom in my arguments… Because I’d understood my experience as normative for everyone, I couldn’t see how God blessed other Christians with different stories and strengths.”

Certainly, there are specific, unalterable truths that should not be tampered with, downplayed, or discarded. God has revealed in His Word, “Those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation” and those things “are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them” (1.7 of the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689). I have long been an advocate of Dr. Albert Mohler’s three-tiered Theological Triage and find it to be a helpful matrix in which to frame each Christian relationship. But I’m thankful that Hansen presses the conversation even further. He writes, “This book is about seeing our differences as opportunity. God created us in splendid diversity of thought, experience, and personality. And when these differences cohere around the gospel of Jesus Christ, they work together to challenge, comfort, and compel a needy world with the only love that will never fail or fade.”

Focusing on the gospel as the unifying, unalterable center of relationships and conversations, Hansen points out that all Christians have further, specific emphases that we assume to be more important than others, and he places them into three distinct categories. We will identify closely with either compassionate Christians, courageous Christians, or commissioned Christians. In each category, Hansen outlines the distinctives that are commendable and worthy of emulating, and suggests temptations that should be guarded against lest our blind spots remain undiscovered and crippling to our Kingdom efforts. It’s most likely that every Christian will resonate on some level with each category, because they all contain biblical elements, however the honest reader will find himself in a specific category more than the others.

Compassionate Christians

The compassionate Christians are those who see the hurting, broken world around them and have a longing to relieve suffering and poverty. Hansen describes the compassionate Christians: “You clothe the homeless, feed the hungry, nurse the sick. You write the letters, shame the offenders, protest the powers.” Compassionate Christians are quick to see the abundance of biblical exhortations about the disenfranchised “little people” of society and to call the church to action.

Hansen commends the compassionate Christians for their focus on an area of biblical truth and action that should always be on the church’s radar, but also warns, “With compassion comes blame. In a broken world that lacks simple solutions and people who care, it can become all too easy to blame those who aren’t mending our society. Compassion abounds for humanity, just not for humans.” Hansen wisely warns compassionate Christians to not emphasize giving at the expense of the gospel itself. It’s important to remember that our “compassion won’t always be appreciated or even received by a world that rejects the source of our compassion.”

Courageous Christians

The courageous Christians are those who take stands on truth, and oftentimes on specific issues of importance (or even non-importance). The courageous Christians are those who will make precise arguments for specific positions, and make appeals to others to not waiver from what they understand to be true. These are Christians like Martin Luther and the reformers, willing to stand, fight, and die for the things that matter. “Courage is necessary for us to endure in the faith.”

Hansen self-identified in this category, and it’s most likely that the majority of reformed Christians will. But Hansen is wise to offer some cautions here as well. The courageous Christians can sometimes turn important issues into single issues, demanding that other people fall in line behind a specific agenda or else they will be cast as an enemy and considered suspect in the future. Courageous Christians can easily become heresy hunters, and are willing to compromise the fundamental exhortation to love because of a single issue. While courage is important and necessary in the face of sin, false teaching, and evil attempts to thwart the work of God, it’s vital to be reminded that “courage is not measured by how many people you can offend.”

Commissioned Christians

Commissioned Christians are those who emphasize mission with an eye toward bringing as many into the church and God’s Kingdom as possible. “You might be a commissioned Christian if you worry that younger generations will slip away or never bother to show up unless churches adapt to changing times. You’re not exactly conservative or liberal in theological terms. You probably trust in the authority of Scripture and hold to conservative views on issues such as the exclusivity of Christ; otherwise why bother with evangelism? But you don’t fit in with Christians who actually enjoy debating theology or arguing over whether ministry practices conform to Scripture. You want to get on with the serious, urgent work of changing lives with the power of the gospel.”

Commissioned Christians seek to push the church to the highways and hedges that the gospel would be proclaimed far and wide. Surely, a continued focus on the great commission is important and necessary. However, Hansen warns, “in their search for cultural relevance,” commissioned Christians “can slide into syncretism. And their eagerness to expand the tent can culminate in theological compromise. Sometimes these churches don’t merely resemble the mall with their expansive parking lots and food courts; they also communicate with ‘practical’ and ‘relevant’ messages that Christianity is an à la carte faith that supplements our private pursuit of peace, wealth, and status.”

A Call to Unity and Growth

Hansen’s book challenges readers to identify personal tendencies to over-emphasize certain areas of focus at the expense of others. We never outgrow our need to find balance in the Christian life, and we can more readily do so when we are more determined to learn from other believers instead of instantly seeking to find ways to differ from them. Certainly, there will be significant differences from one Christian to another, however they need not always be divisive or viewed with negativity and skepticism. Our goal should be “the kind of biblical fulness that . . . expects opposition from the world and seeks unity among believers for the sake of the world.”

I highly recommend Hansen’s book to those who are willing to ask questions of their own heart and consider whether or not their blind spots have kept them from learning from other Christians who have a lot to offer.

If you want more before picking up the book, read 20 Truths From Blind Spots.

(By: Nick Kennicott)

The Rhino Room|God’s Civil Law

Rhino Room

Rhino Room

Curious about the Rhino Room? Read our introduction here.

Should nations impose the civil law of God in society?

Nicolas Alford (Pastor, Grace Baptist Church of Taylors, South Carolina)

What makes this an interesting question is the word *should*. The question is not whether it is ‘obligatory’ in the theonomic sense, but rather, *would it be best.* Would the best possible nation be the nation that imposed the civil law of God? The answer is still no. This requires care, as we ought not take a low view of what God did in Israel in that era of redemptive history. But it was for that time, and those people! We are no longer under the tutor of the Old Covenant. God is not currently dealing with a particular physical nation, nor is he using a nation’s laws to demonstrate his holy justice against sin. Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world. Indeed, the best possible nation will be the consummated kingdom, where there will be no need for judicial law– for God’s Moral Law will never again be transgressed.

[See 1689 LBCF 19:5, 1 Corinthians 9:8-10 of an example of how the essential *goodness* of the civil law is still applicable today- through general equity and moral use. I put this in brackets so it doesn’t effect my 150 word count limit]

Samuel Barber (Pastoral Assistant, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)

While God’s civil law revealed in the Old Testament has much to offer, by way of guiding principles for all nations, it is unnecessary to say that it ought to be imposed in its entirety in society. God gave these specific, culturally informed laws to regulate theocratic Israel as his special people in order to keep them distinct and preserve them from the surrounding nations, so that the promised Seed/Messiah (Gen. 3:15) could be born.

For example, the 1689 LBC states, “To [the people of Israel] also he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any now by virtue of that institution; their general equity only being of moral use (see 1 Cor. 9:8-10)” (19.4). Nations, then, should apply moral principles from these laws, but they need not impose the civil laws of the Old Testament in society across the board.

Wayne Brandow (Pastor, Bible Baptist Church of Galway, New York)

How this is answered depends on how words are defined. For example, “the civil law of God” to a Muslim would entail sharia law. The civil laws found in the Mosaic legislation are multi-faceted. Some relate to the moral law of God, showing us how it is to be applied, others relate to the unique status of Israel as a nation, who was for a time set apart from other nations.

I find it interesting that Christ was not political with respect to the Romans. His kingdom was not of this world. In both the Middle Ages and the Puritan New England establishment, a society ordered by the laws of God was attempted and failed. The “city on a hill” of Matthew 5:14 was not an earthly kingdom, but believers, as lights in the world. The kingdom is the church.

Olamide Bode Falase (Bible Study Leader and Lecturer, Crystal Vine Church of Port Harcourt, Nigeria)

In a world that has become rather pluralistic in its philosophical, religious and political outlook, it is easy to shrink back from speaking highly about the civil law of God, let alone suggest that  it should be considered for imposition by governments in society. However, I am of the opinion that nations have a divine obligation to impose the civil law of God on society.

Sadly, due to space constraint I would try to give as simple a reason for my position as possible. After the Lord revealed the ten commandments (the moral law) on Sinai, there was (logically) a need to “flesh out” these commandments at both the community and individual level. Theologians say that the ten commandments can be divided into two, man’s relationship with his creator and man’s relationship with his fellow-man. These two dimensions of man’s relationships involve dynamics that needed to be carefully defined so as to line up “perfectly” with the letter and the spirit of the moral law in the form of civil and the religious laws.

In a nutshell, these civil laws represented the best possible rules of engagement for human socio-political interaction within any given society.

Nicholas Kennicott (Pastor, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)

It’s helpful to think of the moral law (the 10 commandments) as foundational and applicable to all men at all times and places, whether it is believed and submit to or not. From the moral foundation, I understand the civil law of the Old Covenant to be case law, working out the implications of the moral law in the theocratic Kingdom of Israel. That being said, I believe every nation is responsible to make its own case law, therefore the civil law of the Old Covenant is not to be imposed on civil societies today. However, knowing that the moral law of God is etched on the hearts of every man, there will almost always be something of the 10 commandments visible in a nation’s governance even though men and women suppress the truth in unrighteousness (and look no further than most federal governments to see this play out).

Chris Marley (Pastor, Miller Valley Baptist Church of Miller Valley, Arizona)

Nope. Massive rewrites are necessary for two major reasons. Some of the judicial law is more severe than is necessary for our culture because the children of Israel were not functioning as an ordinary nation. They were an exemplary theocracy and therefore had severe requirements to set them apart. There are other laws that are seemingly overly lenient for our culture which results from the cultural context. What is too lenient for us was strikingly severe in the Ancient Near East. The 2nd LBC calls its usefulness “general equity,” and I wholeheartedly agree. It gives us concepts of what to address in law, but these things have to be qualified and assessed by Christian prudence and light of nature. Personally, I think Christians want Mosaic Judicial Law because they think it will make the world less bent, less broken, but we have to wait for glory.

Christopher Okogwu (Church Plant Coordinator in Abuja, Nigeria)

The historic reformed theological position on the civil and ceremonial law aspects of God’s law is such that we distinguish between the abrogation of the ceremonial law and the expiration of the civil law (in that it was specifically given to national Israel for its exercise) in Christ’s fulfillment of the law of God. However, we also keep in view the fact that, for example, core principles of justice and equity (as expressive of God’s attributes), which the civil law also sought to promote in societal governance, continue in the new covenant and are certainly applicable in/to civil government (cf. Romans 13 as an example of this).

There remains an abiding connection between the civil law of God and the civil magistrate of any given nation/society, not to be imposed in a theocratic sense, but rather as being God’s ordained instituted authority in society to reward or bring retribution in justly ruling over the people of a nation.

Douglas Van Dorn (Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church of Northern Colorado)

Following very old Christian tradition, Reformed Baptists divide the law into three parts: moral, civil, and ceremonial. Not to open a huge can of worms, but thanks to my pastor friend Tony Jackson, I have come to view civil and ceremonial law as “case law. That is, they are the moral law applied to a nation’s civil and religious contexts (a “nation” can include the church in a spiritual though not geographic context). Very roughly, we might think of civil law as specific applications of the Second Table (Commandments 5-10).

Because they are contextualized in each culture, no society can 1. escape civil law, 2. will have the same civil law. Civil laws should, in my opinion, be based in some kind of objective moral-law principle. When they aren’t, they are arbitrary and, perhaps, unjust. Because all people have the moral law written on their hearts, it is inevitable that civilizations can not completely avoid having “the civil law of God imposed” on society. But this imposition is really just the necessary outcome of living in God’s world. At the same time, culture has changed so dramatically in 3,000+ years that to impose antiquated OT civil laws would be, in many instances, a complete waste of time. The moral principles will remain, but the “case law” will often look different.