Christian History Institute

Sharing our story of faith across the ages

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8 Aug 2017

Thinking long thoughts

by Catherine Barnett | Issue 123

“What else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?”

These words from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (1963) might have been penned by any number of imprisoned Christians since the time of the apostle Paul. Innumerable letters, thoughts, prayers, poems, hymns, and novels have been composed under some of the worst conditions possible—many, like King’s letter, becoming classics that continue to exhort, comfort, and inspire readers...

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8 Aug 2017

“Mine Was the Victory”

by Perpetua | Issue 123

Perpetua (d. 203), a young, educated, Christian mother, was imprisoned for her faith pending her execution in a public spectacle. She wrote an account of her incarceration and trial up to the day before her execution.   

In this same space of a few days we were baptized, and the Spirit declared to me, I must pray for nothing else after that water except only endurance of the flesh. After a few days we were taken into prison, and I was much afraid because I had never known such darkness. O bitter day! There was a great heat because of the...

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18 Feb 2015

“We still make by the law in which we were made”

by Colin Duriez | Issue 113

SAYERS was not the only one of the seven sages to turn her attention to the making of things. Tolkien famously invented the distinctive term “subcreation” for the making of a secondary, fictional world through active human imagination. Such secondary worlds are creatively taken from a primary reality made by God, whose image we bear, and are thoroughly consistent and plausible on their own inner terms.

Tolkien thought that subcreation is at the heart of what he defined as “fairy story,” and fairy story, he believed, represents the ultimate...

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14 Feb 2006

Preachers & Poets

by William Barker and Leland Ryken | Issue 89

William Perkins (1558–1602)

"SAYEST THOU SO? (said Master Perkins) Come down again, man, and thou shalt see what God’s grace will do to strengthen thee.’

"Whereupon the prisoner coming down, Master Perkins took him by the hand, and made him kneel down with himself . . . when that blessed man of God made such an effectual prayer in confession of sins . . . as made the prisoner burst out into abundance of tears; and Master Perkins finding that he had brought him low enough, even to hell gates, he proceeded to the second part of his prayer,...

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15 Nov 2005

Dorothy Sayers: “The dogma is the drama”

by An interview with Barbara Reynolds by Chris Armstrong | Issue 88

A  gifted public communicator, Dorothy L. Sayers (1893–1957) believed that those who slept through church had no idea what dynamite the gospel really was. Through her plays and essays, she tried to get people to see, as she said, that “the dogma is the drama.” And she succeeded brilliantly—opening up the power and truth of orthodox Christianity for many who had abandoned the lukewarm cultural faith of England’s religious establishment.  CH&B senior editor Chris Armstrong talked recently with Sayers’s friend, biographer, and collaborator in...

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15 May 2005

Sacred Story

by Kirsten Jeffrey Johnson | Issue 86

MANY CRITICS like to claim that George MacDonald was a “failed minister” who, having no other recourse, was forced to write. Yet the truth is that MacDonald continued to preach throughout his life, when his health allowed, and that he turned down some very desirable pulpit offers. He was convinced that his stories and poetry were themselves significant pastoral ministry, and he took his role as author very seriously. “The best thing you can do for your fellow,” he wrote, “next to rousing his conscience, is—not to give him things to think...

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15 May 2005

Did You Know?

by Kirsten Jeffrey Johnson | Issue 86

A Forgotten Place in History

Never one to be caught in an understatement, the journalist G. K. Chesterton wrote in 1905, “If we test the matter by strict originality of outlook, George MacDonald was one of the three or four greatest men of 19th century Britain.” Whether later historians agree or disagree with Chesterton’s assessment, MacDonald undeniably attracted a wide range of admirers in his own time. Queen Victoria gave MacDonald’s novels to her grandchildren and granted him a Civil Pension in 1877. Archbishop Tait said that MacDonald...

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14 Feb 2003

Sacramental Imagination

by Thomas Howard | Issue 78

T olkien claimed that all of his work was massively influenced—nay determined—by his Catholicism. Questions crowd in straightaway:

"I've read the trilogy and The Silmarillion ten times, and I never saw anything Catholic in it.” Or, “How can he say that? The characters have to get along in their quest without a bit of ‘divine’ help.”

True, the hobbits and the men of Aragorn’s ilk don’t seem to have any “god” to invoke, though there are some talisman-like cries for help from above—most notably “O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!” But unless one has read...

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14 Feb 2003

One Truth, Many Tales

by David Mills | Issue 78

TOLKIEN and his Christian literary peers wrote for people who did not know the faith, or did not like it, or did not think it important—"a public which knows no History, no Classics, no Theology, and has almost forgotten its Bible,” Dorothy L. Sayers complained.

"At its best our age is an age of searchers and discoverers, and at its worst, an age that has domesticated despair and learned to live with it happily,” said Flannery O'Connor.

T. S. Eliot described the writers (and readers) of the day as “those who have never heard the Christian...

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15 Aug 2002

The Mystery Deepens

by John Peterson | Issue 75

NEARLY EVERYONE AGREES that Chesterton achieved something extraordinary with his Father Brown stories. Yet after literally hundreds of commentators have had their say, there is still no consensus about what his achievement was or in what ways Father Brown is significant. Truly, these critics are so at odds with one another that often they do not seem to be discussing the same stories.

Part of the problem is that Chesterton’s stories resist analysis from the specialist’s point of view. For example, not many who are experts in the field of...

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15 Aug 2002

Issues & G.K.’s Answers

by Dale Ahlquist | Issue 75

MUCH of what G.K. Chesterton wrote was timeless.

"He is not of our time, but of all times,” wrote A.G. Gardiner, editor of the London Daily News. More than 100 years after Chesterton first started writing for the Daily News, readers continue to find his words fresh and timely, in some ways written more for our day than his own. Consider:

"Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it.”
"Defending any of the cardinal virtues now has...

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31 May 1991

Women in the Medieval Church: A Gallery of Christian Women Writers of the Medieval World

by Katharina M. Wilson | Issue 30

Hrotsvit von Gandersheim

Christianity’s first known playwright

Hrotsvit lived in the tenth century (932–1002) as a canoness of the Imperial Saxon Abbey of Gandersheim (Germany). She can best be described by a catalogue of pioneering achievements: she is the first known dramatist of Christianity; the first Saxon poet; the first female Transalpine [north of the Alps] historian; and the author of the only extant Latin epics written by a woman.

According to her own testimony she objected to the great popularity of [Roman author] Terence’s...

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15 Nov 2005

Mind in Motion

by J. I. Packer and Jerry Root | Issue 88

HE WAS AN IMAGINATIVE BELFAST IRISHMAN, in whom a cultivated Oxford accent replaced his father’s oratorical brogue, and for whom Oxford was home.

He was a brilliant expositor and debater, whose powers of logical analysis, bright brisk narrative, and vivid illustration were stunning.

He was a heavyweight academic with a self-possessed forthrightness that unnerved some of his students. He worked hard and expected others to do the same. Woe to you if Lewis was your tutor and you were lazy!

He was a teacher of literature who seemed to have read...

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14 Feb 2006

A Pen in God’s Hand

by Paul C. H. Lim | Issue 89

The Prototypical Evangelical Historians David Bebbington, Mark Noll, and George Rawlyk have identified four characteristic marks of “evangelicalism": a stress on conversion, a focus on Christ’s redeeming work as the core of biblical Christianity, an acknowledgment of the Bible as the supreme authority, and an energetic and personal approach to social engagement and evangelism. According to Paul Lim, the life and ministry of Richard Baxter reveal all four of these qualities. Read more about this remarkable man.

ON JULY 28, 1875, the town of...

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15 Nov 2005

Hearts in Training

by Doris T. Myers | Issue 88

IN THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, one of the Narnia series, Eustace, a factual-minded, thoroughly modern boy, meets a fallen star named Ramandu. On hearing that Ramandu is a star, Eustace says, “In our world, a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.” Ramandu replies, “Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of.”

This distinction between scientia (knowledge, the makeup of things) and sapientia (wisdom, the significance of things) informed all of Lewis’s writings, especially his fiction. Except for a...

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15 May 2005

Life and Religion Are One

by Rolland Hein | Issue 86

ACCORDING TO ONE AMERICAN READER, fans raved about George MacDonald’s novels as if they were “a new gospel.” A huge public, she insisted, was “greedy” for more. It was not MacDonald’s gospel that was new, however, but his fresh presentation of the gospel’s relevance to life. MacDonald had once said, “The life, thoughts, deeds, aims, beliefs of Jesus have to be fresh expounded every age, for all the depth of eternity lies in them, and they have to be seen into more profoundly every new era of the world’s spiritual history.” Through his...

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15 Aug 2002

The Road to Rome

by Adam Schwartz | Issue 75

AT THE PLACE WHERE THE ROADS MEET there is no doubt of the convergence. A man may think all sorts of things, most of them honest and many of them true, about the right way to turn in the maze at Hampton Court. But he does not think he is in the center; he knows.”

So wrote media star, mystery writer, and amateur theologian G.K. Chesterton in The Thing: Why I Am a Catholic. In the years leading up to this statement, though, he doubted whether roads met or even existed, and he was not at all sure what lay at the center of his life’s maze. The...

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31 Aug 1986

John Bunyan: The Man, Preacher and Author

by E. Beatrice Batson, Ph.D. | Issue 11

JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688) was born at Elstow, near Bedford, England, the oldest son of a tinker. His education was undoubtedly slight. He acknowledged —in fact, he emphasized—his humble birth: “my father’s house being of that rank that is meanest and most despised of all the families in the land.” This was hardly inverted snobbery; it was a way of attributing solely to God credit for what he had become.

When he was sixteen, Bunyan was summoned in a county levy for the Parliamentary army. What active service he knew is uncertain; no...

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1 Aug 1985

C.S. Lewis: A Profile of His Life

by Lyle W. Dorsett | Issue 7

“I’M TALL, FAT, RATHER BALD, red-faced, double-chinned, black-haired, have a deep voice, and wear glasses for reading,” C.S. Lewis wrote to a young admirer in 1954. If the famous author had been prone to notice clothing, he might have added that his trousers were usually in dire need of pressing, his jackets threadbare and blemished by snags and food spots, and his shoes scuffed and worn at the heels.

But Jack, as C.S. Lewis’s friends knew him, was not bothered by fashion. It is not that he was slovenly. On the contrary, he was meticulous...

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  • Christian History Magazine #113: Seven Literary Sages $5.00

    Christian History Magazine #113: Seven Literary Sages

    • Magazine
    • 2015
    • 51 Pages
    • Christian History Institute

    Seven Christian authors who gave us cheerful hobbits, wise old women, sharp-witted detectives, and one memorable lion gave us something more: a vision for all of life. Meet George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, Charles Williams, and Owen Barfield in Christian History magazine 113: Seven Literary Sages.