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Introducing, Dr. Ryan Reeves
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

You know I am a "history-nut".  I read books about Medieval history or the history of World War II or the history of ancient Mesopotamia just for fun.  Well, I gotta tell ya...I have just discovered the GREATEST youtube channel I have ever seen.  Go to youtube and look up "Ryan Reeves".  There you will find dozens and dozens and dozens of lessons on....wait for it... ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance church history!!  I know, it's too good to be true, isn't it??  I mean, a veritable smorgasbord of the very finest in lectures about the Council of Chalcedon, Constantine, Martin Luther and Calvin (tons of info on them), Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Ambrose and Jerome, the Great Schism of 1054 (no way!) and even a whole series dissecting the works of G.K.Chesterton, Tolkien, and CS Lewis (yes way!!!).

Crazy ain't it?  I have seriously spent the last two weeks watching at least two, maybe three of these videos each and every day.  Seriously, Dr. Reeves is Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Dean of their Jacksonville campus.  He earned is PhD in historical theology from Cambridge University.  Lest anyone think, "Oh my gosh, watch a 30 minute lecture on King Henry VIII and the Tudors of England???  How boring!"  Wait just a second.  This guy is really good.  The videos are illustrated with beautiful paintings and good notes, and Dr. Reeves definitely teaches with a commanding grasp of each subject, good humor, and good application.  Church history, tragically, simply is not taught in most American pulpits, and consequently our congregations are often very anemic theologically. 

I dare you to watch just one.  Some of them are 90 seconds, some are about 8 minutes, but the "prime rib" lectures are usually 30 minutes long.  You will be riveted.... and you'll learn good stuff too!!! Want to know what John Wycliffe actually believed, how the Medieval church used Aristotle, or just what in the world the Council of Nicea was about (and you should know!), watch these videos!  You won't regret it!

 

 

 

Saturday, May 13, 2017, 04:07 PM

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A Prayer From the Medieval World
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

A few years ago a friend of mine who is Roman Catholic gave me a bookmark to put in my Bible (I have umpteen dozen bookmarks stuffed in various Bibles I use.) This bookmark has a prayer written by St. Francis of Assisi.  The marker says he would pray this before a crucifix.  Though I am not Catholic, and I do not pray before a crucifix, I think the words of this remarkable man from the Middle Ages summarize very nicely the attitude of many hearts today:

"Most high glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart,

And give me, Lord, a correct faith,

A certain hope,

A perfect charity,

Sense and knowledge,

So that I may carry out

Your holy and true command."

In Jesus' holy name we pray, 

Amen.

 

Friday, April 28, 2017, 10:21 PM

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The History Erasers
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

I have just read that the city council of New Orleans has finally begun the removal of a memorial and three statues that they deem offensive.  The memorial is to the Battle of Liberty Place (a bloody riot between the "Crescent City White League" and New Orleans' integrated police force in the latter part of the 20th century).  The three statues are of General Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis (President of the Confederacy), and General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard.  

So they are all removed (or soon will be).  No one will be offended anymore, I suppose.  I wonder, however, how will the lives of the citizens of New Orleans improve now that vestiges of the ante-bellum and post-bellum South are removed?  

Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office issued a statement that this was not about politics, but rather about how the monuments "fail to reflect the values of diversity and inclusion that make New Orleans strong today." Inclusion, it seems, of everyone who agreed with the city council.  But no inclusion for those who see Lee as a great American.  

I just wonder, who in New Orleans really knows who Lee, Davis, or Beauregard were, besides the fact that they were leaders of the Confederacy?  Does anyone on the city council know (or care) that Lee legally freed ALL of his slaves before Abraham Lincoln freed even one slave?  Or that because of Lee's orders and example, the country did not go through years of guerrilla warfare after the surrender on April 9, 1865?  Do they know that Davis and his wife adopted a black child named Joe into their family during the Civil War (there is one photo of "little Joe" still extant), and this war orphan went with Mrs. Davis while they were fleeing Richmond?  The child was cruelly snatched from her by Union cavalry once Davis was captured at Irwinville Georgia.  What happened to Joe after that is a mystery.

Does anyone know that after the war Beauregard worked for the railroad, and helped found a political party called the Reform Party?  He worked hard to make sure that blacks were registered to vote...in an age and day when other groups worked overtime (violently) to make sure blacks could not vote.

Does any of that matter?  Apparently not.  We must rid ourselves of any memory of anyone who ever owned slaves.  So, when are we going to get rid of the Washington Monument?  Rename Washington DC?  Let's get rid of the pyramids of Egypt, the Pantheon and Colosseum in Rome too since slaves built those structures.  Should we re-write Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer since those novels contain racial epithets?  Should we bulldoze the Alamo because some may be offended at that?  Where does this end?

For the record, I detest our past association with slavery, Jim Crow, the Kids Klux Klan, and the whole sordid history of one race claiming superiority over another.  But how are we going to teach our kids what happened and why it was wrong if we ERASE it?  Here's how I would handle the monument dedicated to the Battle of Liberty Place: leave it up and when your guides talk about it, tell the truth about what happened and how awful it was.  Put up another monument next door to the victims of the racism of that day.  Put up yet another monument...a really big one in a prominent place dedicated the the victims of the slave trade.  And leave the other statues alone, let people read history, and make up their own minds.

Removing these memorials is a tragic mistake.  Other groups around the world have done the same thing.  From March 2-18,2001 ancient statues of Buddha in Afghanistan were obliterated by rockets and dynamite.  Why?  They were offensive...to the Taliban.  In the last two years priceless Roman ruins in Syria (primarily the city of Palmyra) were blown up.  Why?  Because the Romans were pagans and the people who were offended...the history erasers...were ISIS.  They were giving off a strong message: There is no one here but us.  We must never be offended. 

Don't be afraid to preserve history...out in the open....warts and all....so that all of us can learn and make up our own minds.

Thursday, April 27, 2017, 07:00 PM

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Giovanni Francesco Bernardone
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

I usually read about six or seven books at once.  I can't help it.  So, right now I am also reading Thomas Cahill's "Mysteries of the Middle Ages" in which he tells several fascinating stories about real people in real cities in the Medieval World.  One such person was Giovanni Bernadine.  

He was born in 1182 in northern Italy in Umbria to a cloth merchant.  His father, who was a rather harsh man decided to change his name from Giovanni to Francesco (which means "little Frenchie") to honor the French people that he would often trade with.

So, with his new name, Francesco son of the cloth merchant grew up as a spoiled rich kid.  Your typical irresponsible brat.  A real slacker.  If he lived today we would expect to see him living I his Mommy's basement playing video games endlessly.  And complaining that his life stunk.

Until war struck his homeland-- the city of Assisi.  An army from nearby Perugia attacked, and young Francesco awakened to don a soldier's garb and man the walls.  He was captured by the enemy and imprisoned for a year in a dungeon (where he contracted malaria).  He was released, but his recurring malaria knocked him out again.  All this suffering woke him up to realize he needed to do something with his life.  

One day in 1205, while he was resting in a ruined old church, he believed he heard a voice speaking to him from a crucifix. From that moment on, Francis of Assisi was a changed man.  He became a fanatic.  He no longer toyed with his faith.  Soon he renounced everything.  And I mean... literally everything.  When his father accused him of stealing some cloth, Francis appeared before his father and the magistrates buck naked!  He was holding only his clothes, the cloth he supposedly stole, and a bag of coins to give to his father.  

He completely and forever renounced his materialistic ties to this world. (The bishop graciously threw his long cloak around Francis.) And with that interesting beginning, Francis of Assisi began his brief but amazing and arduous mission to transform his world.

 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 11:51 PM

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Savonarola and Revival
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

I am currently reading some books about the Italian Renaissance.  One book is "Death in Florence-- the Medici, Savonarola, and the Battle for the Soul of a Renaissance City" by Paul Strathern (2015).  Much of the book is about the struggles, triumph, and death of an Italian "reformer": Girolamo Savonarola.

I am getting to know Savonarola, and for the most part I like him and sympathize with him.  He had some wacky ideas about being a prophet of God and uttered some predictions that did not come true, but I do feel sorry for him.  He was truly distraught over the abject debauchery of his day... not only among the rank and file citizens of Florence, but also among the clergy.

Savonarola was a Domenican monk and well educated in the philosophy and theology of his day.  He was not a "pre-reformation reformer" like John Wycliffe or Jan His.  Savonarola whole-heartedly believed the Roman Catholic theology of his day, yet he also vociferously called the clergy and leadership of his day to forsake their greed, sexual immorality, and lust for power.  (The Pope during this time was Alexander VI... previously known as Rodrigo Borgia... not exactly known for being the most moral person in town).

Savonarola ruled Florence from 1494 to 1498.  The Florentines ejected the Medici as rulers, and Savonarola was free to enforce his idea of morality on them.  And he did.  Personally, I think Savonarola believed that the imposition of the right laws could turn a society around.  It didn't.  In 1498 he and his pals were overthrown, they were put on trial and tortured to confess "crimes", they were all hanged, burned, and their ashes scattered in the Arno River.

Revival does not come from the imposition of laws from the top down.  Revival of a culture and society comes from regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and flows from the heart outward.

Thursday, April 20, 2017, 09:34 PM

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Jeff Sanders' Bio

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Past Posts

A Prayer From the Medieval World
04/28/17
The History Erasers
04/27/17
Giovanni Francesco Bernardone
04/25/17
Savonarola and Revival
04/20/17
The Philadelphia Museum of Art
03/30/17
National Geographic, The Little Ice Age, and Climate Change
03/25/17
Eichman and the Banality of Evil
03/23/17
Dealy Plaza
03/13/17
The 442nd RCT
02/25/17
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