Letters to the editor. Christ and culture in Russia

[Above: cover of the Erasmus issue, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Porträt des Erasmus von Rotterdam, 1530 to 1536. Oil on beech wood. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen—Public domain, Wikimedia.]

Hero for our times?

My copy of the Erasmus issue just arrived. Thanks! I write because Erasmus is one of my personal Christian heroes. I appreciate his irenic and reforming spirit, as well as his great scholarship and advocacy for the philosophia Christi. Our present world needs more Erasmus in it. 

The more I try to follow his path, though, I appreciate the difficulty he experienced: he was attacked and suspected by both sides. So, it’s wonderful that Christian History would devote an issue to him. May more readers discover his deeply faithful contributions!—Jonathan Den Hartog, Birmingham, AL (advisor for #138 and #143)

I have been receiving your excellent magazine Christian History for many years. I have just finished reading #145 and felt a need to write and commend you on the quality and depth of information you have provided in this issue. As a retired college professor and lifelong reader I found this issue of such comprehensive depth and knowledge that I would seriously recommend it as part of a syllabus and core requirements of reading in both undergraduate and graduate level courses. If I was teaching a course in church history or biblical theology I would definitely include it in my syllabus as required reading. . . . I would also recommend the librarian to subscribe to Christian History.—Michael C. Young, Greensboro, NC

Thank you so much for the wonderful edition on Erasmus. As soon as we saw the cover, we knew who should play Erasmus when they make the movie version: Christoph Waltz. This edition was so informative and entertaining, that it could easily be used as the basis for putting a movie together of the life of Erasmus. Again, thank you for the wonderful work that you do.—Dale and Meg Lewis, McKinney, TX

We were also glad to share Erasmus with our readers and enjoyed getting to know him better! And at least one member of our team agrees with you that Christoph Waltz is a near doppelganger of our cover portrait of Erasmus.

Not everybody’s hero

Erasmus was a timid and time-serving Romanist who with all the splendor of his scholarship failed of that moral greatness which holds life and honor subservient to truth. He also approved of the burning of [Louis de] Berquin by the Romanists.— Howard Loewen, Lawrenceburg, TN

Issue advisor Edwin Woodruff Tait responds: 

Erasmus was certainly cautious about saying or doing anything that might lead to his condemnation as a heretic, and he became more so late in life. As the issue shows, he disapproved of what he saw as the extremism and dogmatism of the Protestants and their willingness to create (as he saw it) a schism rather than trying to work for gradual reform. 

He disagreed with them on a number of points, while also agreeing with many of their criticisms of traditional piety. Hence he was unwilling to make himself a martyr for either side. As he once put it, “I hope I would be willing to die for Christ; I am not willing to die for the paradoxes of Luther.”

He was accused of cowardice in his own day, and he admitted to being a naturally timid person. However, as I hope the issue has shown, he had strong principles and a sincere commitment to the Christian faith as he understood it. 

I am not aware of his having approved of the execution of Berquin. The closest he came was in the phrase, “If he did not deserve [death], I am sorrowful; if he did deserve it, I am doubly sorrowful.” The “if” is a typical expression of Erasmus’s caution. However, in his account of the Berquin case, he stressed Berquin’s good character and the brave and pious way in which he met his death.

Too many catholics?

I feel you are too obsessed with scholars of the Middle Ages, and other ancient eras—including Catholic ones. How about writing issues of true, godly men and women teachers and authors closer to our times . . . such as A. W. Tozer or Watchman Nee, etc.? I would really appreciate that.—John Herbst, Dixon, MO

From our earliest days we have always made it a point to cover all eras and all three main branches of Christianity—Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. Our mission statement (which you can find on our website) is “Christian History Institute seeks to bring the story of the church to the people of the church, to see the best in every Christian tradition, and to acknowledge the full and honest story of the church universal.” Incidentally, we’ve also received criticism that we spend too much time talking about modern Protestants!

By his stripes we are healed

Thank you for issue 142, Jesus the Healer. It is amazing that those who stake their reputation on his work of salvation on the cross will deny Jesus his glory for healing his flock. Do they not understand Isaiah chapter 53? I find it appalling that people fight over this glory.—Scott Swisher, Obetz, OH 

We appreciate the continued responses we’ve gotten to this issue and hope to return to the topic in the future.

Stories inspired by DAILY STORIES

I found the essay today on Roger Williams particularly interesting. I was recently in Plymouth, MA, and went into a restaurant called Yellow Deli. It is run by an organization called the Twelve Tribes. One of the workers told me the restaurant is one of several around the world that is owned and operated by this organization, whose members live together like the Christian disciples in the first century. He gave me a pamphlet which describes the life of Roger Williams. Williams is their hero. . . . I enjoy your daily history lessons.—Joe McDonnell, via email

I met Dr. [Carl] Henry at age 13 when he came to our home in Knoxville, TN. My father, Dr. C. R. Boutwell, was just starting his PhD at the University of Tennessee and was a Navigator. He graduated from Fuller Theogical Seminary and introduced me to Dawson Trotman when I was six (I remember his mustache.) I had no idea until I was much older and more spiritually mature who these two men were who knew Dad. I still listen to old tapes of the Old Time Revival Hour and Dr. Charles Fuller singing “Heavenly Sunshine” and his wife, Honey, reading letters. Legacy is so important.— Philip Boutwell, Winston-Salem, NC

You too can sign up to receive our “This Day in Christian History” emails by going to our website!

Valiant for truth

We continue to pray for you and to support you in the challenges that you will face as you publish about “history” this year. Peter was facing a situation under Roman rule that is similar to ours today. As we see the foundations of our society crumble (Psalm 11), and the church feeling the pressure of an evil society bearing down, we find strength, wisdom and direction in 1 Peter 4:15–19. . . . Continue to research, write and publish truth and wisdom as we face the trials before us. . . . Your magazine has inspired us for decades.—Richard and Lois Fisher, Byron, GA

By the editors and readers

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #146 in 2023]

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