Monday, July 09, 2007

Blogging in the name of the Lord: Michael Haykin

This is part of a series of interviews with Christian bloggers. In the hot seat today is...
Michael Haykin

GD: Hello and welcome, Michael. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

MH: Born in England of Irish and Kurdish parents, I am currently the Principal of Toronto Baptist Seminary, Toronto, Ontario. I have just accepted an offer to become Professor of Church History at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in January of 2008.

I am the author of a number of books, including: The Spirit of God: The Exegesis of 1 and 2 Corinthians in the Pneumatomachian Controversy of the Fourth Century (E. J. Brill, 1994); One heart and one soul: John Sutcliff of Olney, his friends, and his times (Evangelical Press, 1994); ‘At the Pure Fountain of Thy Word’: Andrew Fuller as an Apologist (Paternoster Press, 2004), and Jonathan Edwards: The Holy Spirit in Revival (Evangelical Press, 2005). Most recently I have been writing some books on spirituality, one on the spirituality of Alexander Whyte, one on that of Edwards, and just recently one on Hercules Collins’ piety. These are published by Reformation Heritage Books in Grand Rapids.

I and my family attend Trinity Baptist Church, Burlington, Ontario, where I am also an elder.

GD: Congratulations on your appointment at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. May the Lord bless you in this new sphere of service. Your blog is called "Historica Ecclesiastica", what made you start blogging?

MH: I read Hugh Hewitt’s Blog which convinced that as a Christian leader I needed to be blogging.

GD: What have you found most enjoyable about blogging?

MH: Being able to share some reflections on church history with a larger audience than my books or speaking.

GD: What are some of the dangers of blogging?

MH: Wasting time—it is so very easy for hours to pass before you know it. I try to be disciplined in my time in this regard.

GD: Why should Christians be interested in Church history?

MH: Our identity is bound up with the past. We cannot know where we are going if we do not know where we have come from.

GD: For evangelicals, it often seems that church history began in the first century and then disappeared for 1500 years, only to re-emerge at the Reformation. What are we missing when we neglect the patristic and medieval periods of church history?

MH: We are missing tons. The early Church Fathers did theology in a pagan environment which ours is increasingly approximating. We can learn much from them. They and those in the fourth century hammered out a theology of the Trinity and addressed canon issues that are so vital to us. And with regard to the Middle Ages, we cannot understand the Reformation if we do not know that era. And there are some gems in it: J Wycliffe, Anselm, Aelred of Rievaulx.

GD: You wrote a book on three key Calvinistic Baptists - Kiffin, Knollys and Keach. What is the main lesson that these Baptist pioneers have to teach us?

MH: Their passion for biblical truth even to the cost of their lives.

GD: What role should historic creeds and confessions play in contemporary theological reflection?

MH: In my mind much. Christianity is not Christianity if it is not confessional. And the creeds of the early church are central to who we are—they are not infallible, but they are normative under Scripture. No creed but the Bible is a failure to understand the doctrinal emphasis of the faith that needs to be encapsulated in a short compass for Christian witness and expression.

GD: I read somewhere that you had a portrait of John Wesley hung in the lobby of Toronto Baptist Seminary. What do you, a Calvinistic Baptist, so admire about Wesley?

MH: His zeal for evangelism, his determination to reach the poor (so much of our evangelicalism is comfortable middle-class religion—and I do not use the word religion as a bad word), his love for souls (even though he admitted he always needed more love). And his love for singing and his publishing his brother’s hymns.

GD: Could you recommend a few books that serve as an introduction to church history?

MH: Timothy Dowley’s Introduction to the History of Christianity is a great starter.

GD: Name your top three songs or pieces of music.

MH: Oh this is very difficult as I have so many I like. Maybe better are composers/musicians: Charles Wesley’s hymns, those of Joseph Hart and John Newton and Robert Robinson’s Come Thou Fount. Trevor Francis’ O the deep love of Jesus. I love the Baroque composers like Bach and Scarlatti and Pachelbel. But I also like blues! Interesting and very eclectic.

GD: Have you seen the Wilberforce biopic, Amazing Grace? If so, did you enjoy it?

MH: Yes. And yes and no. Yes, it was great to see Hollywood deal with such a theme. I was saddened Wilberforces’ Christian faith was not as explicit. But that is Hollywood. And there were some big historical bloopers—like the link of Amazing Grace and the slave trade, which did not exist.

GD: Who was the most influential figure in your theological development?

MH: Martyn Lloyd-Jones. And then: men like Andrew Fuller and Samuel Pearce. And the Puritans and the fourth-century Fathers like Basil and Athanasius.
GD: Lloyd-Jones was a huge influence for me too. What is the most helpful work of theology that you have read in the last twelve months. It is a must read because....

MH: Andrew Fuller, A Meditation on the Nature and the Progressiveness of the Heavenly Glory - a powerful tonic to this-worldly evangelicalism

GD: That sounds interesting. Now, what would you say is the biggest challenge facing evangelicalism today?

MH: Building genuine Christian communities of light and love.

GD: Lastly, which blogs do you enjoy reading most and why?

MH: Another difficult question because I have a quite a number. Love Justin Taylor’s, and Albert Mohler’s and that of Russell Moore—all extremely informative and the latter two also provocative. I like my friend’s Kirk Wellum’s. Free St George’s because of his love of history. But these are only five of about ten or twelve.
GD: Well, thank you very much for this conversation Michael. It has been great talking to you.
The final interview in this series will be published soon (hopefully)...

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