Samples from Seminary – De Spectaculis

Today we have a lesson from church history on the topic of entertainment.

The figure in church history that we are interested in is Tertullian. He lived into the 3rd century and is well known for his work in developing the doctrine of the Trinity. Today though, I want to call attention to another important work of his called De Spectaculis, that is, his work concerning the spectacles or shows.

In this work, Tertullian tried to convince his fellow Christians that attending the various forms of public entertainment in that day was not compatible with Christianity. This was a necessary subject to write about in his day for Christians were tempted to enjoy the sinful entertainment of Roman culture. He argued that the “things which are going on at the spectacles are all opposed to God.”[1]

That is a strong statement. What did he have in mind?

For example, the events at the circus stirred up sinful passions. The shows at the theater were known for their immorality and obscenity. The gladiator games exhibited inhuman cruelty and brutality. Thus, neither the conduct of the performers nor the behavior of the spectators could possibly have been viewed as pleasing to God.

With this in mind, Tertullian asks: “Will the man, seated where there is nothing of God, at that moment think of God?”

This question applies to us in our day and age. We too are tempted to enjoy the sinful entertainment that our culture offers. I don’t think it’s necessary to show the parallels. Instead, I would like to end with a quote that I hope you will actually read. It is the tail end of a longer section in which Tertullian poetically calls Christians to find their delight and to be satisfied in the “exquisite pleasures” found in God. These are far greater than any pleasure or delight that comes from the entertainment of the world.

“If the literary accomplishments of the stage delight you, we have sufficient literature of our own, enough verse and maxims, also enough songs and melodies; and ours are not fables, but truths, not artful devices, but plain realities. Do you want contests in boxing and wrestling? Here they are – contests of no slight account, and plenty of them.  Behold impurity overthrown by chastity, faithlessness slain by faith, cruelty crushed by mercy, impudence put in the shade by modesty. Such are the contests among us, and in these we win our crowns. Do you have desire for blood, too? You have the blood of Christ.”

-Matt Kortus

[1] All quotes taken from: The Fathers of the Church, Volume 40, Tertullian Disciplinary, Moral and Ascetical Works, Spectacles, p. 33-107.

Samples from Seminary – Pray For Our Holiness

This week we start another school year at seminary. As we begin our labors again, I would like to make a request: please pray for our holiness.

We certainly desire your prayers in general: Pray that God would give us strength for our labors. Ask that God would strengthen our conviction that we are to serve him as pastors. Pray for God’s blessing on our school year.

But more specifically, pray for our holiness.

Why? Because nothing disrupts our work more than sin. Nothing makes us doubt whether we are called to the ministry more than continued failure to overcome besetting sins. Nothing makes our work more difficult, even impossible, than committing presumptuous sins. Sin undermines everything we strive to do in preparation for the ministry. For when we sin, we grieve the Holy Spirit, upon whom we rely to reveal to us the truths of Scripture.

Pray that God works in us by his Spirit, so that we more and more put off the old man of sin and put on the new man of righteousness. Pray that we are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.

This prayer is necessary because we are sinners. Though our seminary is located on top of a hill, it is no ivory tower. Professors and students alike are sinners who still do the evil that we desire not to do and fail to do the good that we desire to do. Just because we spend most of our day studying God’s Word does not make us immune to temptation and sin.

Please pray that God would make us holy, even as He is holy.

Pray such a prayer for us. But do not stop there. Pray this same prayer for the office bearers of the church. No doubt, they would make the same confession: it is sin that makes their work difficult and fills them with doubt about their qualification to be office bearers. Pray for the holiness of pastors, elders, and deacons alike.

Make this supplication to God, for He alone can make us holy. And we, in turn, will continue to pray this same prayer for you.

 

Matt Kortus