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5 Questions on Christianity, Life and Books

The Latimer Trust asks Dr Mark Earngey

1. How did you become a Christian?

I was blessed to grow up in a Christian home with godly and faithful parents who taught me about God's patience and grace. They also modelled this patience and grace during my teenage years when I ceased attending church and was drawn into the ways of the world. Wonderfully, during my days as a university student, the Lord drew me back to Christ: I turned up at a church, and a few weeks later, during the last song of the service I found myself singing the words 'You are my child'. Immediately seeing myself in the shoes of the prodigal son of Luke 15, I knew I needed to return to my heavenly father. With tears, I asked the Lord to forgive me, and was given a fresh start in life! God put a number of wise and older Christian men in my life over the coming years, and I grew stronger in the faith and in the knowledge of Christ. Many years down the track, the godly and patience grace that my parents taught and modelled is now something that I cherish in Christ and pray to model to my own family.


2. Who has been an influential person in your Christian pilgrimage?

Shortly after my conversion, I was given two books - one by CS Lewis and the other day Francis Schaeffer. Both of these authors have been incredibly influential for me over the years, in that I have enjoyed their biblical piety which was coupled with their diverse interests. That is, I appreciated their humble dependence on Christ and his Word, and I appreciated their enquiry into history, art, literature, philosophy, and most of all, theology. And I loved how they always had an apologetic and evangelistic edge to their thinking and writing. In the course of time, I have even enjoyed the privileges of staying at Schaeffer's L'Abri and serving as a tour guide at Lewis' old home in Oxford, the Kilns. The Lord has used all this to spur me on in my love for the Lord, his Word, and his world.


3. What piece of advice would you give young ordinands going into ministry today?

Keep the cross of Christ central to everything you do. Don't let excitement about the latest theological fads and trends displace the centrality of the cross of Christ. Don't let the cultural and social pressures of the world marginalise the importance of what Christ did on the cross. Don't let the pressures of parish administration and the complexities of ministry planning crowd out the simple beauty of the cross of Christ. You need the old rugged cross daily. Your family needs you to cling to the cross and carry your cross daily. And the people you pastor need you to be shaped by the cross of Christ daily. John Stott's classic, The Cross of Christ is a must read. But another little Stott gem is his Calling Christian Leaders - wonderful cross-shaped lessons for young ordinands!


4. Which is the best book you have read in 2022?

My favourite book of 2022 is Bruce Gordon's Zwingli: God's Armed Prophet (Yale). I have always had an interest in Zwingli, Bullinger, and the reformation in Zurich. In recent years, scholars such as Diarmaid MacCulloch have demonstrated the significance of Zurich for our understanding of the English Reformation, and this all the more important, since Zwingli's theology is sometimes misunderstood and since Zurich is sometimes underbaked in discussions of reformation theology. What Gordon's biography of Huldrych Zwingli does is provide an accurate historical and theological picture of the great pioneer of Reformed theology. Not only is Gordon a very kind man and accomplished reformation scholar, but he writes excellent biographies. Perhaps my big realisation in reading this biography was that not only was Zwingli incredibly passionate about the gospel of Jesus Christ, but that he was incredibly industrious in his implementation of gospel ministry in Zurich. He transformed the city Zurich in only 12 years - compared to Luther, Calvin, or Cranmer, that is a very short and vigorous ministry!


5. What are you working on at the moment?

My main ministry is serving as an ordained clergyman on faculty at Moore Theological College, and in my capacity as Head of the Church History department I am presently rewriting our curriculum for Early Church History and Medieval Church History. Beyond this, I have two major writing projects in the works. One is an academic biography entitled Bishop John Ponet (1516-1556): Scholar, Bishop, Insurgent for the St Andrews Studies in Reformation History series published by Brill. John Ponet was Cranmer's chaplain and key theological advisor, and had a remarkable ministry during the Edwardian phase of the English Reformation. I have found a whole range of books personally owned and annotated by him, and look forward to publishing an up to date biography of this quite remarkable man. The other project - a few years away - is a book about how the English reformers read their own Bibles. I have found - and continue to find more! - copies of Bibles owned and annotated by various reformers, and have been blown away by how they take notes (exegetical, theological, devotional, biographical, etc) in their own Bibles. It's quite something to see how our reformers actually read their Bibles. I hope to synthesise this material for publication in a few years. And I hope it will bring a bit more clarity to our understanding of that line in Cranmer's classic collect about Holy Scripture: 'read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest'. For the reformers, it seems that marking was an important step after reading, and before learning and digesting!


Mark is one of the editors and contributors of "Reformed Anglicanism. Essays on Edwardian Evangelicalism" a new book to be released this month with the Latimer Trust. 

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Mark Earngey is Head of Church History at Moore Theological College, Sydney. He is the co-editor of Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present (New Growth Press, 2018). He is married to Tanya and they have four young children.

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