7 Broken Men: John Howard Yoder

7 Broken Men: John Howard Yoder

We come to the last of our 7 Broken Men and I’m going to take a somewhat more serious tone with this one. Recent blog posts in this series have been presented with a lighter touch as we’ve noted the way our broken men have been used by God for the greater good. And while some of them did inflict suffering on others, their offences were long ago, making it easier to wave off the excesses of those trapped in the long distant past. But now we come to the most troubling entry in our series, John Howard Yoder. He has hurt people. Many people. All of them women, in fact.   And he did so relatively recently. Many of Yoder’s victims are still with us, although he isn’t. God certainly used him. Powerfully. He is one of the primary thought leaders behind the modern Anabaptist movement. His teaching on the church, social justice and pacifism, peacemaking and capital punishment have filtered into both the mainstream evangelical and progressive evangelical movements. True to his Mennonite roots, Yoder called on the church to resist the temptation to try to take over politics and society (remember, this was the era of the Christian Coalition). Instead, he argued, the primary responsibility of Christians is faithful presence, ie. “to be the church.” That meant that the church’s role was to

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7 Broken Men: Ignatius of Loyola

7 Broken Men: Ignatius of Loyola

So far (if you’ve been following along) we’ve discovered that some of the greatest movements of Christianity – Calvinism, Pentecostalism, the Great Century of missions, the Jesus Revolution, and the Australian Baptist church – were all launched by broken men. Welcome to the sixth of our 7 Broken Men, at the raffish Spanish courtier, Iñigo Lopez de Oñaz y Loyola, better known as St Ignatius of Loyola. Iñigo de Loyola was actually physically broken. A French cannonball had shattered his leg while he was defending the fortress town of Pamplona in 1521. The broken leg was not properly set, leaving the protruding bone to create an ugly lump under the skin. Iñigo was vain. He was also quite the ladies’ man. So he insisted on having the leg re-broken and re-set. Without anesthetic, of course. The injured leg ended up shorter than the other, so the once-dashing Iñigo limped for the rest of his life. That was no small thing for Iñigo. He had grown up in the castle of Loyola, the 13th child of Don Beltrán Yañez de Oñaz y Loyola, a brash, free-spirited womanizer who had fathered several children by other women. Iñigo’s grandfather was an even more shadowy character, regularly in conflict with the crown. Nonetheless, they were landed gentry and could get away with bad behavior.

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7 Broken Men: David Brainerd

7 Broken Men: David Brainerd

In this series of posts we’ve been looking at “broken men” – fragile souls, charlatans, jerks and screw-ups who were used by God nonetheless to bring great hope and healing to the world. So far we’ve looked at men who were affected by overbearing fathers, childhood sexual assault, alcohol abuse, gambling addictions, drug use, and possible mental illness. And yet all of them were used by God to launch remarkable movements for his glory. In this entry we will look at the sweetest soul in our series, the frail and ardent young diarist, David Brainerd. There’s not much to Brainerd’s life. He died from tuberculosis on 9 October 1747, at the age of 29, having suffered from symptoms of the disease for close to a decade. The effects of the illness, coupled with an intensely introspective personality, as well as periods of great loneliness, resulted in sometimes immobilizing bouts of depression. There were dozens of occasions when he longed to die and be free of his suffering. Brainerd is most famous for his journal, a painfully honest and heartfelt account of his travails and his overwhelming desire to serve God and preach the gospel. And it’s this, the inner life of the earnest young man that would change history. In it he describes his brief tenure as a pastor to

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7 Broken Men: Alexander Dowie

7 Broken Men: Alexander Dowie

My 7 Broken Men series continues. Check out the other entries in the blog section of this site to see the previous inductees into my hall of shame. Our fourth entry is nothing if not the most flamboyant of our seven, the Scottish-born Australian evangelist, Alexander Dowie. If God can use a character as colorful as Alexander Dowie, he can use anyone!   Raised in Adelaide, Australia, Dowie became a theatrically eccentric but popular evangelist in Sydney and Melbourne in the 1870s and 80s. However in 1888, while heavily in debt, Dowie’s church was burnt down in a suspicious arson attack. Dowie claimed the insurance money and skipped to the USA, where there were bigger fish to fry. Setting himself up in San Francisco, Dowie launched the International Divine Healing Association, through which he guaranteed healing to those who sent requests (and payments) by mail or telegram. It was a huge commercial success. Never one to do things by halves, Dowie then invested the ill-gotten gains in securities of bankrupt companies and defrauded his flock by selling them off to unsuspecting devotees. In case you missed it, that’s using defrauded money to defraud people.   Things got a bit too hot for him in San Francisco as various legal suits started to mount up, so he cashed in his chips and fled

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7 Broken Men: John Calvin

7 Broken Men: John Calvin

This is the third in my series 7 Broken Men, looking at how God has worked through even the most deeply flawed individuals throughout history. You can read the first two here and here. John Calvin was born Jean Cauvin in 1509 in Noyon, France. His father Gérard Cauvin was severe. And controlling. He was a registrar of the government of Noyon, a solicitor in the ecclesiastical court, fiscal agent of the county, secretary of the bishopric, and attorney of the cathedral chapter. All that made him a government bureaucrat, a legal officer, and a religious boffin rolled into one. The worst kind of control freak, a religious one. Let’s just say, Gérard Cauvin liked to be obeyed. Calvin’s mother died when he was a child, leaving him under the control of the pedantic and imposing Monsieur Cauvin, who had decided that it would do his career no harm at all for him to hand his three sons – Charles, Jean, and Antoine – over to the church to become priests. There would be no negotiation.  He secured for them the best education available, insisted they fraternize only with the children of prominent families in Noyon, and fixed them up with ecclesiastical patrons. When Calvin was only 12, his father had a tonsure shaved into his head, and he was told he

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7 Broken Men: Lonnie Frisbee

7 Broken Men: Lonnie Frisbee

If you liked Eric Metaxas’ 2013 book 7 Men, you’re probably not gonna care for my current series, 7 Broken Men, about the fragile and unlikely people God has used to glorify himself. You can find my first post in the series here. But if you are up for it, put on your old Larry Norman or Keith Green records. It’s time to hit the beaches of Southern California in the 1960s to meet the remarkable, but ultimately tragic hippie preacher, Lonnie Frisbee.  Maybe Lonnie Frisbee could have grown up to be a cult leader or serial killer if Jesus hadn’t got hold of him. His early life pretty much mirrored that of his contemporary and fellow Californian Charles Manson. Frisbee grew up in an unstable home where he was exposed to the dark underbelly of 1960s Californian society. He was sexually assaulted as a child, introduced to drugs in his teens, and at 15 he had his first homosexual encounter, which ultimately ushered him into the Laguna Beach gay scene. School didn’t take much of a priority, so by the time he was 18 and heading north to San Francisco with thousands of flower children for the Summer of Love in 1967, he could barely read and write. Lonnie Frisbee was a hippie straight out of central casting – good-looking, wide-eyed, and mystical.

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