Q&A with Tim Stanton (God’s Instrument But For a Time)

To purchase God’s Instrument But For A Time, click here.

Q&A with Tim Stanton

Evan: Tell us about yourself?

Tim: I am New Zealander. The Stanton family has lived here in New Zealand for five generations. Relatives of mine originally headed over in 1862 with a group of Baptist and Methodist missionaries looking to establish a ministry training institution for non-conformist clergy at Port Albert, Auckland. The group was farewelled by C.H. Spurgeon in London, who took a keen interest in the affairs of the New Zealand colony. The original Port Albert settlement failed, but Stantons have continued to be involved in New Zealand business, missions, and ministry ever since.

I am a Christian. I grew up in a small sheep-farming community called Geraldine in Canterbury and was converted through the witness of my local evangelical church and members of its youth group. After interning at a local Baptist church, I headed over to Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky to learn theology and get ready to serve God as a pastor in New Zealand. Southern Seminary was a fantastic experience. Faculty, like Prof. Michael A. G. Haykin, and students befriended me and shaped my life in profound ways. The access to stimulating lectures and a theological library of a scale not available in Australasia were particular highlights. I was also discipled by older men like at my local church at Third Avenue Baptist. Third Avenue Baptist and a subsequent church I interned at in Washington D.C. helped me grasp the significance of healthy local churches in God’s kingdom together with the glorious simplicity of the New Testament vision for church life.

I am also a Ph.D. student. After graduating from seminary, I returned to New Zealand in order to complete a Ph.D. at the University of Otago with Prof. Christopher Holmes. My doctoral work focuses on Petrus van Mastricht’s (1630–1706) understanding of the doctrines of God and Creation. Todd Rester has been translating Mastricht’s Theoretico-PracticaTheologia (1699) from Latin to English, which will be the first complete English translation. Three of Rester’s seven volumes are already out so it is an exciting area of study. In my spare time, I try to help out at Grace Church Dunedin and am also an itinerant preacher for evangelical churches in nearby towns. After this, I hope to become a pastor and help equip New Zealanders to plant, be part of, and grow healthy churches to the glory of God.

Evan: In a nutshell, why should Christians be interested in the life and thought of Hugh Latimer?

Tim: Firstly, Hugh Latimer (c. 1487–1555) has had an enormous impact on English-speaking Christianity. Hugh Latimer was one of the first English-Speaking preachers. Many of his contemporary evangelicals considered him to be the greatest English preacher alive in the early sixteenth century. If you typically listen to a sermon in English on a Sunday morning or read an English Bible, your life has been shaped by the legacy of Hugh Latimer as he was a strong advocate of both of these practices.

Secondly, and more specifically, Hugh Latimer was a key figure at the centre of the English reformations, together with his peers like Thomas Cranmer and Nicholas Ridley. The majority of English-speaking Protestant denominations–whether in Britain, North America, Asia, Oceania, or Africa–are genealogically related to the Tudor Church of England, with a smaller minority developing out of the Church of Scotland. Therefore, I think Hugh Latimer is worth studying in order to better understand, participate in, and lead the worship of English-speaking Protestant churches.

Evan: What led to you writing God’s Instrument But For A Time?

Tim: The key figure in this part of my story is really Michael Haykin. Haykin had befriended me when I first arrived to Louisville as a perhaps over-zealous young seminarian. Throughout seminary, I took many of his classes and attended every conference that the Andrew Fuller Center hosted. In order to get into a stipend PhD program, I knew that I needed to have written a Master’s thesis so I contacted Haykin and asked him to be my supervisor. Originally, I wanted to write on Thomas Cranmer’s trinitarian theology using the collects of the Book of Common Prayer. However, when this fell through Haykin encouraged me to consider writing on the life and thought of Hugh Latimer as there has been very little written about him in the last fifty years. So, I began two years of discovery and research, which resulted in God’s Instrument but for a Time. The book is an adapted and improved version of that Master’s thesis. I benefited from it and I hope it will serve other Christians as well.

Evan: What do you hope readers will take away from this work?

Tim: The main contribution of my book vis-à-vis other works is that God’s Instrument but for a Time examines Latimer’s life and thought topically rather than chronologically. I focus on the development of Latimer’s evangelical convictions. Hugh Latimer’s life and thought show that experience can help one better read scripture, which I develop from his sermons. As first-generation Reformers, Latimer and his friends only gradually came to Protestant convictions. Their experiences and friendships helped them understandscripture’s teachings and encouraged them to imbibe its agenda for Church reform. That is really a key argument of my book: that Latimer’s evangelical convictions and personal motivations as a reformer developed over time. I believe that Latimer’s humanity as one whose life was shaped by his reading of scripture together with his fight for gospel-based preaching in English churches will prove encouraging for anyone who spends time reading his sermons or any book about his life and thought. My account of his life and thought will prove especially useful for those in rural areas or frontier places with few evangelical churches as those circumstances best describe the context of Latimer’s own ministry in Tudor England.

Thank you so much Tim! We will pray for you and your ministry. I had the privilege of getting to know Tim at SBTS and the Lord is using him mightily!

Evan Knies is an elder of North Hills Church in West Monroe, LA. He is husband of Lauren and father to Maesyn. He is a graduate of Boyce College and Southern Seminary.

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