A Look at the History of Biblical Friendship
When he reflects on what led him to write his latest book, Iron Sharpens Iron: Friendship and the Grace of God, Professor of Church History at Heritage Theological Seminary Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin explains that the topic of friendship has been a long-time and personal interest of study.
“My own personal makeup and experiences over the past fifty years have given me a longstanding interest in this subject from a personal vantage point and a professional one,” says Haykin.
Haykin says that he has been drawn to study figures in church history who had circles of friends like Paul, Basil of Caesarea, and John Calvin. However, the focus of this book looks at the friendships that were important in the lives of two eighteenth-century pastor-theologians: Andrew Fuller and John Ryland.
Through looking at the letters and correspondence that stemmed from these relationships, Haykin sets out to look at the example that was set by these men and how they developed and sustained their friendships, as well as how their relationships impacted their ministries and how they were seen in the eighteenth century as means of grace in the Christian life.
These men and the relationships they fostered during their lives would be examples of what Haykin describes as biblical friendships. Though he says that there are many examples of this kind of friendship in Scripture—from Ruth and Naomi to David and Jonathan to Paul and Timothy—he says that these friendships reflect the model that we see throughout the Bible and church history.
“A biblical friendship is one that combines loyalty to the friend with openness and transparency whereby one’s friend can speak into your life for your good,” explains Haykin.
Haykin acknowledges that his book on the history of biblical friendship comes at a unique time in history when modern society has changed the way many people —both inside and outside the church—view friendships.
To re-establish the model for friendships set out by Fuller and Ryland in the church today, he says that education is needed on the value of biblical friendship. However, amid a culture of hurry and busyness, he also believes that an understanding of biblical friendship will also need to lead people to commit to the time necessary to foster these relationships again.
“Unlike other relationships, there is no contract or nor any mandate,” says Haykin. “People need to see the importance of this for the sake of their souls and their sanity. Then, we need to commit to reorienting our schedules to simply make time for friends.”
To learn more about Iron Sharpens Iron or to purchase a copy, please click here.