Why The Reformation is Still Significant 500 Years Later


In honor of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation I’m re-posting a classic article from several years back explaining the importance of this under-appreciated holiday.

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On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, nailed his 95 theses on the castle church door in Wittenburg, protesting the sale of indulgences by the Roman Catholic church. Luther eventually went to trial for heresy at the Diet of Worms where he was asked to repent of his teachings upon penalty of excommunication. His teachings opposed many accepted doctrines and practices of the church. He also challenged the authority and infallibility of the Pope. Luther refused to recant, famously stating:

Your Imperial Majesty and Your Lordships demand a simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted of error by the testimony of Scripture or since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us.

On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me.

Amen.

The spark of the revolution began with the posting of the 95 Theses. The fires were kindled with his defiant words at the Diet of Worms. The Protestant Reformation began in earnest in 1521. The word Protestant simply means protester. A Protestant opposes the false teachings of Roman Catholicism. Continue reading

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Declaring Heresy


The vitriolic response to the Nashville Statement has stirred up mud from the bottom of the proverbial pond, threatening to cloud the clear waters of truth with murky ideological propositions.

Once upon a time the issues of marriage, sexuality and gender were self-evident in both nature and scripture, but in these confused times no revelation – natural or divine – can be taken for granted.

Thus the Nashville Statement came to be: A declaration of truth about the nature of marriage, the limits of human sexual expression and the common sense understanding of a male/female gender binary. The fact any of this is necessary bears sad witness to the reality that so many people who profess to be Christian can love the darkness so much more than they love the light. Instead of walking into the light of the gospel they hide themselves behind high walls of false, man-made doctrines and arm themselves with self-righteous counter-declarations that promote all that is depraved; then they have the tenacity to bless it with a holy kiss.

Need proof? Continue reading

God For Us


The Holy Divine Trinity  has bestowed eternal blessings upon the elect. In what theologians call the Covenant of Redemption, the Trinity has purposed, secured and applied redemption for the church. Our salvation is no small feat, certainly not dependent on a mere human decision, flowing from the poisoned spring of our soul and the enslaved sinful will that, at best, can only offer a feeble faith that can never endure harsh realities or competing desires. No, our glorious bodily resurrection and entrance into the everlasting  kingdom takes an invested Trinitarian effort forged in love, for God’s own glory.

Let’s briefly examine each member of the Trinity’s involvement in the Covenant of Redemption: Continue reading

Testimony of Scripture


Blogging The Institutes

Excerpts taken from Institutes of the Christian Religion (1541 Edition) by John Calvin

Translated by Robert White

Chapter 1: The Knowledge of God

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If we think of how inclined the human mind is to forget God, how easily it is led into error,  by what flights of fancy it dreams up, hour by hour, new and counterfeit religions, we may readily understand how necessary it was for the heavenly doctrine to be couched in written form, lest it perish through forgetfulness, or be lost through error, or be corrupted by the impudence  of men.

So it is that David first of all declares that the heavens proclaim God’s glory and the firmament his handiwork, and that his majesty is revealed in the orderly succession of day and night. He then goes on to celebrate God’s word, saying: ‘The law of the Lord is spotless, converting souls; the testimony of the Lord is true, giving wisdom to the humble; the righteous deeds of the Lord are just, rejoicing the heart; the precepts of the Lord are clear, enlightening the eye’ (Psa 19:7-8). What he means is that the message of God’s creation is universal, for all peoples, but that the teaching of the word is the school peculiar to God’s children.

Calvin asserts the word of God became necessary because while natural revelation reveals God’s power and many of His invisible attributes, in the hands of corrupted man, this knowledge can easily be twisted to suit his own purposes. Historic pagan religions bear witness to this fact. Ancient Greek culture invented deities that controlled particular aspects of nature instead of giving the one true God the glory He is due for His sovereign reign over all the cosmos. Many civilizations of old have followed their own imaginations in defining who or what brushed the blank canvas of space with a full palette of color, beauty and diverse complexity. Continue reading

Knowability of God


Blogging The Institutes

Excerpts taken from Institutes of the Christian Religion (1541 Edition) by John Calvin

Translated by Robert White

Chapter 1: The Knowledge of God

Post#10 (Note: This post should’ve gone before post#9 but I goofed)

For God is made known to us in his works so that, when we feel their force within us and receive their benefits such knowledge should touch us more keenly than if we conceived of God as some airy being of whom we had no real experience. Accordingly, the proper way to seek God and the best way to proceed is to behold him in his works, for through them he becomes close and familiar to us, and indeed imparts something of himself.

 

This kind of knowledge should not only prompt us to know and serve God, but should also arouse and awaken us to the hope of the future life. For we perceive that the signs which God gives both of his goodness and severity are partial and only half complete: they are samples, as it were,of what will be fully and finally revealed on the appointed day. Moreover, since we see the good and the innocent bowed down with suffering, hurt by insults, wounded by slanders, enduring scorn and shame; and since on the other hand the wicked flourish, prosper, enjoy untroubled ease and esteem, we are led to conclude that there will be another life in which iniquity will be punished and righteousness rewarded.

Notice Calvin’s frequent use of the word should in the above two quotes. The knowledge He gives us in His works and the benefits we receive daily in His gracious provision should touch us deeply. It should motivate us to know and serve Him. It should give us hope for resurrection life. His use of should is intentional. Man should behold what he plainly does not. In the next section Calvin goes on to explain humanity’s blindness to God’s revelation in His works. This flaw is not one of design, meaning, God didn’t create man with an innate deficiency to prevent us from beholding His majesty. No, the failure to behold is ours. It is a moral failure and it is absolute. Sin’s grip never relaxes its hold on our souls. The blind cannot command themselves to see. The help must come from outside ourselves. Only God can restore sight to the sightless (Psalm 146:8).  Continue reading

Stumbling in the Dark


Blogging The Institutes

Excerpts taken from Institutes of the Christian Religion (1541 Edition) by John Calvin

Translated by Robert White

Chapter 1: The Knowledge of God

Post#9

Nevertheless, whatever light is kindled for us as we behold God’s works, our mind, in attempting to picture both him and his eternal kingdom, is so carnal that these very clear proofs convey no more to us about them than they do to the blind. When it comes to the structure of the whole wide world, how many of us lift our eyes heavenward? Or in surveying every country on earth, how many think to remember the Creator? And how many, ignoring the workman, look no further than the creature? As for what lies outside the ordinary course of nature, how many there are who only see chance at work, as it tosses and tumbles men about, instead of God’s providence which in fact governs them! And if, as inevitably happens to all men, we are sometimes forced to consider God’s role in all of this, we no sooner have a vague inkling of some deity or other than we return to the foolish notions of the flesh, and in our vanity we corrupt God’s pure truth.

This sphere of green and blue in which we exist tells us something about God. But most of the time we aren’t looking for the answers to the questions we aren’t asking. In my pre-conversion mind I thought little about God’s role in creation. Perhaps because that would force me to consider MY role in God’s creation. I didn’t want to be a character in someone else’s play. This is my story and I’ll write my own happy ending thank you very much. On the rare occasion that I would consider God, I imagined Him unconditionally benevolent, always smiling down on my silly antics. Without a deeper, more complete revelation (that I had no interest in discovering) I could not know the whole truth of His nature. Continue reading