Reformation Day 2011: “Abandon the Reformation, Abandon the Gospel”, M.Barrett

Abandon the Reformation, Abandon the Gospel – The Gospel Coalition Blog.

Today is Reformation Day 2011. On this date 494 years ago a German monk named Martin Luther posted 95 theses (statements) on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, calling for a public debate on the errors and abuses he was convinced the Roman Catholic Church was guilty of according to his study of the Word of God. That act is what is traditionally viewed as the spark that ignited the great Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, a church-changing and world-changing event.

 

Mathew Barrett at the Gospel Coalition wrote an excellent article last Friday (Oct.28) about the significance of the Reformation for the true gospel and its importance for the church today. He writes antithetically, defending the gospel against those modern heretics that downplay the Reformation and minimize the doctrine of justification by faith alone (such as “openness” theologian Clark Pinnock). Take the time to read this today; it will do your soul good. And as a true Protestant, reaffirm your faith commitment to this glorious gospel recovered by God’s grace in the 16th century.

 

After providing a wonderful summary of the history of Luther’s Protestant “progress”, Barrett wrote this:

 

Does Reformation theology matter today? Absolutely. It is tempting to think of the Reformation as a mere political or social movement. In reality, however, the Reformation was a fight over the gospel itself. The reformers argued that God’s free and gracious acceptance of guilty sinners on the basis of the work of Christ alone is at the heart of the gospel. While the political and social context has changed since the 16th century, nevertheless, this issue remains at the forefront. Much could be said as to why, but here are two reasons as to why the Reformation matters today.

First, for Luther justification by faith alone is the article by which the church stands or falls. Today, however, many question and outright reject the centrality of justification. Take the late Clark Pinnock, for example, who attributes Luther and subsequent Protestants’ hangup with justification to fear of a wrathful God. Consequently, Pinnock says, “the legal dimension has dominated our thinking about salvation” (Flame of Love, 155). While the legal dimension is important, it is “not necessarily the central motif.” Justification is just one step on the way to transformation. Therefore, it “is not the principal article of all Christian doctrine, as Luther claimed.”

What is Pinnock’s alternative proposal then? “Being saved is more like falling in love with God.” In fact, Pinnock says, “legal thinking  and the doctrine of justification are not as prominent in the Bible as we have made them.” And here is the kicker: “Luther’s rediscovery of justification was important for himself and for 16th-century reforms, but it is not as central for us, and not even for an astute interpretation of Paul’s theology.”

But God’s justification of the ungodly is at the very center of Paul theology (Rom. 4:5). This is why the gospel is such good news! The news is so good because not only has Christ died and risen again (Acts 2:22-36), but now we have the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). No wonder Paul can say that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek, for “in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Therefore, Luther’s awakening after reading Romans 1:17 was essentially a gospel awakening. To divorce justification from the gospel is to ignore our basic human predicament: how are we, as guilty sinners, to find favor before a holy God? Clearly this was the question in Paul’s mind when he concluded, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).

Second, there is a strong push in our present day either to return or join with Rome. The most notable example of returning in our present day is Francis J. Beckwith, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, who resigned from his presidency in 2007. While stating that he hopes his Catholic brothers will resist triumphalism, he unequivocally stated, “I, of course, believe that Catholicism is in fact true in all its dogmatic theology, including its views of scripture, ethics, church authority, ecumenical councils, etc.” (Return to Rome, 12).

Others argue that evangelicals and Catholics, while remaining distinct, can now join together in light of Evangelicals and Catholics Together, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, and the Joint Declaration on Justification. Many believe the rift between Protestants and Catholics has been at least substantially resolved. Hence Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom’s book, Is the Reformation Over?. (See Scott M. Mantesch, “Is the Reformation Over? John Calvin, Roman Catholicism, and Contemporary Ecumenical ConversationsThemelios, August 2011.)

But as Michael Horton has recently argued (and R. C. Sproul before him), the Reformation is far from over. “There has been no material change in the Roman Catholic position on the issues that led to the excommunication of the Reformers. Even the Joint Declaration overcame the central doctrine of controversy only by embracing a Roman Catholic definition of justification as forgiveness and actual transformation (i.e., sanctification).” Rome continues to reject the evangelical affirmation of justification by grace alone through faith alone. I agree with Horton when he states that it is not about Luther; it is about the gospel.

While many other challenges to Reformation theology could be identified, these two examples sufficiently demonstrate that Reformation theology continues to be at the center of discussion. Many younger evangelicals are embracing Reformation theology today. But the challenge we will face lies in how to defend Reformation theology to light of new ideologies that seek to undermine its credibility. I believe that the linchpin in the effort to defend and apply Reformation theology today can be found in the simple truth made so clear by Luther himself—namely, that the gospel itself is at stake, just as it was in the 16th century. To abandon Reformation theology is to abandon the gospel.

Nothing Like the Church

Nothing Like the Church by Robert Rayburn | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

For our last Monday feature from this month’s Tabletalk (Ligonier’s monthly devotional) I link you to a fine article written by pastor Robert Rayburn (Faith PCA in Tacoma, WA) under the rubric “For the Church”. Without hiding the sin and shame of the Christ’s visible church in the world, he also speaks of her greatness and glory – by grace and in Christ. Yesterday morning we heard a beautiful sermon on the church in my home congregation (Faith PRC), based on the Heidelberg Catechism’s treatment of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe an holy, catholic church, the communion of saints” (Lord’s Day 21). After reading this article and hearing this sermon, I was thankful all over again that Christ chose me to be a member of His body and placed me in her, where I (and you) find salvation, safety, and security. By His death and life “I am, and forever shall remain, a living member thereof.”

This is part of what Rayburn wrote. You will find the rest at the link above.

Surely Martin Luther was right to say that there is no greater sinner than the church. It was, after all, the professed church that crucified the Lord of glory. Impossible as it seems, she was so theologically and spiritually corrupt that she thought she was serving God by putting the Son of God to death. And in the same blindness and stupidity, she has done similar things times without number. She has forsaken the Word of God and put obstacles in the way of her people’s reverence for the Bible; she has made peace with the unbelieving world around her; and she has persecuted those who have had the temerity to draw attention to her infidelity. It is one of the deep mysteries of divine providence that the visible church of the Lord Jesus Christ is not more impressive than she is.

It takes faith to love, admire, and respect the church. Her sins mount up before our eyes. But faith knows that the church’s failures are hardly the whole story. Augustine once said in a sermon that he had nowhere found better men and nowhere found worse than in monasteries. The same is true of the church at large, where despicable traitors and sterling saints jostle together. For all her failures — and they make for dismal reading — there is nothing like her in the world. As Archbishop William Temple once observed, the church is “the only cooperative society in the world that exists for the benefit of its non-members.” The church has done great things for the world. Anyone who reads church history knows how many exceptional people have belonged to her through the ages. The church’s hall of heroes must be very large indeed to have room for all who deserve to be remembered there. In addition, there are vast multitudes of simple people who lived in obscurity but who loved the Lord and lived lives of genuine faithfulness. Heaven knows their worth.

What Blaise Pascal said of the Word of God could just as well be said of the church of Jesus Christ: “There is enough brightness to illuminate the elect, and enough obscurity to humble them.” But then, we do not have to prove the church’s worth. The Lord Jesus has already done that by telling us that the church is His body, that He loved the church and gave Himself for her, that she is His bride, that He is head over all things for the church, and that He will not permit the gates of hell to prevail against her. Christians are duty-bound to think about things as their Lord and Savior does, and He has told us that the church is and remains the apple of His eye.

We must remember that there is but one institution in this world that will also exist in the world to come. It is not one’s country; it is not even one’s family. It is the church of God. It is disloyalty to Christ not to revere, serve, and prove loyal to His kingdom, His house, and His body, which is to say, His church.

Battle Hymn of the Reformation

Battle Hymn of the Reformation – YouTube.

And for our music meditation today, what better song than the great “Battle Hymn of the Reformation”, Martin Luther’s great hymn based on Psalm 46, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”! This is a great video not only because of the music but also because of the pictures of Reformation sites and personages. Enjoy – and give thanks to God for our glorious heritage of the gospel restored!

J.Calvin on Psalm 53:6

The great and godly Reformer, John Calvin, gives us words for further meditation when he comments on v.6 of Psalm 53 in this way:

When he asks the question, Who shall give salvation? this does not imply, that he was looking either to the right hand or to the left, or that he turned away his eyes from God in search of another deliverer; he intends only to express the ardor of his desire, as if he had said, When will the time at length come when God will display his salvation, and make it fully manifest? By the word Sion, which he adds, he testifies that his hope is fixed on God; for Sion was the holy place from which God had promised to hear the prayers of his servants; and it was the dwelling-place of the ark of the covenant, which was an external pledge and symbol of the presence of God. He does not, therefore, doubt who would be the author of his salvation; but he asks, with a sorrowful heart, when at length that salvation will come forth which is to be expected from no other source than from God alone. The question may, however, be put, if this prayer refers to the time of Saul, how can Sion, with propriety, be named as being already the sanctuary of God? I will not deny that the Psalmist, by the spirit of prophecy, may have predicted what had not yet actually taken place; but I think it highly probable, that this psalm was not composed until the ark of the covenant had been placed on mount Sion. David, as we know, employed his leisure hours in committing to writing, for the benefit of posterity, events which had happened long before. Besides, by expressing his desire for the deliverance of Israel, we are taught that he was chiefly anxious about the welfare of the whole body of the Church, and that his thoughts were more occupied about this than about himself individually. This is worthy of being the more carefully marked when we consider, that, while our attention is engrossed with our own particular sorrows, we are in danger of almost entirely neglecting the welfare of our brethren. And yet the particular afflictions with which God visits each of us are intended to admonish us to direct our attention and care to the whole body of the Church, and to think of its necessities, just as we see David here including Israel with himself.

 

Psalm 53 – Sunday Worship Preparation

Today as we seek to draw near to our covenant Father in spiritual worship and saving fellowship, we consider together Psalm 53, another Psalm of David, the “sweet psalmist of Israel”. With minor differences, Psalm 58 parallels Psalm 14. Both describe the sinful corruption and destructive end of the fool who denies God. The very God depraved men deny looks down from heaven and passes His judgment on them:

 

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.

2God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God.

3Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

4Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread: they have not called upon God.

5There were they in great fear, where no fear was: for God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee: thou hast put them to shame, because God hath despised them.

 

Here is God’s Word on man’s total depravity and utter corruption, apart from the saving work of Christ for him and in him by sovereign grace. This Paul demonstrates by referring to these psalms in Romans 3:9ff. This means that we sinners are wholly lost in ourselves and cannot (and do not!) seek God or call on Him for deliverance by any power of our mind or will. As such we sinners only deserve to be damned and destroyed in the fires of everlasting hell. Where then does salvation come from? David points to this too:

 

6Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When God bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.

 

 

Yes, salvation must come and does come only from the Lord God of Israel! And out of Zion, where God is revealed in Christ through the preaching of the gospel of grace! That was evident from Israel’s own history as well as from the life of David. It was for this reason and purpose that God sent His only begotten Son into the world. And why He suffered on died on the cross and rose again from the dead. Sovereign grace alone has saved us from our sinfulness and damnation! As we come before God in worship this morning, this is what we must be conscious of and confess. Of myself I am a vile, God-denying fool. But God saved me through Christ in pure grace! That is why we come into His presence, not in the fear of the fool, but in the fear of the saved! And we seek our God and call upon Him in that godly fear, with humble thanks and hearty praise. May the Spirit of Christ fill us with such God-fearing worship this day.

Halloween’s Pagan Themes Fill West’s Faith Vacuum

Halloween’s Pagan Themes Fill West’s Faith Vacuum: Amity Shlaes – Bloomberg.

This is a fascinating article on Halloween and why it has become such a popular “holiday” in this country according to the writer, Amity Shlaes and published in the Bloomberg Report Oct.19, 2011. She begins with some statistics about Halloween that are astounding:

Seems like Americans just want it to be Halloween all year. The holiday just keeps getting more popular. Seven in 10 expect to celebrate it in some way this Oct. 31, up from about six in 10 last year, according to a National Retail Federation report.

This is the most in the nine years the NRF has been tracking. In 2011, Americans are also planning to spend more than other years, an average of $72 each. Total outlays by consumers are expected to reach $6.86 billion this fall.

Why the surge in popularity for an ancient harvest ritual? Some of the factors that account for it are as harmless and loveable as a new 12-pound pumpkin from the farm. Others have the capacity to spook.

But then she gets into some of the reasons for its popularity, and this is what I found especially interesting – and revealing about our modern culture and its craving for the “religious”, albeit pagan and idolatrous:

Unmask Halloween, however, and you’ll also find some disconcerting features. Christmas and Easter may be secularized these days, relative to their past, but they remain Christian holidays. People value Halloween, like Valentine’s Day, because they can tell themselves that it’s not merely secularized but actually secular, which is to say, not Christian, Jewish, Hindu or Muslim.

The Living Dead

But as much as we’d like it to be, Halloween isn’t secular. It is pagan. There’s nothing else to call a set of ceremonies in which people utter magical phrases, flirt with the night and evoke the dead. One of my family’s favorite Halloween props was a hand that moved, as though from the netherworld, when you reached to collect a few pieces of candy corn. Necromancy is a regular part of Halloween games. Zombie masks are one of this year’s top- sellers. As grouchy theologians used to point out, the origin of Halloween was most likely Samhain, an ancient Celtic holiday on which the dead, in some accounts, supposedly returned to visit.

Modern Myths

There’s a reason for the pull of the pagan. In the U.S., we’ve been vigorously scrubbing our schools and other public spaces of traces of monotheistic religion for many decades now. Such scrubbing leaves a vacuum. The great self-deception of modern life is that nothing will be pulled into that vacuum. Half a century ago, the psychologist Carl Jung noted the heightened interest in UFOs, and concluded that the paranormal was “modern myth,” a replacement for religion.

Children or adults who today relish every detail of zombie culture or know every bit of wizarding minutiae are seeking something to believe in. That church, mosque and synagogue are so controversial that everyone prefers the paranormal as neutral ground is disconcerting. There’s something unsettling about the education of a child who comfortably enumerates the rules for surviving zombie apocalypse but finds it uncomfortable to enumerate the rules of his grandparents’ faith, if he knows them.

Still want to call Halloween harmless and innocent? Why would Christian parents want to involve their children in these vain superstitious traditions? Why would Reformed-Christian young adults want to attend Halloween parties? Are we not called here too to be antithetical – children of the light standing against the children of darkness? Think about it. In the light of God’s Word. As true children of the Reformation.

Steve Jobs: “He Knew the Couple of Things He Wanted to Do”

Steve Jobs: “He Knew the Couple of Things He Wanted to Do” – Desiring God.

 

There are indeed lessons to be learned from the death of a prominent man in our culture, even if he was an unbeliever. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple and inventor of so many tech products we use (IPod, IPhone, IPad), continues to be much in the news. And a new biography is out on him as well. “Desiring God” carried this brief note by pastor John Piper on its blog this past Tuesday. It speaks to the differing worldviews we have as Christians from the world, and how that affects our work. May we also learn from the “house of mourning” of Job’s death.

Wisdom in the House of Mourning

I just preached at a funeral. Funerals are high privileges for me. “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). So much wisdom is to be had there. “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). This is what the house of mourning is for: Lessons in mortality and the learning of wisdom.

Sometimes God makes us go to the house of mourning. He decrees cancer. We are forced to live in the shadow of our funeral—the school of wisdom.

The wisdom Steve Jobs learned, he said, was this: Do a couple things, and do them well. You don’t have time for much. And most things are not lasting. So do two or three things, and do them amazingly.

Not a bad lesson. In fact, really good—as far as it goes.

What Matters Is United in One Thing

But when Paul described what he learned in the long shadow of his own funeral, it was based not merely on the inevitability of death, but on the death of death. “Death is swallowed up in victory”—through Jesus Christ.

Here’s the lesson: “Therefore, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

There is one thing, not two or three, that matters. All is united in one thing: “The work of the Lord.” It might be computers. It might be conversions. Whatever it is, in the shadow of your funeral, let it be “the work of the Lord.”

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). “Whatever you do, do everything in the name of the Lord” (Colossians 3:17). By faith in Jesus, every act becomes this one thing—the work of the Lord.

Let Us Learn

Get the wisdom of the house of mourning. Learn from the shadow of your own funeral. One thing matters. Whether you make an iPhone, or use an iPhone, let every breath, every thought, every deed be one thing—the “work of faith”—the work of the Lord.

 

Northern Lights in Michigan

Northern Lights of October 24, 2011 in Michigan.

Our features for this Friday, as you can tell, are on creation, God’s “most elegant book”, to use the words of the Belgic Confession. These spectacular pictures of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) over Lake Superior in the UP of Michigan were taken this past Monday night, Oct.24, 2011. I understand that they were visible throughout Michigan that night, and I missed them entirely! In any case, this photographer captured the sky that night with these digital shots. These photos of the sky that night show forth the glory of our Lord, who was painting the sky with His almighty brushstrokes. Stand in awe of His handiwork!

 

Click on the link above to see the photos.

Published in: on October 28, 2011 at 12:34 PM  Leave a Comment  

Amazing Amazonia!

Amazing Amazonia: Amazon Rainforest [46 Pics].

Tim Challies had a link to these amazing pictures of the Amazon river and rainforest. As in all parts of His creation, God’s mind and finger are stamped all over these pictures. For after all, “The earth is the LORD’s and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.” Ps.24:1-2

This is how the pictures are on introduced on the site:

The “lungs of our planet” have been attributed to the Amazon rainforest, also known as Amazonia. This Amazon jungle, or the Amazon basin in South America, covers over 1.7 billion acres acres (7,000,000 square kilometers); the actual tropical rainforest is spread over 1.4 billion acres and 9 countries: Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. 60% of the Amazon jungle is contained within Brazil. The Amazon represents over half the remaining rainforests worldwide and contains the largest and most species-rich tropical forest system on our planet. Amazonia grew around the Amazon River which is the longest river, the largest river, and the basin has the largest area in the world. The Amazon River has total flow greater than the top ten world’s rivers combined. The biodiversity of this wet tropical forest could boggle the brain; one in ten animal species lives here and it is the largest collection of living plants on the globe . . . and much of the Amazon is still unexplored.

Click on the link above to view the pictures.

Published in: on October 28, 2011 at 12:23 PM  Leave a Comment  

Rome and Indulgences: Reformation Reminders

Vatican II Reformation Reminders | The Cripplegate.

Think Luther would not need to post his 95 theses today if he were alive? Think Rome has changed on some issues basic to the Reformation of the 16th century? A few days ago I referenced an article on “Ref21″ about the fact that Rome has not changed with regard to her teaching on purgatory. This blog post from “The Cripplegate” (Oct.24, 2011) will remind us Protestants that Rome has also not changed with regard to her teaching on indulgences (and the two are inseparable). Yes, Rome may have “re-packaged” her positions since Vatican II, but our controversy with her remains. That’s why we remain Protestants – and Reformed – according to the Word of God!

Here is part of what was posted; read the rest at the link above.

With Reformation  Day looming, it behooves us to ask WWLD today? If Luther were alive right now, would he still be agitated enough to post 95 Thesis on a blog? I’ve encountered a sentiment among modern Protestants that of course the Reformation was necessary, since the Catholic Church of Martin Luther’s day has degenerated into a false religion. But today Catholics don’t believe all those erstwhile wacky “coin in the coffer” things that Tetsel was on about. From October 1962 until December 1965, the Second Vatican Council was held to address the Catholic Church’s relationship to the Modern world (read: update God’s revelation to deal with the Pill, etc.) The authority of the documents published by this council—known in Catholic shorthand as “Vatican II”—are considered to be on par with Scripture. This would have been an ideal time to rectify some of the issues Luther had with his mother church. To help you decide if Protestantism is pertinacious or passé, I offer a few passages from the horse’s own vocal chords for your consideration.

Exhibit A: The section titled, “Apostolic Constitutions on the Revision of Indulgences” was dated 1 January 1967. This would be the most opportune place to denounce the crass practice of indulgences (manmade ways of expiating sin) which was addressed by Luther’s first thesis. Instead Pope Paul VI subtitles the first chapter “Indulgence are Founded in Divine Revelation” and writes, “If we wish to understand exactly the doctrine of indulgences and its benefits in practice, we must remember truths which the whole Church, enlightened by God’s word, has always believed. These truths have been taught by the bishops, who are the successors of the apostles…throughout the centuries to this day.” (Sect 6, chapt 1, para 1).

He goes on to explain, “Sins must be expiated. This may be done on this earth through the sorrows, miseries, trials of this life and, above all, through death. Otherwise the expiation must be made in the next life through fire and torments or purifying punishments… The doctrine of purgatory clearly demonstrates that even when the guilt of sin has been taken away, punishment for it or the consequences of it may remain to be expiated or cleansed. They often are. In fact, in purgatory the souls of those who died in the charity of God and truly repentant, but who had not made satisfaction with adequate penance for their sins and omissions are cleansed after death with punishments designed to purge their debt.”( (Sect 6, chapt 1, para 3).

Published in: on October 27, 2011 at 1:59 PM  Leave a Comment  
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