Reformation Day Book Sales

Reformation-GeneralWith Reformation Day being commemorated this week (Friday, October 31, 2014), we can highlight a few special book sales being held online at present. Click on the links below to find the deals.

  1. Banner of Truth – Calvin’s Tracts and Treatises, Knox items, etc.
  2. Reformation Heritage Books – I haven’t seen a special notice for Reformation Day as yet, but I link to their history page(s), on which you will find plenty of good titles. P.S. I no sooner sent this, checked my email, and there was a special Reformation flyer from RHB. Here’s the link.
  3. Zondervan Academic – These are some good ebook deals on some newer titles that may be of interest.
  4. Grace & Truth Books – A great place to go for books for the family, including children and young people. The link is to their Reformation history section.
  5. Monergism – Always plenty of free materials on Reformation persons and subjects – there are plenty of places to go on their website, but we have highlighted the Calvin section.
  6. RFPA - I have highlighted the church history section here. P.S. And now we can add this special Reformation note from the RFPA.

Tolle lege! Take up and read! :)

Word Wednesday – “Semper Reformanda”

Last year for our “Word Wednesday” feature during Reformation week we focused on one Reformation motto in Latin: post tenebras lux.

semper reformandaThis year let’s consider another familiar one: semper reformanda. The meaning simply is: “always reforming”. We may know it more fully by the statement, “Reformed and always reforming.”

This important motto refers to the fact that every truly Reformed church will always be a reforming church, that is, a body of believers who are constantly striving to ensure that she remains faithful to the Word of God on which her faith, life, and worship are based. After all, that’s what the Re-formation was about – the re-forming of the church according to the Scriptures, as the church’s only authority (sola Scriptura!). And, after all, that’s what it means to be – and stay! – Reformed: always to be conforming to the Bible’s teachings with regard to doctrine, walk of life, and worship practices.

If you wish to explore this motto and subject further, I can point you to a couple of places:

  • This 2009 Tabletalk article by Michael Horton under the title “Semper Reformanda”.
  • This 1981 Standard Bearer article (actually, there are three of them) by Herman Hanko, which is the text of a Reformation Day lecture he gave in Hudsonville PRC on Oct.30, 1980. Here is part of what Prof.Hanko said that night at the beginning of his lecture:

When we give to our churches the name Reformed, we mean that we want our spiritual lineage to be traced back to that mighty event: We want to claim Luther and Calvin and the other Reformers as our spiritual fathers. Once a year on Reformation Day we look back to that event which happened over 450 years ago and point to it with thankfulness to God and say to others and to ourselves, “That event belongs to our history as Reformed churches.”

But there is surely more. When we call ourselves Reformed, we insist that we are re-formed. And we are not only re-formed because 450 years ago the church was re-formed by the hand of God, but we are re-formed and, therefore, Reformed because reformation is always, in every moment of the church’s life, the calling of the church of Jesus Christ. That is why a motto of the Reformed Churches for the last 450 years has been: “Reformed, yet always reforming.” By this motto our fathers meant to emphasize that it is the essential mark of being Reformed that the church is always reforming. The two go together and are inseparably connected. You cannot, says this motto, claim to be Reformed unless you are a church always reforming. The one mark, which clearly marks churches that belong to the Reformation is the mark of continuous reformation within her own ecclesiastical life.

That is the question, therefore, that faces us tonight. Are we as a church always reforming? This is a question which faces all of us.

And, I might add, still a question worth considering. This week of marking the great Reformation. And in all the days ahead. How “Reformed” are we, really?

Augustine: Preacher, Exegete, Biblical Apologist

SB-Oct15-2014-AugustineSuch is the title of the article penned by Missionary-pastor M.McGeown in the recent special issue of the Standard Bearer (Oct.15, 2014), marking the life, work, and writings of the great church father Agustine (AD 354-430). Last week we called attention to a sermon by Augustine; today we highlight his relation to the Scriptures.

This is part of what Rev.McGeown has to say about Augustine as a biblical preacher and expositor (emphases are mine):

From the beginning of his Christian pilgrimage, when, as a young man, he heard the call, Tolle lege, tolle lege (“Take up and read”), and his eyes lighted on Romans 13:12-14, until the end of his life, when, on his deathbed, he asked that the penitential psalms be written out for him, so that he might read and mediate on them, Augustine loved the Scriptures. As bishop of Hippo, Augustine aimed to preach biblical sermons, and, as a writer, Augustine saturated his treatises and letters with quotations from the Bible.

Augustine was also a churchman, one who loved the church, one who pursued his theological studies in the church and for the sake of the church, and one who revered the tradition of the church, developing that tradition and defending it against heretics, both inside and outside the church.

…There can be no doubt that Augustine the preacher—with the other church fathers—revered Scripture. For Augustine, Scripture was the very Word of God. Quotations could be multiplied, but, in the interests of space, we offer only one. In a letter to Jerome, Augustine writes, “I have learned to do only those books that are called the Holy Scriptures the honor of believing firmly that none of their writers have ever erred. All others I so read as not to hold what they say to be truth unless they prove it to me by Holy Scripture or clear reason.”[1]

 Augustine was not content merely to admire the Bible. He labored to expound the Bible. Marveling at the detail of Augustine’s exegesis in his commentaries and sermons, one scholar writes, “Augustine finds a great deal in his chosen texts—partly because, being thoroughly convinced of their divine authority, he expects to find a great deal in them.”[2]

[1] Cited in A. Skevington Wood, Captive to the Word: Martin Luther, Doctor of Sacred Scripture (Exeter: The Paternoster Press, 1969), 125.

[2] Thomas Williams, “Biblical Interpretation” in The Cambridge Companion to Augustine (eds. Eleonore Stump and Norman Kretzmann (Cambridge: [Cambridge Companions Online] Cambridge University Press, 2006), 60.

To learn more about this special Reformation issue of the “SB”, visit this page. To receive this issue or to subscribe to the “SB”, visit its homepage.

Faith and Works – Biblical Dichotomies – Cornelis Venema

Faith and Works by Cornelis Venema | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-Oct 2014The final article on “Biblical Dichotomies” featured in  this month’s Tabletalk (Be aware, I have not referenced them all here.) is by Dr.Cornelis Venema (Mid-America Reformed Seminary) and titled “Faith and Works” – an important subject to every Protestant, especially in this time of year (Oct.31, Reformation Day).

In light of the historic significance of these two words, Venema carefully distinguishes yet relates these two concepts in Scripture. This is a “good read” this week as we recall the Lord’s work in leading His church to a recovery of the heart of the gospel, justification by faith alone.

I give you a small portion of his article here, encouraging you to read the rest of it at the Ligonier link above.

In these verses (Romans 3:19-21 – cjt), the Apostle paints a remarkable portrait of all sinners in the presence of God’s judgment seat. In the whole world, no one can be found who, by the standard of perfect obedience that the law requires, is able to offer a case upon the basis of their works that would exonerate them from God’s condemnation. Left to themselves, all sinners must acquiesce to the sentence of condemnation and death. This is what we deserve from God, and none of us can speak a word in our defense that would establish our innocence. Nothing sinners have done or will do could possibly warrant the pronouncement of their righteousness before God.

And yet, the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that God justifies—declares righteous—those who embrace the gospel promise by faith alone. Out of sheer grace, God the Father grants and imputes to believers the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Through faith, believers are united to Christ and become partakers of Christ’s righteousness, which consists in His perfect obedience to all that the law of God requires and in His substitutionary endurance of the law’s penalty in the atonement.

When it comes to the believer’s justification, faith is the exclusive instrument that finds in Christ and in His saving work a full and complete satisfaction of all of the requirements of the law. Faith is not a human achievement, but the end of all boasting before God (Eph. 2:9). For this reason, John Calvin speaks of faith as a “passive” reception of what Christ has done to secure the believer’s right standing and acceptance before God. Calvin adds that faith is like an “empty vase” that is filled with the righteousness of Christ as the only ground of the believer’s right standing before God and inheritance of eternal life. When faith sings, it always sings of Christ alone: “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.”

The Reformation and the Men Behind It – Steven Lawson

The Reformation and the Men Behind It by Steven Lawson | Ligonier Ministries Blog.

Reformation-GeneralStarting today and leading up to Reformation Day (Oct.31, 2014) Ligonier Ministries will be blogging about the key figures of the Reformation. These posts will contain excerpts from Dr.Steve Lawson’s book Pillars of Grace: A Long Line of Godly Men (Reformation Trust, 2011).

Today’s post introduces us to the Reformation and its leading figures. Below is the first part of this excerpt. Find the rest at the Ligonier link above.

The Protestant Reformation stands as the most far-reaching, world-changing display of God’s grace since the birth and early expansion of the church. It was not a single act, nor was it led by one man. This history-altering movement played out on different stages over many decades. Its cumulative impact, however, was enormous. Philip Schaff, a noted church historian, writes: “The Reformation of the sixteenth century is, next to the introduction of Christianity, the greatest event in history. It marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern times. Starting from religion, it gave, directly or indirectly, a mighty impulse to every forward movement, and made Protestantism the chief propelling force in the history of modern civilization” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. VII: Modern Christianity—The German Reformation [1910; repr., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980], 1). The Reformation was, at its heart, a recovery of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and this restoration had an unparalleled influence on churches, nations, and the flow of Western civilization.

Also, if you are looking for some good titles for reading and to add to your personal or family library, I can recommend the people at “Grace & Truth Books”. The link will take you to their Reformation section, where they have a number of good books at special prices, including books for young readers.

Koinonia: Why Study Biblical Hebrew? Neglect the Languages, Lose the Gospel, Says Luther!

Koinonia: Why Study Biblical Hebrew? Neglect the Languages, Lose the Gospel, Says Luther!.

MLutherPicWith the opening of Seminary classes less than a week away now (next Monday, August 25 for registration and Tuesday, August 26 for actual classes) and students returning for grueling Greek and Hebrew sessions, I found this article on the Koinonia website interesting (other than its lousy reference to “common” grace!).

Jeremy Bouma – turning to the wisdom of Martin Luther – highlights why it is necessary for students to learn the original languges. The quote from Luther is worth the look (see below), but the rest is profitable too.

Here’s the opening part with some vintage Luther; find the rest at the “Koinonia” link above (or below):

In a week Hebrew and Greek professors will be confronted with that perennial one word question:

Why?

Why study the original biblical languages?

The Reformation reminds us why. “Ad fontes!”—To the fountains, or sources!—was their battle cry for a reason. For it was when Reformation Europe rediscovered the ancient languages that the Bible’s impact as a shaping force accelerated.

In fact, after his conversion, Martin Luther was convinced that “we will not long preserve the gospel without the languages.” He goes on:

The languages are the sheath in which this sword of the Spirit is contained; they are the casket in which this jewel is enshrined; they are the vessel in which this wine is held; they are the larder in which this food is stored; and, as the gospel itself points out, they are the baskets in which are kept these loaves and fishes and fragments. If through our neglect we let the languages go (which God forbid!), we shall…lose the gospel… (emphasis added, 120)

Gary Pratico and Miles Van Pelt highlight Luther’s convictions in Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar. In addition to teaching the language itself, they provide inspiring insights in the importance of studying the biblical language.

I often need to be reminded how crucial this is for my vocation. Today brother Luther provides five insights into why the languages are vital, not only for our profession, but for the gospel itself.

- See more at: http://www.koinoniablog.net/2014/08/why-study-biblical-hebrew-neglect-the-languages-lose-the-gospel-says-luther.html?

In a week Hebrew and Greek professors will be confronted with that perennial one word question:

Why?

Why study the original biblical languages?

The Reformation reminds us why. “Ad fontes!”—To the fountains, or sources!—was their battle cry for a reason. For it was when Reformation Europe rediscovered the ancient languages that the Bible’s impact as a shaping force accelerated.

In fact, after his conversion, Martin Luther was convinced that “we will not long preserve the gospel without the languages.” He goes on:

The languages are the sheath in which this sword of the Spirit is contained; they are the casket in which this jewel is enshrined; they are the vessel in which this wine is held; they are the larder in which this food is stored; and, as the gospel itself points out, they are the baskets in which are kept these loaves and fishes and fragments. If through our neglect we let the languages go (which God forbid!), we shall…lose the gospel… (emphasis added, 120)

Gary Pratico and Miles Van Pelt highlight Luther’s convictions in Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar. In addition to teaching the language itself, they provide inspiring insights in the importance of studying the biblical language.

I often need to be reminded how crucial this is for my vocation. Today brother Luther provides five insights into why the languages are vital, not only for our profession, but for the gospel itself.

- See more at: http://www.koinoniablog.net/2014/08/why-study-biblical-hebrew-neglect-the-languages-lose-the-gospel-says-luther.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+typepad%2FpQHu+%28Koinonia%29#sthash.O3I0sGt2.dpuf

In a week Hebrew and Greek professors will be confronted with that perennial one word question:

Why?

Why study the original biblical languages?

The Reformation reminds us why. “Ad fontes!”—To the fountains, or sources!—was their battle cry for a reason. For it was when Reformation Europe rediscovered the ancient languages that the Bible’s impact as a shaping force accelerated.

In fact, after his conversion, Martin Luther was convinced that “we will not long preserve the gospel without the languages.” He goes on:

The languages are the sheath in which this sword of the Spirit is contained; they are the casket in which this jewel is enshrined; they are the vessel in which this wine is held; they are the larder in which this food is stored; and, as the gospel itself points out, they are the baskets in which are kept these loaves and fishes and fragments. If through our neglect we let the languages go (which God forbid!), we shall…lose the gospel… (emphasis added, 120)

Gary Pratico and Miles Van Pelt highlight Luther’s convictions in Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar. In addition to teaching the language itself, they provide inspiring insights in the importance of studying the biblical language.

I often need to be reminded how crucial this is for my vocation. Today brother Luther provides five insights into why the languages are vital, not only for our profession, but for the gospel itself.

- See more at: http://www.koinoniablog.net/2014/08/why-study-biblical-hebrew-neglect-the-languages-lose-the-gospel-says-luther.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+typepad%2FpQHu+%28Koinonia%29#sthash.O3I0sGt2.dpuf

Ordinary Christian Work – Tim Challies

Ordinary Christian Work by Tim Challies | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-August 2014As we noted last week when we introduced the August issue of Tabletalk, the featured articles all cover the theme of “the ordinary Christian life”.

Pastor Tim Challies wrote the second main article on the ordinary Christian and his work, and it is a fine summary of how believers ought to view and carry out their daily labors in Christ’s kingdom.

If you are feeling down and discouraged because you judge your work doesn’t matter or is too insignificant, read this to refresh your soul and strengthen your hands for extra-ordinary service! This is a must read as we start the work-week!

I give you a snapshot of Challies’ article here. Read the rest at this Ligonier link (or the one above):

Of the many legacies of the Protestant Reformation, few have had greater and wider-reaching impact than the rediscovery of the biblical understanding of vocation. Before the Reformation, the only people with a vocation or calling were those who were engaged in full-time church work—monks, nuns, or priests. As Gene Veith writes in God at Work:

The ordinary occupations of life—being a peasant farmer or kitchen maid, making tools or clothing, being a soldier or even king—were acknowledged as necessary but worldly. Such people could be saved, but they were mired in the world. To serve God fully, to live a life that is truly spiritual, required a full-time commitment.

As the Reformers looked past uninspired traditions in their return to the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word, they found that full-time ministry was a vocation, but it was by no means the only vocation. They saw that each of us has a vocation and that each vocation has dignity and value in the eyes of the Lord. We can all honor God in the work we do.

Yet that old tradition is never far off, and if we do not constantly return to God’s Word and allow it to correct us, we will soon drift back.

J.Wycliffe, the Morning Star of the Reformation – Stephen Nichols

The Morning Star of the Reformation by Stephen Nichols | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-July 2014The July issue of Tabletalk focuses on the history of the church during the 14th century, as we noted a week ago. When we introduced this issue, we also pointed you to the opening article on this theme, in which Dr.N.Needham gives a wide view of this period.

In the second main feature article, Dr. Stephen J.Nichols provides a more focused presentation of a significant figure from this period of church history, namely, John Wycliffe, under the above-linked title.

His article is a great survey of Wycliffe’s person and work, and shows why he is called the “morning star of the Reformation”. If you have forgotten who this man was and why his work is so important to the church of Jesus Christ, this is a great way to refresh yourself in getting better acquainted with Wycliffe.

I give you the beginning of Nichols’ piece here. Find all of it at this link (or the one above).

He had been dead and buried for a few decades, but the church wanted to make a point. His remains were exhumed and burned, a fitting end for the “heretic” John Wycliffe. Wycliffe once explained what the letters in the title CARDINAL really mean: “Captain of the Apostates of the Realm of the Devil, Impudent and Nefarious Ally of Lucifer.” And with that, Wycliffe was only getting started.

Wycliffe rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation, which states that the elements of the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper become the actual body and blood of Christ. He was against priestly absolution, he spoke out against indulgences, and he denied the doctrine of purgatory. He rejected papal authority. Instead, he asserted that Christ is the head of the church. And he had a profound belief in the inerrancy and absolute authority of Scripture. He fully believed that the church of his day had lost its way. Scripture alone provided the only way back. Now we see why the medieval Roman Church wanted to make a statement against Wycliffe.

John Wycliffe has often been called “the Morning Star of the Reformation.” Jan Hus, another pre-Reformation reformer, felt obliged to express his supreme debt to Wycliffe. And though he lived long after Wycliffe’s death, Martin Luther, too, felt an obligation to recognize the pioneering reforms of John Wycliffe. Luther stood on the shoulders of Hus, who stood on the shoulders of Wycliffe. Hus, Luther, and the other Reformers were indebted to him. So are we. Wycliffe was indeed “the Morning Star of the Reformation.”

Dr. Stephen J. Nichols is president of Reformation Bible College, chief academic officer for Ligonier Ministries, and a Ligonier teaching fellow. He is author of several books and teaches on the podcast 5 Minutes in Church History.

July “Tabletalk”: Wycliffe and the Dawn of the Reformation

Forerunner of the Reformation by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-July 2014With the start of a new month it is time to introduce the July 2014 issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional magazine. This month’s issue returns to and continues the church history theme, with the focus on the 14th century and the “Dawn of the Reformation” (Note: “TT” has been gradually covering the major centuries of church history for several years now.).

Editor Burk Parsons introduces this theme with the above-linked article. We pull a few lines from it and encourage you to read the rest. And while you are at it, you should read the excellent overview of major events/trends in the church of the 14th century by Dr.Nicholas R. Needham. His article is titled “The Fourteenth Century” and is found at the link provided here.

Here then, are a few of Parsons’ introductory notes to the July “TT”:

John Wycliffe was the morning star of the Reformation. He was a protestant and a reformer more than a century before Martin Luther ignited the Protestant Reformation in 1517. Through Wycliffe, God planted the seeds of the Reformation, He watered the seeds through John Hus, and He brought the flower of the Reformation to bloom through Martin Luther. The seed of the flower of the German Augustinian monk Luther’s 95 theses was planted by the English scholar and churchman John Wycliffe.

…Wycliffe was committed to the authority and inspiration of Holy Scripture, declaring, “Holy Scripture is the highest authority for every believer, the standard of faith and the foundation for reform in religious, political and social life … in itself it is perfectly sufficient for salvation, without the addition of customs or traditions.” As such, Wycliffe oversaw the translation of the Bible from Latin into the English vernacular. This was a radical undertaking, and it was against the express mandate of the papacy. His understanding of Scripture naturally led to his understanding of justification by faith alone, as he declared, “Trust wholly in Christ. Rely altogether on his sufferings. Beware of seeking to be justified in any other way than by his righteousness. Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient for salvation.”

In the fourteenth century, at the dawn of the Reformation, Wycliffe shone as a burning and shining light of gospel truth, and his doctrine mirrored his life as one who lived by God’s grace and before God’s face, coram Deo, and for God’s glory. Soli Deo gloria.

Also, as noted before, the daily devotions in this month’s issue continue in the book of Romans, with the starting point in that significant chapter of Romans 9.

The History of Psalm-Singing (5) – Rev.B.Huizinga

SB-Psalm Issue-April 1-2014_Page_1As noted here previously, the April 1 issue of The Standard Bearer is a special issue devoted to the subject of psalm-singing. Included in this issue is an article on the history of psalm-singing in the church at large by Rev.Brian Huizinga, titled “Through Endless Ages Sound His Praise: The History of Psalm-Singing in the Church”.

We began referencing this article back on April 7 and then did so again on April 28, May 6, and May 12.

Now today we go on to the next section, covering the period of the Reformation. “Through Endless Ages Sound His Praise” is not only informative but also inspiring. And I hope by quoting from it, it will also be the same for you.

The Age of the Great Reformation

Powerfully moved by the Word of God and by singing, Martin Luther worked tirelessly to restore congregational singing so that all could sound Jehovah’s praise.  However, it was especially John Calvin who labored to restore to psalmody its unrivaled place in worship.

Banished from Geneva in 1538 over certain liturgical practices to which he would not submit, Calvin later conceded on many issues in which he had mistakenly been too rigid.  Instituting psalm-singing in Geneva was not one of them.  It was a sine qua non of his return to Geneva.[1]   Thus, while pastoring a French-speaking congregation in Strasbourg with no French Psalter available, Calvin began working to produce a Psalter.  He recruited the skilled Clement Marot, and later Louise Bourgeois and Theodore Beza, to produce what became the Genevan Psalter.  It was first printed in 1542 after Calvin had returned to Geneva, and the final edition appeared in 1562.  No Psalter was so widely popular and oft-translated.

The Genevan Psalter was well-used, especially on Sunday, and in church.  For example, in Geneva:

The Lord’s Day was a special time for psalm-singing.  Before each service, the churches would post on their doors what psalms would be sung.  Devoted families would send a family member to check the numbers posted and the entire family would practice singing those psalms before each service.  Also, between the Lord’s Day services, people were encouraged to sing psalms.[2]

 

In his “Preface to the Psalter,” Calvin expressed his conviction regarding congregational psalmody,

Moreover, that which St. Augustine has said is true, that no one is able to sing things worthy of God except that which he has received from Him.  Therefore, when we have looked thoroughly, and searched here and there, we shall not find better songs nor more fitting of the purpose, than the Psalms of David, which the Holy Spirit spoke and made through him.  And moreover, when we sing them, we are certain that God puts in our mouths these, as if He Himself were singing in us to exalt His glory. [3]

 

[1]               Bushell, Songs of Zion, p. 265.

[2]               Joel R. Beeke, “Psalm Singing in Calvin and the Puritans,” in Beeke, Selvaggio eds., Sing a New Song, p. 23.

[3]               Cited in Johnson, “History,” p. 49.

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