Luther, Libraries, and Learning (2) – John W. Montgomery

Wittenberg, Germany

Wittenberg, Germany

Last week Thursday we pointed you to an interesting book from Prof.D. Engelsma’s library (which we are working through this summer) – In Defense of Martin Luther, a wonderful collection of essays by John Warwick Montgomery.

In the third section of the book I discovered an essay that grabbed my interest – “Luther, Libraries, and Learning”  a defense of Luther’s (and the Protestant Reformation’s) love for, support of, and call for schools and libraries. After answering several attacks against Luther and the Reformation on these matters, Montgomery proceeds to a positive defense of Luther’s position on education and books.

Today we follow-up on our post from last week with another significant quote from this essay, which I believe worthy of your attention too. This is from that section that follows the previous one from which we quoted:

In the educational efforts of the early Lutheran reformers, schools and libraries went hand in hand. The concern for establishing suitable book collections is evident not only in many of the visitation articles and agenda drawn up during the period, but also and especially in the formal Kirchenordnungen [church ordinances or church order], drafted chiefly under the influence of Melanchthon (for central and southern Germany) and Johannes Bugenhagen (for northern Germany). In the work of Bugenhagen – like Melanchthon a colleague of Luther at Wittenberg – bibliothecal concern is particularly evident. The following typical Kirchenordnungen regulations are the product of his influence:

A library shall be erected not far from the school and the lecture hall, wherein all books, good and bad, which shall be acquired for this purpose in this city, shall be assembled; they shall be arranged in orderly manner, especially the best, each near others of its kind [this must have been the early classification system]; keys thereto, one or four, should be in the hands of some, viz., the rector and sub-rector and superintendent, that no damage may be done.

The old useful books should be brought together in the cities and kept safely in a library. The deacon of the treasury shall, as much as possible, increase the library every year, especially with German Bibles and volumes of Luther’s works. The parish clergy shall pray and exhort the people to increase the libraries through legacies [A great idea!]. The pastor and deacons shall see to it that an inventory is made and the library assiduously guarded.

The result of such regulations was the establishment of numerous church and school libraries… (p.127-28).

Fascinating, is it not?!

Luther on Catechism and Singing in Relation to Missions

Church-comes-from-all-nations-LutherSpeaking (and writing) of Martin Luther today, this afternoon I cataloged a book published by Concordia Academic Press with the title The Church Comes From All Nations: Luther Texts on Missions (2003, edited by Volker Stolle).

Online I found this brief summary of this work:

This book originally published as Kirche aus allen Volkern: Luther-Texte zur Mission, is a collection of key excerpts from the writings of Martin Luther on Christian missions. Drawing from the reformer’s lectures, sermons, treatises, hymns, and devotional writings, the author presents the excerpts according to themes and provides commentary on the reformer’s understanding of mission in the world.

On the back of the book the publisher has this description:

In Luther’s understanding of the Gospel, every believer is anointed and sent ‘to confess, to teach, and to spread God’s Word’ (1523). Thus participation in God’s mission becomes the task of every Christian. This collection of texts on mission have been selected from Luther’s writings by Volker Stolle, a mission director in Germany, to demonstrate the breadth of Luther’s thinking on the subject. For the reformer,  mission is not something that ‘plays itself out on the outer edges of Christianity, but instead as a lifestyle for every Christian congregation within its particular surrounding.” In this way, Luther contributes toward the reformation of our church today, a Christianity that has often become introverted.

As I quickly thumbed the book to get an idea of the type of quotes the editor had selected, I found these two striking passages side by side on opposing pages. I include the headings the editor has added, so that you will know something of the content.

I believe you will find these quotes as significant as I did, for we also place a strong emphasis on catechism training and on singing/music.

Catechetical instruction as preparation for missionary witness

And finally, I strongly urge that the children be taught the catechism. Should they be taken captive in the invasion [The quote is taken from Luther’s “Admonition to Prayer against the Turks.”], they will at least take something of the Christian faith with them. Who knows what God might be able to accomplish through them. Joseph as a seventeen-year-old youth was sold into slavery into Egypt, but he had God’s word and knew what he believed. And he converted all Egypt. The same is true of Daniel and his companions. (p.46).

The singing of Christian songs as Gospel witness

God has made our heart and spirit happy through his dear Son, whom he gave for our salvation from sin, death and the devil. Whoever honestly believes this, cannot leave it alone, but he must sing cheerfully and with joy and speak about it in order that others might listen and draw near. If, however, one does not want to sing and speak about it, it is a sign that he does not believe and is not in the new, cheerful testament but belongs under the old, rotten, unhappy testament. Therefore, the printers do very well when they diligently print good songs and make them pleasant for the people, with all kinds of ornamentation so that they are stimulated to this joy of the faith and gladly sing [Preface to Babst’s Hymnal, 1545] (p.47).

Have you thought of catechism and singing in this light before? Worth our while to ponder what Luther says, even if we may not agree on everything he says here.

Luther, Libraries and Learning – J.W. Montgomery

Wittenberg-GermanyWhile sorting through some of Prof.D. Engelsma’s library yesterday, I came on the book In Defense of Martin Luther, a wonderful collection of essays by John Warwick Montgomery.

In the third section of the book is an essay that captivated me immediately – “Luther, Libraries, and Learning”, which is a defense of Luther’s (and the Protestant Reformation’s) love for, support of, and call for schools and libraries. After answering several attacks against Luther and the Reformation on these matters, Montgomery launches into a positive defense of Luther’s position on education and books.

I begin to quote from this part of the essay today, hoping to be able to give you at least one more quotation, since this is such a fascinating subject (to me at least!).

…But Luther and his movement did not merely oppose the destruction of already-existing libraries; they engaged actively in the building of new libraries, as can be seen both on the university level and on the level of the lower schools.

The studies of E.G. Schwiebert have shown that a furor of library activity went on at Wittenberg during Luther’s professorship there. His close friend and fellow reformer, George Spalatin, served a librarian of the ducal university library, and made regular trips to Venice to buy Hebrew and Greek manuscripts needed by the Wittenberg faculty. ‘The many casual references in the correspondence of the period indicate that Spalatin, Melanchthon, Chancellor Brueck, and possibly several professors were constantly on the alert for new collections, such as those of Duke George, Aurogallus, and Hassenstein, and that a close supervision was kept over the fairs at Leipzig and Nuernberg in the search for choice volumes.’ The breadth of content in the library belies any criticism of the Wittenberg reformers as narrow Biblicists: ‘The fact that the classics, and the Church Fathers, and the humanists were so well represented seems to point conclusively to the fact that the Reformers valued and employed Renaissance tools in the restoration of early Christianity.’

May 1, 2015 Standard Bearer: Second Helvetic Confession on Holy Scripture – Prof.R.Cammenga

SB-May-1-2015The May 1, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer, the semi-monthly Reformed magazine published by the RFPA (rfpa.org), is now published and being distributed. This issue too contains a variety of edifying articles – from a meditation on Ps.55:22, to another editorial on “What It Means to Be Reformed”, to matters “all around us” of interest to Christians, to an article on raising children in a covenant home – and an important book review (By Faith Alone).

One of the new series of articles is on the historic Reformed confession, the Second Helvetic (Swiss) Confession. In this issue Prof.R.Cammenga begins to treat the specific articles of this creed, starting with Art.1 on the doctrine of holy Scripture. Today, I take a brief quote from this article to show you how significant a confession this is and why you and I ought to become better acquainted with it.

First, Prof.Cammenga quotes from the first article itself, which reads this way:

We believe and confess the canonical Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles of both Testaments to be the true Word of God, and to have sufficient authority of themselves, not of men.  For God himself spoke to the fathers, prophets, apostles, and still speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures.

And in this Holy Scripture, the universal Church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God; and in this respect it is expressly commanded by God that nothing be either added to or taken from the same.

Then he adds this opening commentary:

The Second Helvetic Confession begins its exposition of the Reformed faith with the doctrine of Scripture.  This is altogether proper.  This is necessary.  Everything depends on one’s view of Scripture.  More than anything else, this is what distinguishes the Reformed faith.  What distinguished the Reformed faith at the time of the Reformation was its view of Scripture. This is what set the Reformed apart from the Roman Catholics, on the one hand, and the Anabaptists and enthusiasts, on the other hand.   Both Rome and the Anabaptists erred in their view of Scripture. That aberrant view of Scripture affected everything.  And as different as they were from each other, both Rome and the Anabaptists were alike in that they denied the sufficiency of Scripture, that in Scripture “the Church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God.”  Rome denied the sufficiency of Scripture by adding to Scripture, as an equal authority alongside of Scripture, tradition. That tradition consisted of the writings of the church fathers, the decisions of the church councils, and the Apocrypha.  The Anabaptists denied the sufficiency of Scripture by adding direct revelations and immediate promptings of the Spirit.  The Reformers said, “A plague on both your houses.”  And they affirmed the sole authority and complete sufficiency of Holy Scripture, with appeal to Revelation 22:18 and 19, where “it is expressly commanded by God that nothing be either added to or taken from” the Word of God.

And finally, he makes this application to us today:

Still today, this is the issue and still today this is what distinguishes the Reformed faith, at least the Reformed faith properly understood.  Scripture alone is the arbiter of truth.  Scripture alone is the authority for faith and life.  Scripture alone is determinative in the life of the church, both the local congregation and the broader assemblies.  And Scripture is determinative for the walk of the individual believer in the midst of the world. The method employed by Bullinger in the Second Helvetic Confession of beginning with the doctrine of Scripture is the distinctively Reformed method.  All the truth that we confess and that is summarized in the confession is revealed in Holy Scripture.  The Reformed view of Scripture is that it is “the true Word of God.”  Fundamental to the Reformed faith is its view of Scripture.

To receive a sample of this Reformed magazine, or to subscribe, visit this SB page on the RFPA website.

Luther on the Christian Life: Prayer and the Word – C.Trueman

Luther on Chr Life -TruemanTaken from the new Crossway book written by Carl R.Trueman, Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom, part of the series “Theologians on the Christian Life”, published by Crossway (Wheaton, IL), 2015.

In this section from which we quote, Trueman is treating Luther’s treatise on prayer (the one prompted by a letter from his barber, Peter Beskendorf), and here he ties together prayer and Scripture:

Throughout the treatise, Scripture is the bedrock on which Luther sees the life of prayer as being built. He speaks of the Decalogue as ‘a school text, song book, penitential book, and prayer book,’ and recommends that the Christian alternate meditation on the commandments with reflection upon a psalm or another chapter of Scripture day by day. For Luther, it is not the desire for reading Scripture that fuels prayer; it is reading Scripture that fuels the desire for prayer. That the Christian may not feel like praying is one of the Devil’s tricks played on weak and sinful flesh; the answer is the discipline of reading and meditation, both corporate and individual.

At this point Trueman draws on a familiar analogy:

One might draw an analogy with marital love: the husband is commanded by God’s Word to love his wife. That command is independent of how the husband feels at any given moment. He is to act in a loving way toward her, and as he does so, his love for her will itself deepen and grow. So it is to be with prayer: reading Scripture shapes people in such a way that their prayer life will deepen and grow as a result.

From there, Trueman makes a summary of Luther’s view of the Christian life based on these simple principles of practicing prayer and Scripture reading:

What is perhaps most noteworthy in all this, of course, is the routine nature of the practice of the Christian life. Nothing Luther proposes is in itself particularly exciting or novel. We live in an age mesmerized both by technique and by the extraordinary. Modern evangelicalism, particularly in America, has been shaped by the kind of revivalism pioneered by Charles Finney in the nineteenth century. Find the right techniques and one will achieve the desired spiritual results; and typically those techniques involve something unusual or impressive. For Luther, this would all have been alien and obnoxious; the Word is powerful in and of itself; and the ways in which the Word works are ordinary and routine. Liturgies with a catechetical structure, a focus on the Word read and the Word preached, and a constant ,meditation upon that Word – those were the major elements of personal spiritual growth and discipleship (122).

Have we also made the Christian life complicated by trying too many new means and methods? Then let Luther’s view of the Christian walk bring us back to God’s simple way.

W.Tyndale: “Grounded in Sovereign Grace” – S.Lawson

Daring Mission-Tyndale-2015Drawn from chapter two (“Grounded in Sovereign Grace”) of Steven J. Lawson’s new book, The Daring Mission of William Tyndale, in the series “A Long Line of Godly Men” (Reformation Trust, 2015):

Hailed as ‘the greatest of the early English Protestants’, William Tyndale was a Reformer in every sense of the word. This certainly included his theology. Undergirding his belief in Reformation truth was his unwavering commitment to the sovereignty of God in the salvation of sinners. It was this deep confidence in the doctrines of grace that gave him staying power in his tireless efforts to translate the Bible into English. Tyndale was convinced that the power of God alone could change the hearts of kings and plowboys alike. The glorious truth that Christ would build His church compelled Tyndale to bring the Scriptures to the English people in their own language, regardless of the dangers he faced (29-30).

And a paragraph later Lawson adds:

Divine sovereignty was the underlying framework that held Tyndale’s life and theology together. He determinedly believed in the absolute sovereignty of God in His reign over all things. Reformed doctrine fueled Tyndale’s implacable drive in life and ministry. At the heart of his theology was the belief that God’s sovereignty extended from the control and order of the created universe to the salvation of undeserving sinners (30-31).

We may be thankful that this Reformer was so “grounded in sovereign grace.” You and I may not be involved in such a “daring mission” as Tyndale’s work of translating the Bible, but is our faith and life also fueled by this foundational truth of the Word of God? How is the truth of God’s sovereignty governing what we belief and do today?

Calvinism’s “Solas” – Prof.B.Gritters, April 15, 2015 “Standard Bearer”

SB-April15-2015In the latest issue of The Standard Bearer (April 15, 2015) Prof.Barry Gritters adds another installment to his series on “What It Means to Be Reformed”, a series begun in the February 15, 2015 issue. This new article lays out “Calvinism’s Solas – the great Latin mottos of the Reformation: sola Scriptura (Scripture alone – to be treated in a later editorial), solus Christus (Christ alone), sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), and soli Deo gloria (to God alone glory).

If you are not familiar with these expressions, or have forgotten why they are important – especially the sola (only or alone) part – then this is a good place to be reminded. For our purposes in this post, we take you to the end of Prof.Gritters’ explanation and defense of these solas. Here he shows why Calvinism’s solas end where they do – with all glory given to God alone.

Soli Deo Gloria

     So that we may always say, “To God alone be the glory!”

     To put these four solas together is not difficult:  Christ alone saves through faith alone for the sake of grace alone, in order that all glory may be given to God alone!  If any of salvation—even the tiniest bit—comes from outside of Christ, or if Christ comes to man through any other instrument than His free gift of faith, or on account of any merit in man, then the glory of that tiniest bit of salvation goes to man and not to God.  Against that “gross blasphemy” Reformed believers fight with all their might.

       Canons [of Dordt] I:7 teaches gracious salvation, beginning in salvation’s source—sovereign election:  “for the demonstration of His mercy, and for the praise of His glorious grace….”  The fathers in this ecumenical synod were looking at Scripture’s call to give all glory, in all things, to God and to God alone.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings…in Christ…according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace” (Eph. 1:3-6).  And the book of Romans does nothing if it does not teach that everything revolves around God’s glory.  The heart of the reprobate’s sin is a refusal to give glory to God (1:23).  Sin is a coming “short of the glory of God” (3:23).  Paul teaches that if Abraham’s justification were by works, he would be able to glory in himself (4:2); but Abraham “was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (4:20).   Paul’s conclusion of the doctrinal section of the epistle, where all the doctrines of sovereign grace are taught is, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever.  Amen.” (11:36).  And Paul’s own Spirit-inspired exclamation point of the epistle, his very last words before the final “Amen,” are:  “To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever” (16:27).

     No one else saves but Christ!  Nothing but grace and faith explain our salvation in Christ!  For none but God may receive the glory!

This is exclusive, for false teachings must be excluded.  This is antithetical, for truth must be defended over against the lie.  This is distinctive, for biblical truth must be known and confessed clearly, sharply, distinctly.  There may be no doubt as to Who is worthy of praise.  All of it.  This is Reformed.

For more on this issue, visit this news item on the PRC website. To start receiving the “SB”, visit the subscription page on the RFPA website.

Book Alert! “Luther on the Christian Life” – C.Trueman

Luther on Chr Life -TruemanCrossway Publishers has just released its seventh volume in its “Theologians on the Christian Life” series (edited by Stephen Nichols and Justin Taylor), and this one focuses on the great Reformer Martin Luther’s view of the Christian life. The title of this book is Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom, and is penned by Carl R. Trueman, professor of church history at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia.

At the title link above you will find the best price (WTS – $11) and a video of Trueman explaining his purpose in writing this volume for the series.

I have ordered a copy for the library already (it’s in and processed!) and I requested a review copy from Crossway this week. Today I quote from Trueman’s instructive “Introduction”, which he sub-titles “What Has Geneva to Do with Wittenberg?” (slightly edited) Here he explains why Luther on the Christian life is important to the church, including those who are Reformed:

Given all the caveats necessary when the modern readers approaches Luther, what is unique about this man that makes him particularly useful as a dialgue partner on the Christian life? Obviously, as noted above, he defined many of the terms of Protestant debates about Christianity in general. Yet there is much more to him than this. As a theologian who was also a pastor, he was continually wrestling with how his theological insights connected to the lives and experiences of the people under his care. This gave much of his writing a distinctly pastoral dimension.

Further, he was (for a theologian) unusually forthcoming about his own life and experiences. There was a personal passion to Luther that finds no obvious counterpart in the writings of other significant Reformers. Calvin’s letters contain insights into his private life, but his lectures, commentaries, and treatises offer little or no light on the inner life of the man himself. John Owen outlived all eleven of his children, yet he never once mentioned the personal devastation that this must have brought to his world.

Luther was different: he lived his inner life as a public drama. Unlike many today on chat shows and Twitter and personal blogs, he did not do so in a way that boosted his own prestige; he did it with irony, humor, and occasional pathos. But he did it nonetheless, and this makes him a fascinating study in self-reflection on the Christian life (25-26).

New Titles in the PRC Seminary Library

SemLib12012It is time once more to highlight a few new titles that have come into the PRC Seminary library. I am always amazed at how many good resources are being published and republished – books of great value to the faculty and students here, as well as to our members and visitors. I hope by highlighting a few you will also be able to see the quality of books that enter our library.

Like everyone else, we are on a budget here, so I have to focus on quality, not quantity (although my Thrift store shopping makes that budget go further!). I might add at this point that I am truly grateful for the monies provided the library by the Theological School Committee in its budget (and Synod, which approves that budget each year), as well as for the many gifts we receive throughout the year.

But, on to the books! Here are a few of the significant new books recently purchased and processed:

  • The Works of John Knox, Banner of Truth, 2014 – Six Volumes, hardcover (David Laing Ed., first published in 1846). This is part of the publisher’s note on this important republication:

Unfortunately for many years hardback sets of Knox’s Works have been virtually unobtainable by, and inaccessible to, the general public. Now, to mark the 500th anniversary of his birth (probably in 1514) and the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first definitive edition of the Scottish reformer’s Works (1846-64), these rare volumes have been reprinted. The present republication of the reformer’s writings provides a unique and remarkably affordable opportunity for a new generation of students to rediscover and get to know the real John Knox.

  • Reformed Dogmatics - GVosReformed Dogmatics, Geerhardus Vos, Translated and edited by Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., five volumes (Lexham Press, 2012-14). Logos Bible Software has been adding this work to their digital collection as it is being translated, and now it is also being published in a good hardcover binding, with the first two volumes (theology proper and anthropology) in print. This is a classic work in Reformed theology and it is good to see it made accessible to the public.
  • John Calvin as Sixteenth-Century Prophet, Jon Balserak (Oxford University Press, 2014). This is an important new study on Calvin, focusing especially on his “sense of vocation.” Here’s more on the nature of this book from the publisher:

Beginning with an analysis of the two trajectories of thought existing within Christian discourse on prophecy from the patristic to the Early Modern era, this monograph goes on to find Calvin within a non-mystical, non-apocalyptic prophetic tradition that focused on scriptural interpretation. This study, then, demonstrates how Calvin developed a plan to win France for the gospel; a plan which included the possibility of armed conflict. To pursue his designs, he trained “prophets” who were sent into France to labor intensely to undermine the king’s authority on the grounds that he supported idolatry, convince the French Reformed congregations that they were already in a war with him, and prepare them for a possible military uprising. An additional part of this plan saw Calvin search for a French noble willing to support the evangelical religion, even if it meant initiating a coup. Calvin began ruminating over these ideas in the 1550s or possibly earlier. The war which commenced in 1562 represents, this monograph argues, the culmination of years of preparation by Calvin.

John Wood examines how Abraham Kuyper adapted the Dutch church to its modern social context through a new account of the nature of the church and its social position. The central concern of Kuyper’s ecclesiology was to re-conceive the relationship between the inner aspects of the church—the faith and commitment of the members—and the external forms of the church, such as doctrinal confessions, sacraments, and the relationship of the church to the Dutch people and state. Kuyper’s solution was to make the church less dependent on public entities such as nation and state and more dependent on private support, especially the good will of its members. This ecclesiology de-legitimated the national church and helped Kuyper justify his break with the church, but it had wider effects as well. It precipitated a change in his theology of baptism from a view of the instrumental efficacy of the sacrament to his later doctrine of presumptive regeneration wherein the external sacrament followed, rather than preceded and prepared for, the intenral work grace. This new ecclesiology also gave rise to his well-known public theology; once he achieved the private church he wanted, as the Netherlands’ foremost public figure, he had to figure out how to make Christianity public again.

  • Commentaries. One of the key areas of growth in our library is that of Biblical studies and exposition, including commentaries. These are important tools for the faculty and students, since the professors’ teaching and the seminarians’ learning centers on exegesis, the proper interpretation of God’s Word.
    • Two significant series of commentaries that we have included in our collection are the “Preaching the Word” series (Crossway, edited by R. Kent Hughes) and the “Reformed Expository Commentary” (P&R Publishing, edited by Richard D. Phillips and Philip G. Ryken).
    • 1 PeterWithin these sets we have recently added commentaries on the gospel according to John and on Acts, as well as Ecclesiastes and 1 Peter.

New Book on William Tyndale by Steven Lawson

William Tyndale’s Portrait by Steven Lawson | Ligonier Ministries Blog.

Daring Mission-Tyndale-2015Reformation Trust has just published the latest title in its significant series “A Long Line of Godly Men.” From the pen of Steven Lawson once again, comes this new book on William Tyndale, carrying the title, The Daring Mission of William Tyndale.

This is one you will want to add to your family or personal library for good Reformation history reading. If you have not seen the other volumes in this series, be sure to browse Reformation Trust’s pages (see the link above).

Ligonier recently did a post on this new book, pulling an excerpt from it (visit the link above or here for this). I take a portion of this for my post today.

For context, Lawson is referring to a portrait of Tyndale he has in his study. Concerning its details he writes:

Beneath the Bible, the artist has painted an unfurled banner, seemingly suspended in air. Signifying Tyndale as an Oxford and Cambridge scholar, the writing on the banner is in Latin: Hac ut luce tuas dispergam Roma tenebras sponte extorris ero sponte sacrificium. This means, “To scatter Roman darkness by this light, the loss of land and life I will reckon slight.” This bold message represents the life’s mission of Tyndale. By translating the Bible into English, this brilliant linguist ignited the flame that would banish the spiritual darkness in England. Tyndale’s translation of the Scriptures unveiled the divine light of biblical truth that would shine across the English-speaking world, ushering in the dawning of a new day.

In the background of this portrait, behind Tyndale, are the words Gulielmus Tindilus Martyr. This is the Latin rendering of this scholar’s first and last name, along with the word martyr, which identifies the high cost paid by Tyndale to bring the Scriptures into the language of his countrymen. This heroic figure died a martyr’s death in 1536, strangled to death by an iron chain, after which his corpse was burned and blown up by gunpowder that had been spread around his incinerated body.

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