I’ve added a link to the top of my sidebar to the right. It links to Post Tenebras Lux, the website of Dr. Thomas R. Browning, Assistant Pastor of Grace Community Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, Texas. At his site is a lecture series about the life and ministry of Martin Luther and the story of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. It is the month of October now, and Luther nailed the historic 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517, so it is time to begin gearing up to commemorate the Protestant Reformation, which was the providential way “How Christ Restored the Gospel to His Church.”
Listen to Lutheran Church Missouri Synod minister, Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, talk about what drove Luther’s hammer…
There he goes again… :-)
November 10th was the 528th birthday of Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther. The Lutheran radio show, Issues, Etc., hosted by Todd Wilken, interviewed Uwe Siemon-Netto of the League of Faithful Masks, and author of The Fabricated Luther, about the popular notion that the writings of Martin Luther which were critical of the Jews were in fact part of the source of the twentieth-century Nazi form of anti-Semitism. I will attempt to summarize Siemon-Netto’s explanation and defense of Martin Luther.
Some of Martin Luther’s writings from late in his ministry certainly do not match the political-correctness of modern Western civilization, but they are hardly the source of Nazi sentiment against the Jews. For starters, late in his life, Luther was wracked with physical pain and illness, which took a serious toll on him. Psychologically, people under such severe physical and emotional stress are prone to give expression to ideas which they otherwise would not. Luther’s earlier writings were are more affirming and caring, urging the evangelization of the Jews.
In sixteenth century Germany, it was still a civil crime to commit blasphemy against the Christian God. Thus, the Jews’ denial of Christ was legally categorized as a violation of German blasphemy laws. While today, Western civilization considers blasphemy laws unjustifiable, we must not judge a man anachronistically when he is seen acting consistent with the context of his own generation.
Luther’s statements critical of the Jews had been, right or wrong, suppressed by the Lutheran church due to their recognition that they reflect something other than theologically Lutheran attitude. These writings were recovered and misused by proponents of the Volkisch movement which promoted pre-Christian pagan ethnocentricity and Romantic nationalism, among other influences. Their racist views are projected back onto Luther and unjustly point to him as a primogenitor of their own views when they were actually engaging in public relations to popularize their own peculiar views.
These days, when people find how the Nazis and other German anti-Semites utilized quotes by Martin Luther, it is easy to come away assuming Luther was anti-Semitic in a manner comparable to Nazi Aryanism. Todd Wilken asked Uwe Siemon-Netto to put in a nutshell what he would recommend as a helpful response and defense of Martin Luther in the light of such assumptions. Siemon-Netto explained as follows:
A) The entire Lutheran church rejected Luther’s statements that were critical of Judaism;
B) What Luther wrote against the Jews in his later life was un-Lutheran as compared with his earlier writing on the same subject;
C) Luther was fallible, and made egregious mistakes—an admission made by Martin Luther probably more than anyone else.
Happy Reformation Day! October 31, 2011 marks the 494th anniversary of the legendary event considered the spark that ignited the Protestant Reformation when Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, nailed the Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences(commonly known as the 95 Theses) to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517. In the years that followed, Luther lead the movement to reform the church’s understanding of what the Bible teaches about the doctrine of justification by God’s grace alone, received through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone. The Lutheran tradition would build on Luther’s work on justification, and they placed it at the center and starting point of all of the benefits of the redemption purchased
by Christ for his people. But biblical reformation of soteriology didn’t end with Luther and the Lutherans. The Reformed movement also grew alongside of the Lutheran movement, and while both were co-belligerents against the Roman doctrines of justification and the other benefits of redemption in Christ, they differed on the most biblical way to systematize these truths.
Friday on the Reformed Forum’s podcast, Christ the Center, Camden Bucey, Jim Cassidy and Jeff Waddington interviewed Dr. Lane Tipton, the new Charles Khrae Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Tipton was allowed two hours to spell out the differences between the Lutheran and Reformed approaches to justification and many current issues related to this essential aspect of Protestant theology, such as whether Dr. Michael Horton’s academic work on the subject is moving Reformed theology toward a more Lutheran, and therefore,according to Dr. Tipton, semi-Pelagian doctrine of justification. Listen to the podcast at this link.
I was introduced to Reformed theology by Michael Horton’s materials and the Lord used his parachurch ministries Christian United for Reformation (CURE) and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (ACE) and the White Horse Inn radio show to gradually bring me around to embrace it. I will certainly be looking forward to a future Christ the Center program in which Dr. Horton responds to Dr. Tipton’s characterization of his work on justification and the other benefits of redemption in Christ. More public dialogue on this ought to take place, IMHO. At this point, Dr. Tipton’s case sounds convincing and more in line with the Reformed confessions and catechisms, as opposed to Dr. Horton’s efforts to, as I once heard him state on the air, build a kind of ecumenism between Reformed, Lutheran and Anglican traditions. I can see how some synthesis may be taking place in that effort. But what do I know?
Reformata, Semper Reformanda!
The following is from the About Us page at Fort Worth’s Theological Pursuits Bookstore owner David Jacks’ new website, ReformationShirts.Com. Get yours today! I’ve got three of them myself.
David Jacks, in 1995 while studying at SWBTS, circulated a shirt bearing the names and likenesses of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon. The shirt was affectionately known as the “Dead Theologians Society t-shirt.” Since that time, the “DTS” shirt has been re-vamped and has now taken the form of the shirt shown on this web site.
Reformation theology has played an important role in the history of Christianity. With the recent resurgence of Reformation theology, many adhering to the Doctrines of Grace search for ways to expose the world to their beliefs. This shirt “with a bunch of dead guys on the back of it” peaks the interest of onlookers and provides an excellent bridge for introducing these “dead guys'” Biblical beliefs.
About the Logo & Its History
The front of the shirt bears a likeness from the symbol of the 16th Century Protestant Reformation – a “burning bush” with the phrase “After Darkness, Light.” The “burning bush” symbol and the phrase were used by the Reformers to represent the light of the Gospel of Grace overcoming the darkness of the Law of Works propagated by the Roman Catholic Church in the centuries leading up to the Reformation.
The back of the shirt bears the names and likenesses of four of the best-known Protestant Reformers spanning a period of 400 years. A German monk named Martin Luther (1483-1546), whose heart was captured by the belief of Sola Fide (Faith Alone for one’s Justification), sparked the Protestant Reformation on October 31, 1517, when he nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Cathedral in Wittenberg, Germany. Swiss theologian John Calvin (1509-1564) with his emphasis on God’s sovereignty and union with Christ, helped codify the teachings of the Reformation with his first edition of The Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1539. New England Puritan Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), best known for his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and his book Freedom of the Will, helped fan the spark of revival in The First Great Awakening and spread flames of salvation concerning the holiness and grace of God in America in the early to mid 18th century. Englishman preacher Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) spread the Doctrines of Grace in the mid to late 19th century with his passionate and eloquent sermons on the sovereignty and grace of God.
These faithful men best symbolize in the Church’s recent history the beliefs summarized in the five Solas of the Protestant Reformation. These solas are found on the back of the shirt surrounding Luther, Calvin, Edwards and Spurgeon:
Sola Fide ~ Faith Alone
Sola Scriptura ~ Scripture Alone
Sola Gratia ~ Grace Alone
Soli Deo Gloria ~ Glory to God Alone
Solus Christus ~ Christ Alone
May you, too, be inspired and blessed by the truths conveyed on this shirt each time you wear it. And may your whole life be lived in loving obedience. Soli Deo Gloria – TO THE GLORY OF GOD ALONE!
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
(Genesis 1:26-31 ESV)
To fully understand this passage, one must read the entirety of chapter one. The literary structure can be summarized simply using our key term “dominion.” God created kingdoms: outer space, the sky, the sea, and the land; then God created three kings to exercise “dominion” in each “kingdom”: celestial bodies, birds, sea life of every kind, and the race of Man. There is a progressive significance in this creation week, with the creation of Man as the climax.
With God’s creation of Man, he gives him a vocation: fill the earth, subdue it, and take dominion over the lesser forms of life. Man lives on the earth as a kind of vice-regent of God.
This passage is applied in many ways by many people, but it can be reduced to something more or less like this. God created Man, then he gave him something to do. How this idea has been applied varies according to the theological tradition to which the believer subscribes.
Throughout the middle ages, Roman Catholic traditions drove a wedge between the sacred and the secular in such a way that those who were inclined to a vocation of church ministry were seen as inherently superior to everyone else in the ordinary, profane occupations that seemed anything but spiritual. There were priests who worked for God (good), everyone else worked for the world (not so good).
In the sixteenth century, the Protestant Reformers recovered the biblical truth which they called “the priesthood of the believer.” This doctrine emphasized the fact that Christ was the High Priest who mediates between God and Man, and all believers, ordained minister or not, are priests who may now approach God and offer spiritual sacrifices on the basis of Christ’s mediation and intercession. But the Reformers didn’t leave this truth at this point. Application of the priesthood of the believer was made to every aspect of his life. In short, what are his responsibilities? That is his ministry. This idea brought a renewed dignity to labor and developed what is known as the Protestant work ethic. This work ethic taught each believer-priest to work for the glory of God and the good of his neighbor in whatever way his interests, skills and opportunities allow. Much of the productive, technological and industrial development in the modern world finds part of its roots in this Protestant work ethic, which influenced Western culture for the better.
As the centuries wore on, this truth became less and less clear, and Christians became less aware of the spiritual significance of their secular vocations, and the work ethic largely fell by the way side. While historic orthodox Protestants retained this doctrine at least in their theological volumes, if not always preached and lived in their lives, but others kept it in mind, working for the glory of God in their own personal way as the Reformation doctrine of vocation went largely neglected.
In the great cultural shift that took place in the 1960’s, some Protestant ministers, notable among them, Francis Schaeffer, sought ways to recover this truth by encouraging Christians to “engage the culture,” in order to be used by God to once again be the “Light of the World” and “The Salt of the Earth,” in other words, Christians whom God may use to bring glory to God by enlightening their neighbors to the Light of the truth which is in Christ, as well as by being a benefit to their neighbors in their work and their service.
In the decade of the seventies, a few ministers in the charismatic movement had a similar desire to encourage their congregants and the church at large to live more consistently and more visibly as Christians in a sinful world. They, too, had a sense that evangelical Christians had largely ceased being influential members of society, and wanted to do something about it in their way, according to the understanding of their theological tradition. To put it inelegantly, I consider these efforts by Schaeffer and these charismatics, among others as blind squirrels who found a nut, as the old saying goes. The “nut” being some concept of the historic doctrine of vocation.
Fast forward to 2011. This desire to glorify God and serve and evangelize their neighbors becomes misinterpreted by the Left Wing of the American political system as efforts to “take dominion” over the federal government of the United States and establish a theocratic form of government. Looked at in this light, now, doesn’t it sound silly?
Now let’s engage in a comparative study. First read Lutheran journalist and blogger, Edward Gene Veith’s blog post “Vocation as the Christian Life,” and learn more about Luther’s doctrine of vocation and how it ought to be applied in this generation. Then watch the following video posted at www.the7mountains.com and see if you can detect similar motives. Then stop listening to reactionary political Leftists who think those crazy extremist Right Wing Christians are out to overthrow the government and start stoning adulterers and burning witches.
Thought I’d tease you with a Luther quote given by Dr. David Garner in his message, “The Gospel From Above,” last night at the Full Confidence Conference at Grace Community Presbyterian Church in Ft. Worth, Texas. The highlighted portion is the portion to which Dr. Garner made reference, the rest shows a little context of what Luther was discussing:
“The neglect of Scripture, even by spiritual leaders, is one of the greatest evils in the world. Everything else, arts or literature, is pursued and practiced day and night, and there is no end of labor and effort; but Holy Scripture is neglected as though there were no need of it. Those who condescend to read it want to absorb everything at once. There has never been an art or a book on earth that everyone has so quickly mastered as the Holy Scriptures. But its words are not, as some think, mere literature (Lesewort); they are words of life (Lebewort), intended not for speculation and fancy but for life and action. By why complain? No one pays any attention to our lament. May Christ our Lord help us by His Spirit to love and honor His holy Word with all our heart. Amen.” (LW 14:46)
More to come next week…
A few years ago, I was invited to speak on Martin Luther at church. The following link is a Power Point presentation I made for the event. In the sidebar you can find the audio if you’d like to listen and follow along. Just right click on the slideshow link to open it in another tab or window so you can keep this window open to hear the audio, too. I’d make a bigger deal about it, but this being Calvin’s 500th anniversary year, I’m actually a little done with Reformer retrospectives. But I hope you enjoy mine!
Or just click on Luthermania in the category cloud in the sidebar and browse all my Luther posts and read whichever you prefer.
Happy Reformation Day!
KING: OK. Do you think Christianity is slipping in America? That’s the front cover of “Newsweek,” out today. Quite a loss occurring in the Christian community. There you see the headline.
WARREN: Well, I would say it’s the best of times and the worst of times. First place, I don’t think that all of the questions that are asked in surveys are always as objective as they could be. For instance, if you ask people, are you a Protestant — and the number of Protestants has gone down dramatically in the last 30 years. I don’t even call myself a Protestant. (emphasis mine) (read the transcript here)
Rick Warren is not a Protestant? What in the world is he? I didn’t think he was the sort that claimed to be “post-evangelical” like the Internet Monk, or a proponent of the “emerging church.” Even though I spent over twenty years in Baptist fundamentalism which denied being Protestants (even though they really are) because of their commitment to a view of Baptist history called “Landmarkism” or Baptist Successionism, I seriously doubt this is the case with Rick Warren.
I searched around the web looking for an answer and the only real lead I could find was found at Apprising Ministries, a discernment ministry blog. One post carries the title, “Southern Baptist Pastor Rick Warren Corrects Martin Luther.” In this post, Warren is quoted as saying:
“Now I don’t agree with everything in everybody’s denomination, including my own. I don’t agree with everything that Catholics do or Pentecostals do, but what binds us together is so much stronger than what divides us,” he said. “I really do feel that these people are brothers and sisters in God’s family. I am looking to build bridges with the Orthodox Church, looking to build bridges with the Catholic Church,….”
It appears he’s willing to seek common ground with other segments of “Christendom” which deny the gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone, because of Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone–the gospel of the Protestant Reformation. I’m sure Warren affirms this gospel personally, I’m sure he’s aware the Roman Catholic Church anathematized this very gospel at the Council of Trent and has never rescinded such a blasphemous stance. I wonder, however, if Pastor Warren cares. Here’s the link to Apprising Ministries’ category of posts on Rick Warren, if you desire to read more about his activity regarding the relationship between Protestantism and Catholicism.
Do any of my readers know any more about Rick Warren’s stance on Protestant identity? Has anyone ever heard him deny that he’s a Protestant before? I’m interested to learn more about how he categorizes himself.
As a bibliophile, I can only wish (short of praying) to be this lucky:
And, of course, for you inquiring minds, here’s Bach’s Wikipedia entry.
In case you don’t know, I’m a music lover. And although I decidedly come down on the “traditional” side in the worship wars (in fact, I just got my “Organ Music Rocks” t-shirt from Old Lutheran dot com!), I happen to enjoy some of the music produced by some of those who may differ with me on that issue, I just happen to reserve it “for entertainment purposes only”. Not that I don’t find it edifying as well, at times.
For instance, when it comes to Southern Gospel music, there is very little that I can stand for very long. One or two songs and I’m pretty well done. Any more than that, and I start getting visibly uncomfortable. But not so in the case of Reformed Presbyterian harmonica player extraordinaire, Buddy Greene (visit his official site). I could listen to him all day. I just added a few YouTube videos of Greene excercising his gift to my personal YouTube page (you can visit it here). The first song is “Denomination Blues” (no harmonica in this one) and he pokes fun at a few select denominations, starting with his own (even false churches like Roman Catholicism and Unitarianism). But I was surprised that he didn’t have a verse on the Baptist denomination. If you can write a good one in the vein of Buddy Greene’s song, post it in the comments. I’ll add mine when I come up with one, too.
Here’s one where he pulls out his harmonica. It’s one of my all-time favorite songs, “God Is With Us.” This has more of a black gospel feel to it:
Lutheran professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Apologetics, Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, co-host of The White Horse Inn radio show, was interviewed yesterday,
Thursday, February 4th, on “Lutheran Public Radio,” a show called Issues, Etc. on the topic of repentance. Dr. Rosenbladt’s WHI co-hosts, Mike Horton and Kim Riddlebarger, began calling him “Dad Rod,” chiefly, I think, because it was his sense of urgency that American Evangelicalism needs to be reintroduced to the gospel, that drives the vision of their show. Among other things, revivalism has transformed American Protestant Christianity into something more akin to the medieval Roman Catholic spirituality and Anabaptistic enthusiasm (don’t ignore this link!) than anything produced by the Protestant Reformation of the Magisterial Reformers, Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli. One of the things that revivalism has “De-formed” in America is the doctrine of repentance.
The revivalist version of the doctrine of repentance is one which puts all the emphasis on the work of the believer to be sorry or contrite enough, really mean it when he repents, and shows that he’s really repented because he has actually ceased and desisted of any recurrence of the particular sinful behavior repented of. “Dad Rod” clearly and simply summarized the Reformation view of repentance from the believer’s perspective when he said . . .
“Our repentance is always imperfect and always half-hearted. . . This is preparation for believing the gospel promise (of forgiveness). . . and we do that half-heartedly, too. But God saves us in Jesus anyway.”
If you didn’t just breathe a sigh of relief, watch out! You may just be one of those dishonest people who thinks they’ve got this obedience to the Law thing down.
By the way, you can learn more pearls of wisdom from our Lutheran Dad Rod at his very own website, New Reformation Press.
Many Christians decry the use of “labels” to identify one’s distinctive beliefs and/or practices. I find this attitude intellectually dishonest. Everyone’s belief and practice, or approach to determining his own autonomous belief and practice, is learned either consciously or unconciously from some prior group’s or individual’s belief and practice. Being able to identify these is not some attack on the unity we have in Christ, but when used with a good and accepting attitude, it’s a way to know your brother or sister in Christ. And if you know your friend, you can love him better.
My personal attitude about labels can be likened to the way all you sports fans out there view your teams. Sure, there’s a little competition between teams, and maybe an animated discussion about your team’s strengths and the other teams’ weaknesses, but it’s all in fun. That’s the attitude I like to retain about our various distinctives. Everyone should just relax, and have a good time in the Lord, for cryin’ out loud!
Anyway, I bring all of this up simply to introduce one of R. Scott Clark’s entries in his live blogging of the Calvin’s Legacy Conference from Westminster Seminary California. Dr. Clark answers a question about the difference between the labels “Calvinist” and “Reformed.” You can read his interesting answer here. ” But in the meantime, he shares some history that reveals the origin and significance of other labels like “Lutheran,” “Evangelical,” and “Protestant.” It’s a good, short read.
Now all you guys who admit to your own labels, remember to play fair! :) If you like what you read, there’s plenty more where that came from. You can subscribe to the Calvin’s Legacy Conference RSS Feed and it’ll come to you, you won’t have to go get it!
R. Scott Clark, Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California, and Associate Pastor at Oceanside United Reformed Church, splashes a little water in the faces of those of us who get excited about the Reformation on Halloween. If you want your Reformation myths challenged (if they are myths), then read his post at the Heidelblog entitled, “What Reformation Day Really Is.” But be of good cheer, true believer–the doctor not only invalidates the legends, he bestows a sharper knowledge of the true Reformation! Read, and rejoice in the truth!