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Posts Tagged ‘Protestant Reformation’

Trinity Foundation

The Reformation at 500 conference will be held in Johnson City, TN on Friday, October 27 and Saturday, October 28, 2017.  For conference registration details, click this link: http://trinityfoundation.org/PDF/TheReformationAt500Flyer.pdf

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Lutheran_RCCS Declaration

President of the Lutheran World Federation Bishop Munib Younan, left, conspires with Pope Francis, right, to overthrow the Reformation at a service in Lund Lutheran cathedral , October 31, 2016 (L’Osservatore Romano/AP)

 

You say you want a Reformation? Well, according to a recently released Pew Research Center survey of Western Europe and the US, many Protestants answer “Not so much.” Here are a few key findings:

  • About half of U.S. Protestants (52%) say both good deeds and faith in God are needed to get into heaven, a historically Catholic position. The other half (42%) say that faith alone is needed to attain salvation.
  • U.S. Protestants also are split on another issue that played a key role in the Reformation: 46% say the Bible provides all the religious guidance Christians need, a traditionally Protestant belief known as sola scriptura. But 52% say Christians should look for guidance from church teachings and traditions as well as from the Bible, the position held by the Catholic Church.
  • Just 30% of all U.S. Protestants affirm both sola fide and sola scriptura.
  • In nearly all of the European countries surveyed, majorities or pluralities of both Catholics and Protestants adhere to the traditionally Catholic view that both faith and good works are necessary to attain salvation. In fact, in every country except Norway (where 51% of Protestants say salvation comes through faith alone), belief in sola fide is a minority view even among Protestants.

The results of this survey, though disappointing, are hardly surprising. The Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy among Presbyterians in first half of the 20th century ended with the liberal social gospelers seizing control of the mainline Presbyterian church and the subsequent purging of those who believed the Bible. Other Protestant denominations experienced upheavals. As a result, where Protestant churches once spoke with one voice on the critical issues of the source of authority in the church (scripture alone) and the means of justification (justification is by faith alone), Protestant witness has become greatly confused.

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G20 Hamburg_2017

Group photo of the 2017 G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. 

To one and all, happy belated Independence Day. Yes, this past week Americans celebrated the fact that, twelve score and one years ago, “our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

As a kid, July 4th was always one of my favorite times of the year. How could it not be. It was summer. School was out. And it was all about baseball, backyard barbeques with family, and lots of stuff that went boom!

America’s Bicentennial year of 1976 I remember as if it were yesterday. Recently I was reminded how long ago it really was when President Trump made some comment about the upcoming 250th anniversary of America’s independence. Good grief! Where did time go?

Well, even thought a lot of Independence Days have come and gone since 1976, I still love the day for all the same reasons I did back then. An a few more to boot.

You see, when I was a child, I didn’t really grasp the importance of liberty and freedom from tyranny. But as an adult, and one who has been eyewitness to the kind of gross usurpations of liberty governments are capable of, I have come more and more to appreciate the bold stand for liberty of America’s founding generation.

One important facet of the American Revolution that is almost entirely forgotten in the present day is that it represents the political flowering of the Protestant Reformation. Simply put, no Reformation, no United States of America.

In the beginning all America was Protestant – 98 percent of the people. The numbers we have for church affiliation in the seventeenth and eighteenth century America show that three – fourths of Americans were Calvinists of one flavor or another. Puritan, Pilgrim, Presbyterian, Baptist, German Reformed, Lutheran, Congregationalist, and Episcopal. There were few Catholics, almost no Jews or Methodists, and no Muslims, Mormons, Moonies, Buddhists, Confucianists, Hindus, or atheists. Had there been any large numbers of these groups, there would have been no America as we have known it, not because the people who hold these views are somehow inferior, but because the views themselves are inferior: They are logically incapable of creating and sustaining a free society (John Robbins, Rebuilding American Freedom in the Twenty-First Century).

It was biblical political philosophy, not the thought of ancient Greece and Rome, that is the cause of America’s historic, if not present, commitment to limited constitutional government and private property.

The widespread preaching of, and belief in, the Gospel of Justification by Faith Alone created a whole new civilization in the nations influenced by the Reformation. And not only that, but the political implications of the Reformation created a whole new system of international relations called the Westphalian World Order (WWO).

Pre-Westphalian Europe was a mixture of declining empires, retreating feudal lords and an emerging class of traders and capitalist entrepreneurs with the Church remaining very influential as an instrument of European governance. The Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, brought to an end the Thirty Years’ War, the first pan-European war in history. Under the terms of the peace settlement, a number of countries were confirmed in their sovereignty over territories. They were empowered to contract treaties with one another and with foreign powers. In a nutshell the central authority of the empire was replaced almost entirely by the sovereignty of about 300 princes. The Peace Treaty was a turning point in the mutual recognition of sovereignty rights. Although the signatories of the treaty had only the peace of Europe as their ultimate objective, the unintended consequence of their efforts was to create a global order based on a “State System” (KImon Valaskakis, Westphalia II: The Real Millennium Challenge).

While it may seem like common sense to some, the idea that a nation state has the right to conduct its own affairs free from outside influence was a revolutionary idea in its time. Inspired by the Reformation, the vested powers of the day, most notably the Roman Church-State – note well that Valaskakis mentions that “the Church remain[ed] very influential as an instrument of European governance – fought against Westphalian Sovereignty and the emerging WWO with all their might. But simply put, the good guys won, the bad guys lost, and a new and better civilization emerged from feudal darkness.

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Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire; your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. – Isaiah 1:7

 

London Bridge Terror Attack_3

Police respond to the terrorist attack on London Bridge, June 3, 2017.

 

 

Dear Britain, we need to talk. I know, I know, talking about sensitive subjects, that’s the very sort of thing we’d all prefer to avoid. And yet, sometimes the very things that are most difficult to discuss are the very things that most need to be discussed. In this case, the uncomfortable subject I have in mind is your ongoing, painful-to-watch civilizational collapse.

For my part, I’d rather not bring up the topic. It would be much more comfortable to keep my nose to the grindstone and carry on as if nothing were happening. And yet, after watching news of the third major terrorist attack in Britain in less than three months, I simply cannot hold my peace any longer. In the words of Isaiah, strangers are devouring your land in your presence. But for all that you do nothing. How can this be?

But in truth, your response is worse than nothing. For not only are you failing to address the collapse of your civilization, each new disaster seems to strengthen your leaders’ resolve to hasten the day when Great Britain, at least as it has been understood for centuries, no longer exists.

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Wittenberg-1536.jpg

Wittenberg as seen from the Elbe, 1536.

October 31 is known to much of the world as the pagan holiday of Halloween. But for Christians, October 31 represents something quite different. It’s what we call Reformation Day.

 

For it was on that date in 1517 that Martin Luther’s nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door and forever changed the world for the better.

The Gospel of Justification By Faith Alone – the idea that sinful men are saved, not by doing good works, but solely by faith in Christ Jesus – once again shone forth in all its brilliance after a millennium of suppression by the Roman Church-State and millions were saved as a result.

But Luther’s rejection of church tradition in favor of the objective, written Word of God did not revolutionize the church only. It resulted in a whole new civilization, what we now call the West, coming into existence.

Ideas such as the sanctity of private property, honesty in exchange, the rule of law, capitalism, written constitutions, secular work as pleasing to God all found their origin in the Protestant Reformation that began with Luther.

Though it is not commonly understood by Americans, our nation owes its very existence to the Biblical ideas recovered at the time of the Reformation.

Most of us are taught to trace the foundations of our republic to Greece and Rome. But limited, constitutional government did not begin with Greco-Roman civilization. It began with the Hebrew Republic as recorded for us in the Old Testament. Thus the Bible is foundational to our political system.

In like manner, our economic system of capitalism or free enterprise finds its origins, not in the writings of pagan philosophers, nor in the thought of medieval scholastics, nor in the principles of the Renaissance, but in the propositions of the Word of God, the 66 books of the Bible.

To put it another way: No Protestant Reformation, no United States of America. To quote John Robbins,

One of Luther’s most brilliant followers, John Calvin, systematized the theology of the Reformation. The seventeenth-century Calvinists laid the foundations for both English and American civil rights and liberties: freedom of speech, pres, and religion, the privilege against self-incrimination, the independence of juries, and right of habeas corpus, the right not to be imprisoned without cause. The nineteenth-century German historian Leopold von Ranke referred to Calvin as the “virtual founder of America” (Civilization and the Protestant Reformation).

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Luther's 95 Theses.

Luther’s 95 Theses.

“How arrogant,” I said to myself the first time I heard the Calvinist doctrine of election, “I’m glad I’m not one of those people.” Looking back many years, it strikes me as funny to think about my reaction the first time I heard about the sovereignty of God. I didn’t like it. No, not one bit. Those Calvinists. They were insufferably conceited. How could anyone be so audacious as to claim he was chosen by God? What I didn’t see at the time was the plank in my own eye, the pride of believing I had the good sense to believe in Jesus Christ all on my own steam. I was a Christian, or so I thought, because I chose of my own freewill to receive Christ into my heart. I chose God, he didn’t choose me.

Fast forward about twenty years and by God’s grace, and much to my surprise, I found myself becoming one of “those people,” a Christian who understood and agreed with the Biblical doctrines of election and reprobation. I came to love the Reformation, its people, its history, and eagerly took to reading all I could about it.

With that in mind, here are a few of my thoughts on Reformation Day and why I love it.

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