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church history

November 17, 2010

I have always enjoyed studying history and, over the years, have read several church history texts. One thing I’ve noticed just about every time is that many of these church histories fail to make real distinctions between true gospel-centered Christianity and a kind of inculturated or tradition-based Christianity. That has always been disappointing to me. I suppose I am looking for a history of the true church, of true Christianity, not just a history of what calls itself the church or what considers itself Christian. And so I find that I am still waiting for that slam dunk church history text.

But this is not to say that there are no church histories worth reading. Today I want to draw your attention to just a few of them—a couple that are one-volume and a couple that are multi-volume.

ShelleyChurch History in Plain Language - Bruce Shelley’s Church History in Plain Language is probably the most popular one-volume church history available today. I read it several years ago and quite enjoyed it. It’s very much geared to a popular reader rather than an academic and moves quickly through the grand sweep of 2000 years of history. One aspect I found difficult was that the author did not make those clear distinctions between Christian and Catholic. So especially at and after the time of the Reformation, there was often a lack of clarity in my mind. Nevertheless, if you are looking for an accessible and relatively short church history, this is probably the best place to begin.

[Westminster Books | Amazon]

HistoryIntroduction to the History of Christianity - Dowley’s one-volume history of the church was first published in 1977 and reads like a textbook (which is not surprising since it is, indeed, a text for many introductory courses to church history). It features lots of illustrations, sidebars and maps, most in full color, as it describes church history from the Apostles to pope John Paul II. Because it comes from a Lutheran perspective it requires a bit of a discerning mind; the reader will want to think carefully about what is truly Christian and what is Christian only by tradition or culture. Still, it is a text worth owning and worth reading.

[Amazon]

And here are a couple of church history sets:

September 27, 2009

I have (slowly) been reading Bruce Gordon’s new biography of Calvin (titled simply Calvin) and recently came to a chapter describing the situation in France during Calvin’s ministry in Geneva. As a Frenchman, Calvin’s influence spread beyond Geneva and into his native land. There Protestants, some connected to Calvin and others not, were being killed as part of a systematic effort to root out the seditious faith. Many were hunted down, tortured and executed.

This short description of such an occasion comes from the pen of Eustache Knobelsdorf, a Catholic German who was studying in Paris. He witnessed the execution of a Protestant in 1542 and wrote out an account. I reproduce it here because it stands as a testimony of God’s truthfulness when he says that he will care for his own, not necessarily by avoiding the fire, but sometimes through the fire.

*****

I saw two burnt there. Their death inspired in me differing sentiments. If you had been there, you would have hoped for a less severe punishment for these poor unfortunates. … The first was a very young man, not yet with a beard, he was the son of a cobbler. He was brought in front of the judges and condemned to have his tongue cut out and burned straight afterward. Without changing the expression of his face, the young man presented his tongue to the executioner’s knife, sticking it out as far as he could. The executioner pulled it out even further with pinchers, cut it off, and hit the sufferer several times on the tongue and threw it in the young man’s face. Then he was put into a tipcart, which was driven to the place of execution, but, to see him, one would think that he was going to a feast. … When the chain had been placed around his body, I could not describe to you with what equanimity of soul and with what expression in his features he endured the cries of elation and the insults of the crowd that were directed towards him. He did not make a sound, but from time to time he spat out the blood that was filling his mouth, and he lifted his eyes to heaven, as if he was waiting for some miraculous rescue. When his head was covered in sulphur, the executioner showed him the fire with a menacing air; but the young man, without being scared, let it be known, by a movement of his body, that he was giving himself willingly to be burned.

November 15, 2008

Yesterday, while reading a book about the history of the English Bible, I came across the story of John Rogers, a Bible translator who worked first with Tyndale and then independently after Tyndale’s death. It’s a story I’ve read before and one that is so powerful. Rogers was eventually arrested, tried, and found guilty of heresies against the Roman Church and against the sacrament. Such heresy carried with it the penalty of death and Rogers was to become the first of many martyrs under the reign of Mary I (Bloody Mary). Here is how Foxe described his last moments.

When the time came that he should be brought out of Newgate to Smithfield, the place of his execution, Mr. Woodroofe, one of the sheriffs, first came to Mr. Rogers, and asked him if he would revoke his abominable doctrine, and the evil opinion of the Sacrament of the altar. Mr. Rogers answered, “That which I have preached I will seal with my blood.” Then Mr. Woodroofe said, “Thou art an heretic.” “That shall be known,” quoth Mr. Rogers, “at the Day of Judgment.” “Well,” said Mr. Woodroofe, “I will never pray for thee.” “But I will pray for you,” said Mr. Rogers; and so was brought the same day, the fourth of February, by the sheriffs, towards Smithfield, saying the Psalm Miserere by the way, all the people wonderfully rejoicing at his constancy; with great praises and thanks to God for the same. And there in the presence of Mr. Rochester, comptroller of the queen’s household, Sir Richard Southwell, both the sheriffs, and a great number of people, he was burnt to ashes, washing his hands in the flame as he was burning. A little before his burning, his pardon was brought, if he would have recanted; but he utterly refused it. He was the first martyr of all the blessed company that suffered in Queen Mary’s time that gave the first adventure upon the fire. His wife and children, being eleven in number, ten able to go, and one sucking at her breast, met him by the way, as he went towards Smithfield. This sorrowful sight of his own flesh and blood could nothing move him, but that he constantly and cheerfully took his death with wonderful patience, in the defence and quarrel of the Gospel of Christ.”

June 16, 2008

Though I work primarily as a web designer, and despite receiving training in another area of the computer field (network administration, for those who may be interested), my most significant education was in history. It was history that I studied while in college and it is, in many ways, still my first love. As much as I love reading Christian living and spiritual growth books, I’m always eager to dive into my next history book. In the decade since I completed college I have continued to read in history, and in particular, in church history.

As I’ve read about the first-century church, I’ve been struck by the blessedness of living in this generation—our generation. As I study the very early Christians I begin to see again just what a legacy we have as Christ followers. The faith as we know it today was not simply handed to us, but was painstakingly developed over hundreds and thousands of years. The Scriptures have been closely studied through all of those years and the general pattern has been incremental steps forward and often large steps backward. Sometimes God sees fit to allow the church to take a giant step forward, as in the days of the Reformation, but more often the church has slowly and deliberately developed doctrine that accords to Scripture. Today we have unprecedented access to the Scripture and to resources dealing with the Bible. For this we ought to be profoundly grateful.

I thought it would be worthwhile to list some reasons that we, as Christians, should be eager to engage in the study of church history.

God Tells Us To: The Bible continually exhorts believers to search out and remember the past. The Old Testament in particular is filled with references to God commanding the Israelites to remember His deeds of the past. He instituted ceremony after ceremony, festival after festival, that caused His people to look to what He had done in the past. Veiled in many of these ceremonies and festivals was a glimpse of what would happen in the future. And so, when we look to the past, we may also glimpse just a little bit of what God promises us in the future.

For inquire, please, of bygone ages, and consider what the fathers have searched out. For we are but of yesterday and know nothing, for our days on earth are a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you and utter words out of their understanding?” (Job 8:8-10)

The pillars and monuments of the past serve as constant reminders of God’s faithfulness. They serve to increase our faith and they reassure us that as God has acted in the past, He will act in the future.

To Understand Today: We should study the past to understand the present. The study of history, when done right, is always a humbling experience. It allows us to understand and sympathize with the plight of those who came before us. It helps us understand the blessings we enjoy today that were not always enjoyed by our brothers and sisters in days past. It also prevents us from developing a view of the faith that is too narrowly focused on our day and ignores the long, storied history of the church. It shows us that we are not too far different from so many of our brothers and sisters in days past and helps us avoid sins and mistakes they may have made.

To Understand Tomorrow: History is not just a study of the past in an attempt to understand the present, but is also an attempt to understand and even predict the future. When we see the patterns of days gone by, we can begin to formulate ideas about where current trends will lead. By understanding the past we begin to understand the future. When we understand where our current trends are taking us, we can react to avoid heading down paths that have been shown to be ruinous.

To Understand Providence: As Christians we are often guilty of dwelling in the present and looking eagerly to the future while forgetting all about the past. But to do this is to lose sight of the valuable teaching of the past. In past days God revealed Himself in mighty ways, continually providing for His people through trial and persecution. When we study the past, we can see many of the ways in which God’s providence has already been displayed. This can serve as a valuable teaching tool as we prepare to face trials or persecution in our day. It can and should spur us to greater love and appreciation of God and give us greater confidence in His promises. As He has been faithful to men and women of days gone by, He will be faithful to us and to our children. This assurance gives us great stability in our faith.

To Understand Error: In many ways the history of the church is a history of action and reaction. Much of Christian theology has been developed and strengthened in reaction to error and heresy. When we visit the past we can see how error has arisen in the church and we can see which errors have already arisen and have been decided by a consensus of the church. This can be valuable as we face the inevitable error in our own day. Many Christians engage anew in battles over doctrine for which they could receive a great deal of guidance from great theologians of days past. By studying what has happened, we can avoid future errors and even the patterns that precede error.

To Understand People: We all enjoy considering who we would choose to sit for a meal with, were we able to select from all the people who are living or have lived in the past. The reality, of course, is that we cannot speak with our heroes who have lived before us. Yet by studying history we can come to know and understand them. We can come to see the parts of their lives that brought glory to God and the parts that brought Him dishonor. We can see what led to their rise to prominence within the church and perhaps the character flaws that led to their downfall. We can learn much not just from history, but from specific people who lived in a period of history.

To Understand Endurance: Since Christ left the earth, Christians have lived in anticipation of His return. Those who lived in the first century expected that this event would be imminent. And yet, two millennia later, we continue to wait. As we look to history we arm ourselves with the knowledge that Christ’s return may still be far off. As we see how men and women have persevered throughout the history of the church, we are strengthened with endurance, knowing that we, too, shall be witnesses to Christ’s return when that great day finally arrives.

Can you think of more reasons? If you can, feel free to post a comment below.

January 24, 2008

This morning we continue with our reading of John Owen’s classic Overcoming Sin and Temptation. If you’d like to know more about this reading project, you can read about it right here: Reading Classics Together. We’re into the real heart of the book now and are looking at specific instructions on how to put sin to death.

In the past few chapters we have been in the book’s second section—a section that focuses on “the nature of mortification.” In the past chapters and those to come Owen approaches the subject this way:

  1. Show what it is to mortify any sin, and that both negatively and positively, that we be not mistaken in the foundation.
  2. Give general directions for such things as without which it will be utterly impossible for anyone to get any sin truly and spiritually mortified.
  3. Draw out the particulars whereby this is to be done.

He has already shown both negatively and positively what it is to mortify a sin and has given the general directions. Last week he offered the first of his particular instructions on how to go about the business of mortifying sin. He told us to consider whether our lust has certain dangerous symptoms accompanying it and went on to describe certain conditions: Inveterateness (a state of being deep-rooted or habitual); secret pleas of the heart to countenance sin without a gospel attempt to mortify sin; applying grace and mercy to an unmortified sin; frequency of success in sin’s seduction; arguing against sin only because of impending punishment; probable judiciary hardness; when your lust has already withstood particular dealings from God against it. This week he turns to a second instruction.

Summary

This chapter’s theme is this: Get a clear and abiding sense upon your mind and conscience of the guilt, danger, and evil of your sin. Owen follows this outline:

  1. Consider the guilt of it
    • Though the power of sin be weakened by inherent grace, yet the guilt of remaining sin is aggravated and heightened by it
    • God sees a great deal of evil in the working of lust in the hearts of his servants
  2. Consider the danger of it
    • Of being hardened by deceitfulness
    • Of some great temporal correction
    • Of loss of peace and strength
    • Of eternal destruction
  3. Consider its present evils
    • It grieves the holy and blessed Spirit
    • The Lord Jesus Christ is wounded afresh by it
    • It will take away a man’s usefulness in his generation

Discussion

I don’t know that any other chapter has given me more to think about than this one. It’s not just that it was tough going (and certain sections really were tough to read and absorb) but that Owen covered some aspects of thinking about sin that really were new to me. I’ll give a brief thought about each of the three headings he used: the guilt of sin, the danger of sin, and the evil of sin.

I doubt too many Christians can read Owen’s thoughts on considering the guilt of our sin and remain unaffected. Of course I wasn’t entirely sure that I read it correctly but after three or four go-rounds I am fairly confident. Owen says, “Though the power of sin be weakened by inherent grace, yet the guilt of remaining sin is aggravated and heightened by it.” He says also that “God sees a great deal of evil in the working of lust in the hearts of his servants.” I take this to mean that sin committed by a Christian is in a sense far more serious than sin committed by an unbeliever. Once God has given us light and life, we sin in a way that is different from how we sinned before. When we sin as Christians we sin in direct contradiction to the work of the Spirit in our lives. “We, doubtless, are more evil than any, if we do [sin]. I shall not insist on the special aggravations of the sins of such persons—how they sin against more love, mercy, grace, assistance, relief, means, and deliverances than others. But let this consideration abide in your mind—there is inconceivably more evil and guilt in the evil of your heart that does remain, than there would be in so much sin if you had no grace at all.” With the great blessing of new life comes the great responsibility to be free from sin. When we do sin, we blatantly disregard the Spirit’s work and leading in our life. Hence there is a whole new dimension to our sin and a whole new level of seriousness.

In his section on the dangers of sin, Owen warned of being hardened by sin’s deceitfulness, of the danger of temporal punishment, of the loss of peace and strength in relationship with God and of eternal destruction. The one that stood out to me was the danger of being hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. I believe it is for good reason that he listed this one first. No person can find himself on the road to destruction or even being punished by God in this life if he has not first been hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. “There is a treachery, a deceit in sin, that tends to the hardening of your hearts from the fear of God.” At the close of this section comes a dire warning and challenge: “Is it not enough to make any heart to tremble, to think of being brought into that estate wherein he should have slight thoughts of sin? Slight thoughts of grace, of mercy, of the blood of Christ, of the law, heaven, and hell, come all in at the same season. Take heed, this is that [which] your lust is working toward—the hardening of the heart, searing of the conscience, blinding of the mind, stupifying of the affections, and deceiving of the whole soul.” When we have low thoughts of our sin it means we must also have low thoughts of the work and person of Christ and low thoughts of eternal reward and punishment. If we get sin wrong, we get everything else wrong. Sin is deceitful and we must have a biblical understanding of it if we are to honor God with our lives. We must mortify sin lest we allow it to blind us to its realities.

Where the dangers of sin point to future realities, the evils of sin point to the present. Here Owen offers three warnings. Sin grieves the holy and blessed Spirit; the Lord Jesus Christ is wounded afresh by it; and sin will take away a man’s [or woman’s] usefulness in his [or her] generation. I think it speaks volumes about a person’s heart whether or not these realities really concern him. Only one who has truly been born again will be concerned with grieving the Holy Spirit or wounding Jesus Christ afresh. Only a Christian will have a heart that is grieved by grieving God. Any man may fear and abhor the consequences of sin in his own life, but only a true believer will concern himself with how his sins affect God. “Among those who walk with God, there is no greater motive and incentive unto universal holiness, and the preserving of their hearts and spirits in all purity and cleanness, than this, that the blessed Spirit, who has undertaken to dwell in them, is continually considering what they give entertainment in their hearts unto, and rejoices when his temple is kept undefiled.” Does this thought motivate me to mortify the sin in my life? Does this thought motivate you to destroy the sin in yours? Or are we so self-centered that our first consideration is how our sin impacts our own lives and our own hearts? Those who truly love the Lord will prove this love by turning from sin.

Next Week

Next Thursday we will continue by reading chapter eleven.

Your Turn

As always, I would like to know what you gained from this chapter. Please post your comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you need to say something exceedingly clever or profound. Simply share what stirred your heart or what gave you pause. You can also post any questions that came up. Let’s be certain that we are reading this book together. The comments on previous chapters have been very helpful and have aided my enjoyment of the book. I have every reason to believe that this week will prove the same.

January 17, 2008

This morning we continue with our fourteen week journey through John Owen’s classic Overcoming Sin and Temptation. If you’d like to know more about this reading project, you can read about it right here: Reading Classics Together. We’re into the real heart of the book now and are looking at specific instructions on how to put sin to death.

By way of reminder, for the past few chapters we have been in the book’s second section—a section that turns the focus from introductory materials to “the nature of mortification.” In this portion of the book Owen is turning to this question: “Suppose a man to be a true believer, and yet finds in himself a powerful indwelling sin, leading him captive to the law of it, consuming his heart with trouble, perplexing his thoughts, weakening his soul as to duties of communion with God, disquieting him as to peace, and perhaps defiling his conscience, and exposing him to hardening through the deceitfulness of sin, what shall he do? What course shall he take and insist on for the mortification of this sin, lust, distemper, or corruption, to such a degree as that, though it be not utterly destroyed, yet, in his contest with it, he may be enabled to keep up power, strength, and peace in communion with God?”

In the past chapters and those to come he approaches the subject this way:

  1. Show what it is to mortify any sin, and that both negatively and positively, that we be not mistaken in the foundation (the fifth chapter provided the negative and this week we look at the positive aspect).
  2. Give general directions for such things as without which it will be utterly impossible for anyone to get any sin truly and spiritually mortified.
  3. Draw out the particulars whereby this is to be done.

He has already shown both negatively and positively what it is to mortify a sin and has given the general directions. This week he is turning to particular instructions on how to go about mortifying sin.

Summary

As I mentioned, Owen is now providing specific instructions on how to mortify sin. He will do this under nine headings and in this chapter he gives the first of these: Consider whether your lust has these dangerous symptoms accompanying it. The outline looks like this:

  1. Inveterateness (a state of being deep-rooted or habitual)
  2. Secret pleas of the heart to countenance sin without a gospel attempt to mortify sin
  3. Applying grace and mercy to an unmortified sin
  4. Frequency of success in sin’s seduction
  5. Arguing against sin only because of impending punishment
  6. Probable judiciary hardness
  7. When your lust has already withstood particular dealings from God against it

Discussion

Because it has been a ridiculously busy week, I did not have the time I would have liked to be able to really ponder this chapter and to meditate upon it. I’ll have to be sure to return to it. But there were still at least two things that really stood out to me. Once more I am thankful that Owen was such a student of the human condition. He understood sin and its impact on us in such a deep way. And because of this knowledge he was able to bring the gospel to bear on it. We see that in evidence in this chapter in a powerful way.

To mortify sin for this end, to satisfy conscience, which cries and calls for another purpose, is a desperate device of a heart in love with sin.” When the Spirit brings a sin to our minds it may be a temptation for us to refuse to put it to death. Instead of cooperating with the Spirit in mortifying that sin, we may hold onto it and satisfy ourselves with other evidences of God’s grace within us. We may see this sin and know that it is sin, but rather than fight against it, we simply content ourselves that we are Christians and then allow ourselves to be pleased with the other evidences of our conversion. This, says Owen, is a dangerous condition and one which is hardly curable. When God puts a yoke on our necks, we must be willing to do the hard work required to obey Him. We simply cannot ignore Him as He brings sin to mind. We cannot be so insincere and so hypocritical as to turn the grace of God into license.

In the next point, where he discusses applying Grace to an unmortified sin, Owen mentions a kind of sin I think we all have in our lives. They are secret sins and sins we hold on to because we really do like them. We have grown comfortable with their presence in our lives even though we freely admit they are sinful. Perhaps they involve foul language or bad temper; perhaps they involve copying DVDs or music; we laugh at these small and even respectable sins. We would rather go through life refusing to put these to death and allowing them free reign in our lives than allowing God to deal with them. When we do this, we apply God’s mercy to these sins, knowing that Jesus died to forgive even these. And yet we are unrepentant for them and are unwilling to let go of them. But, says Owen, “to apply mercy to a sin not vigorously mortified is to fulfill the end of the flesh upon the gospel.” We make a mockery of mercy and of God’s grace when we allow sin, and even the smallest sin, to run rampant.

As the book continues I look forward more and more to the chapters to come!

Next Week

Next Thursday we will continue by reading chapter ten.

Your Turn

As always, I would like to know what you gained from this chapter. Please post your comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you need to say something exceedingly clever or profound. Simply share what stirred your heart or what gave you pause. You can also post any questions that came up. Let’s be certain that we are reading this book together. The comments on previous chapters have been very helpful and have aided my enjoyment of the book. I have every reason to believe that this week will prove the same.

October 31, 2007

Reformation Day 2007

Today is Reformation Day—the 490th anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg’s Schlosskirke. That small act triggered a series of events that forever changed the world. It stands as one of the most important events in all of history—though an event that has been largely forgotten. Today we remember that day and express our gratitude to God for raising up men such as Martin Luther.

As I spent time alone with God this morning, my thoughts and prayers turned continually to the word “reform,” but with -ing appended to it instead of -ed. I love to claim the title of “Reformed,” but today my prayer was that God would continue reforming me. I am a work in progress and pray that God will continue to reform me and to reform the church. Perhaps He will work through some of these great articles that are coming in from the far reaches of the blogosphere as part of this Reformation Day Symposium. Each of these articles was prepared by a different blogger. Each makes a unique contribution. I’d encourage you to read at least a few of them.

If you have prepared an article you’d like to share, let me know and I will update this list throughout the day.

Additions at 4 PM

Here are a batch of additions at around 4:30 PM EST. This will be the last batch added, so if you still have something to share, post a comment with a link.

Grace Notes says “If you have a Bible on your shelf, or somewhere in your home, you owe a great debt of gratitude to Martin Luther.”

Nothing in Particular provides a Reformed analysis of the Catholic understanding of the doctrine of justification.

Everything Domestic says, “Let them sing psalms!” “How thankful we should be to have this continuing heritage of psalm-singing! We have such easy access to the Word of God, not just on paper, but set to music as well! I wonder if we recognize how blessed we are?”

Delighted says “Last of all, i remember the Reformation today, because Reformation should lead to reformission. The Word of God doing an unrestricted work of glory in our hearts should lead us to want to reach out to our lost, perverted, sick, devil worshipping towns and cities.”

Recover the Gospel posts an article by John MacArthur on “Unmasking the Pope.”

Additions at Noon

Here is the first round of updates, comprised of articles that have been forwarded to me as of noon (or so) EST.

Musings of the Dings goes for the brownie points by having the five-year old share his “My Little Martin Luther Book.” I’m quite sure he’s the youngest (and cutest) participant!

Reformed Evangelist asks “So what’s the point of celebrating Reformation Day? Especially when we already have an opportunity to witness to lost people on Halloween!”

Hiraeth writes about Albrecht Durer. “Did you know that Durer could be considered the ‘Artist of the Reformation?’”

Rebecca Writes writes about Jan Huss whom she calls “The Bohemian Morning Star.” “Luther was quite willing to acknowledge that his teachings were Hus’s teachings. “We are,” he said, “Hussites without knowing it.””

A Threefold Cord writes about John Knox, one of his heroes of the faith and one of the most influential reformers.

Allen Mickle asks “Are Baptists Part of the Protestant Reformation?” “If you are a Baptist this day (Reformation Day) take heart and rejoice in what God has done in history to rescue the truths of the Scriptures and bring them back into the church and thank God for the privilege of being part of that Reformation!”

Exploring Truth suggests “Evangelicalism: A Modern Day Tetzel?” “It’s my prayer that the Tetzelizing of Christendom will awaken more Luther’s and continue to raise that same ocean tide of fervency for truth in their hearts that marked the start of the great reformation.”

Relentlessly Biblical writes about Martin Luther’s holy matrimony.

Nauvoo Pastor remembers Matthias of Janow on Reformation Day one of the pre-prereformers who preceded even John Hus.

Wiser Time published “”I Will This Day Most Joyfully Die”: A Reformation Day Meditation on John Hus.”

The Lead of Love remembers “Promises Kept” as he focuses on Reformation Day.

Delivered by Grace writes that Luther’s legacy is love for the external Word.

Grace for Life celebrates Reformation Day with Abraham, Martin and John and invites you to do the same.

Kschaub marks the day with a review of Stephen Nichols’ The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World.

Glory and Gettysburg says “I thought it would be appropriate to write on something that I feel is the backbone of reformed theology, why we were chosen. I think it is described subtly in the Word like any other theological concept and is there in front of us waiting to humble us into submission to Christ.”

The Regrafted Branch says “Let us thank God for those down through the ages who—like that monk—have been called to steadfastly teach the greatest and most surprising truth of all: that salvation is by grace alone, a gift of God’s mercy whose splendour, beauty, and matchless value lies precisely in the fact that it is a work untouched by human hands.”

Reformation Day Symposium—Initial Entries

Gazing at Glory (Doug was kind enough to send along the graphic that heads up this article) writes about “The Danger of Getting Bored with the Gospel.” “Reformation Day is something to celebrate, because of the recovery of the Gospel. But this day also reminds us that there is something we must guard. We must guard the purity and clarity of the message of the Gospel. But we must also guard our own hearts so that we never become immune, inoculated, or bored concerning the wonderful news that Jesus Christ really does save sinners.”

Vine and Fig includes a poem but first writes, “Luther was a monk who re-discovered and proclaimed the wonderful, life-giving truth that we can be saved not by penance, not by pilgrimages, not by the excess merits of the saints, not by papal dispensations, but by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ who died for sinners and who rose up again, the proof that he’d paid in full for the sins of his people.”

Reformed Baptist Fellowship has a multi-part series on the Reformation with today’s article asking (and answering) “Why was Oct 31, 1517 so important?”

Eternally Significant posts a review of Here I Stand, Bainton’s classic biography of Martin Luther. “The greatest value of this book is the fuller understanding of the life of Luther… Although his work is over a half century old, those who study Luther, both detractors and sympathizers, will continue to be able to take Bainton’s biography and support their argument with facts.”

A Deeper Love writes about the confidence Christians can have when looking to the Bible. “The work that these people did has given many millions of people the gift of confidence in God’s saving work. No longer do God’s people have to labour under the burden of uncertainty about whether they have “measured up” to a standard that will allow them to enter heaven. They can have confidence that Christ has met that standard for them.”

The Blue Fish Project seeks Reformation for his own heart. “I’m the one who keeps changing, reverting to the easy path of walking out of step with the Spirit. What I need is men and women who will rub the grace of God in the gospel into my heart. Not just once a year, but daily. Not because I don’t know it but because I do.”

Biblical Thought makes a plea to Reformed Christians in the West. “To identify your theological heritage as “Reformed,” like I do, is O.K. as it pertains to doctrine and tradition, but may lead to a relaxed Christian life with potential vulnerability. I find it helpful to be in constant reform-ing mode because the objective standard to which the church reforms to (Scripture), remains as the lens through which all of life is viewed.”

Chris’ Considerations provides a brief history of the issues at stake in the Reformation and asks how these things shaped and should continue to shape the Church of England.

Semper Reformanda highlights one of the lesser-known figures, the pre-Reformer John Huss. “On the 490th anniversary of Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenburg, we also celebrate John Huss, an early advocate of sola Scriptura, who was willing to die a martyr’s death for the One who had died for him.”

Sola Gratia Grigoletti’s Christian Blog writes of “A Baptist’s Love of Philipp Melanchthon.” “The reason why I choose to write about Philipp Melanchthon on this special day for Christians is because recently I have began to read the Augsburg Confession and it is clear that Melanchthon defined sola fide in a more theologically precise than Dr. Luther and while Dr. Luther did indeed teach sola fide it is also true that Melanchthon expanded on the work and theology of Luther.”

Sweet Tea and Theology writes about the sinner’s justification saying, “It is probably even more important that the faithful get back to preaching this doctrine of justification in light of our sinfulness. Not only preaching it, but living it out in our local churches.”

A Reasonable Faith says “It seems to me that in these days when certain denominations seem to be going sideways, in need of a new Reformation for all intents and purposes, we might gain encouragement from God’s promise that He will not allow His true Church to die.”

Jollyblogger shares a Reformation Day sermon in which he covered the subject of Total Depravity.

On the Other Foot, writing from a Catholic perspective, wishes Protestants a happy birthday but tells us that we are really just daughters of the mother church.

Kingdom People posts the top ten moments of the Reformation and also writes about Justification: the Defining Doctrine of the Reformation.

Provocations and Pantings wants the SBC to move from resurgance to re-formation. “By re-formation I mean we must reconsider just how we function as Southern Baptists in cooperation with one another.”

Titus2Talk re-posts their excellent biographical sketch of Katie Luther.

The Thirsty Theologian shares Spurgeon’s cry for a new generation of Luthers and Calvins. “We want again Luthers, Calvins, Bunyans, Whitefields, men fit to mark eras, whose names breathe terror in our foemen’s ears.”

Whatever Things shares a short piece about John Hooper, one of the English reformers.

After Darkness Light writes about “Assurance and the Gospel: A Post in Celebration of Reformation Day.” “Today, even among many evangelical churches, assurance of faith is too frequently peddled to the masses in the guise of a gospel that is just as inadequate as the gospel Luther struggled against.”

Pastor Steve Weaver collects a number of sermons, papers and posts he has written related to Reformation themes.

Four Scores and Seven Films Ago continues a mock news story about Martin Erasmus Hinn, a young man who seeks to make people aware of the existence of Reformation Day.

John Dekker writes about “Reformed Unity #1: Remembering the Reformation.”

Darryl Dash writes about a rediscovery of the gospel. “What I’m thinking about most today, though, is what lay at the heart of the 95 Theses: a rediscovery of the gospel. The person who has helped me understand why this is so important is Tim Keller…”

Colossians Three Sixteen writes first about “The Five Points of What?” and then turns to Calvin’s Hands, Servetus’ Blood?.

December 26, 2006

I’ve often wondered if children in school continue to read Huckleberry Finn. It is a truly great story by a master storyteller and is a book I enjoyed a great deal when we read it in the eighth grade. I can still remember my teacher, who also happened to be the school’s principal, reading the story aloud to us and helping us understand it. While it is a great story, it is also one that has a certain word appear many times. It’s that word that has only recently, I believe, come to be known as the “n-word.” Just uttering that word these days is enough to end careers and destroy friendships. And yet, even a few decades ago, it was considered acceptable in a story. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that Huckleberry Finn is no longer read in schools simply because of that word.

Words come and go. There are thousands of words that have fallen out of use or have had their meanings changed as time has passed and the language has evolved. And, of course, many thousands more have been introduced into the language, some coined to express something very specific (i.e., “metrosexual”) and some to describe a new object or technology. Sometimes it is good for words to pass out of common use, and the “n-word” is one of these words. Hurtful, derogatory and laden with bad memories, there is no benefit to maintaining this word. But there are other words that we need to maintain, we need to keep in our common lexicon.

One of these words, a word we need to hold onto, is “sin.” This word is found only rarely now outside the bounds of the church, and sadly, almost as rarely within. In the past few weeks I’ve read several books which speak of errors, mistakes and bad judgment, but never of sin. All of these books are written by and about Christians. In his autobiography, Shawn Alexander writes about making many mistakes in his life, but never of committing sin. When writing about Joel Osteen, his biographer admits mistakes in Osteen’s life, but never charges him with sin. Dr. Phil’s wife, Robin McGraw, has done many dumb things, but to the point of the book I’ve read, has not sinned. And so on. Humans seem eager to admit mistakes and error, but loathe to admit sin.

There is something about this word, this little “s-word,” that offends people. We are not offended by mistakes. We are offended by sin. The problem is that sin and mistakes are not the same thing.

I’ve thought about this for a while now and it seems to me that the reason we are afraid to admit sin lies in its definition. Where a mistake is something like “a wrong action attributable to bad judgment or ignorance or inattention”, according to the Shorter Catechism, “sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” Mistakes are inevitable in this life and, while they may be a product of the Fall, they are not necessarily sinful. I may make a mistake about the time I am to pick my son up from school and arrive fifteen minutes late. This is not sinful, but it is a mistake. I have made a mistake and my son has suffered just a little bit as he had to wait a few minutes. And so I apologize to my son and the situation is over. But when I sin against my son, perhaps by snapping at him when he is inquisitive and I am tired and grumpy, I have not made a mistake; I have sinned. I have offended both my son and God. I have offended my son but have ultimately offended God. David says in Psalm 51:4 “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” Of course David had also sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah and the whole nation of Israel. And yet he knew that his ultimate sin was against God.

And so it seems that we are afraid to admit sin because it requires that we admit we have offended God. And when we admit to offending God, we admit that we are deserving of His punishment. We are deserving of His wrath. We are deserving of hell. And who wants to admit this? To admit to this is to go against our sinful natures and all that we believe about ourselves.

When we refuse to utter the “s-word,” and worse, when we refuse to view ourselves as sinners, we refuse to admit our need of a Savior. We tacitly suggest that we can remedy our own mistakes rather than relying on the Savior who has paid for sin.