Friday, October 28, 2011

October 31: transformation of science

“It is into Calvinism that the Modern world strikes its roots. For it is Calvinism which first reveals the dignity and worth of man. Called of God, heir of heaven, the merchant in his shop and the peasant in his field suddenly became the equal of noble and king.” John Green

Denver will celebrate Halloween next week. But they will not be celebrating the most significant event of that day: the birth of the Reformation. When Luther nailed the 95 Theses that fateful day in 1517, he nailed the coffin of the Middle Ages. Many historians trace the modern era from the Reformation. And one reason is the economic impact of that God-given event.

(Continued here.)

Rest of series:

October 31: transformation of the church

In the first installment, the siginificance of October 31st was summaried. The core doctrinal effect of Luther’s 95 Theses, justification by faith alone, was to impact all of human life. Human mediation was removed. Human mediation was removed. Thus, the hierarchy of Rome was rejected. This lead to the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer: each Christian had immediate access to God through Christ alone by faith alone. No human instruments (sacraments, saints, or priest) came between the believer and Christ. This liberated the individual.

Luther also translated the Bible into German instead of following the tradition of Rome which only used the Latin Vulgate, used only by trained experts. Since Rome believed that salvation was found in the church (through her accumulated merit) and church tradition was on par with the bible, it followed that the church would control the bible. Again, the priesthood of the believer gave immediate access to the bible since it was there that Christ was found. And to have access to the Bible, reading becomes a necessary skill. Literacy grew.

The priesthood of the believers also affected the church directly. Since the ministers were not priests in the strict sense of the word, but ministers (servants) for the church and for that salvation immediately obtainable to the individual, then hierarchicalism was greatly hampered. In the Reformed churches of Calvin & Zwingli, this top-down structure was abolished. Congregational singing, voting and discipline were revived accordingly. Republican-like church structures abounded in the Reformed churches. The priesthood of the believer also gave rise to liberty of conscience. A man with a clear conscience is a man with liberty. A man trusting in God’s sovereignty will not fear man’s sovereignty. This freedom to believe and worship God according to the Bible was a strong impetus in France, Holland and Scotland, leading to societal changes in those countries. Tearing down the Papal structures, religious freedom budded. Although not perfect in execution, it still shook nations.

The priesthood of the believer arose directly from Luther’s view of salvation. Since justification (our right standing before God’s law court) was only through faith and only on account of Christ’s righteousness alone, then no mediating person or institution was needed. Society’s structures (home, school, guilds, etc) were no longer playing second fiddle to the Romish church. Monkery was rejected and a full marriage life was embraced. Holy days were abolished and time was freed. In other words, the Kingdom of God was no longer limited to the pope and his church. It was a broader kingdom, embracing all of life sanctified to God.

Christians are priest, so they are to dedicate all endeavors to God. Christians are prophets, so they are to declare the truth in all endeavors of life. Christians are princes, so they are to dominate all endeavors for God’s glory.

Justification by faith alone changed everything.

Rest of series:

October 31: the birthday of the Reformation

On October 31, 1517, the eve of All Saints’ Day, an Augustinian monk, hammered 95 theses—short propositions—on the Wittenberg door in Germany. He was protesting the indulgences of Tetzel, who, purportedly announced: "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” This system of indulgences was part of the larger system of baptism and penance and the Mass. Each a step in the works-salvation method of Rome. If a shrewd Christian could find the right confessor and some money, he could cover most sins while living like the Devil. In fact, even civil punishment could be avoided this way.

Hammering the theses was a public declaration. An advertisement of sorts. But it was more. It was a formal declaration against the Papal and Romish supremacy in matters of faith and life. The various theses fundamentally attacked the Romish church’s authority over the matter of salvation. It dismantled the churchly machine of Sacerdotalism—that mechanical view of redemption integrated into the church. It was claimed that salvation was found only in the Romish church through the Romish priests and the Romish sacraments. Good works were instrumentally necessary for salvation. In short, it was a works-salvation system. And although Christ was formally part of the process, He was not part and parcel to the entire schema.

In contrast, Luther wrote: “Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.” (Thesis 36). That is, Christians can have full remission of sin without Romish interference (“letters of pardon”). The believer had direct access to God. He needed no other mediator than Christ. Historian and professor of Princeton, Warfield, explains the antithesis thusly:

“The fundamental difference between the two doctrines [Luther and Tetzel] is the fundamental difference between evangelicalism and sacerdotalism. Evangelicalism casts man back on God and God only; the faith that it asks of him is faith in God’s saving grace in Christ alone. Sacerdotalism throws him into the hands of the Church and asks him to put his confidence in it—or, in the indulgences, very specifically the Pope.”

This view was summarized by Luther: justification through faith alone by grace alone on account of Christ alone. It was a view that was earlier discovered by Luther’s study of the book of Romans (about 1515 AD). And it is the view underlining the 95 Theses:

“What he here attacks is just the sacerdotal principle in one of its most portentous embodiments—the teaching that men are to look to the Church as the institute of salvation for all their souls’ welfare, and to derive from the Church all their confidence in life and in death. What he sets over against this sacerdotalism is the evangelical principle that man is dependent for his salvation on God and on God alone—on God directly, apart from all human intermediation—and is to look to God for and to derive from God immediately all that makes for his soul’s welfare."

Luther's casting of the issue into the public limelight made October 31 the birthday of the Reformation. And made it the beginning of cultural renewal of the West.

In the articles to follow, the tremendous impact of Reformation theology will be presented. It was not the only source of influence, but it was of great significance in the economics, science and politics of yesteryear and the roots of modern prosperity. Of course, history is not accomplished in a vacuum. The Reformers always insisted that they were only following doctrines already existing in the church but not fully understood or consistently carried out. What I hope to accomplish is a greater appreciation of the results of the Reformation; results, to be sure, that were not necessarily consciously pursued—a not uncommon activity among humans—but logically flowed from the biblical ideals of Luther, Calvin, Knox, and their fellow Reformers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Understanding Federal Vision

My good friend Wes White has provided some articles to better understand the thinking and actions of the Federal Vision.

1. FV view of the visible church
2. WCF on saving benefits of Christ
3. FV contrary to the WCF