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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

William Tyndale - Part 1

"I defy the pope and all his laws; and, if God spares me, I will one day make the boy that drives the plow in England to know more of the Scriptures than the pope does!" So said translation pioneer William Tyndale.

Born near Dursley, Gloucestershire, UK, between 1484 and 1496, Tyndale developed a zeal to get the Bible into the hands of the common man—a passion for which he ultimately gave his life.

Educated at Oxford and Cambridge, Tyndale became fluent in at least seven languages. In 1522, the same year Luther translated the New Testament into German, Tyndale was an ordained Catholic priest serving John Walsh of Gloucestershire. It was during this time, when Tyndale was 28 years of age, that he began pouring over Erasmus’ Greek New Testament. The more he studied the more the doctrines of the Reformation became clear. And like a great fire kindled by a lighting strike, so Tyndale’s heart was set ablaze by the doctrines of grace:

By grace . . . we are plucked out of Adam the ground of all evil and graffed in Christ, the root of all goodness. In Christ God loved us, his elect and chosen, before the world began and reserved us unto the knowledge of his Son and of his holy gospel; and when the gospel is preached to us openeth our hearts and giveth us grace to believe, and putteth the spirit of Christ in us: and we know him as our Father most merciful, and consent to the law and love it inwardly in our heart and desire to fulfill it and sorrow because we do not.

Rome’s Opposition to an English Translation

Nearly 200 years earlier, starting in 1382, John Wycliff and his followers (known as Lollards) distributed hand-written English translations of Scripture. The Archbishop of Canterbury responded by having Wycliffe and his writings condemned.

But Rome was not finished. In 1401, Parliament passed a law making heresy a capital offence. Seven years later, the Archbishop of Canterbury made it a crime to “translate any text of the Scripture into English or any other tongue . . . and that no man can read any such book . . . in part or in whole." The sentence was burning. Across Europe, the flames were ignited and the Lollards were all but destroyed. Rome was determined to keep God’s Word out of the people’s hands.

. . . as a boy of 11 watched the burning of a young man in Norwich for possessing the Lord’s Prayer in English . . . John Foxe records . . . seven Lollards burned at Coventry in 1519 for teaching their children the Lord’s Prayer in English.

John Bale (1495-1563)

Rome was not finished with Wycliffe either: 44 years after his death, the pope ordered Wycliffe’s bones exhumed, burned, and his ashes scattered.

Tyndale was truly in great danger.

Stay Tuned for part 2!

--The Catechizer

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Does Sin Cost a Believer His Salvation?

One of the terrors I endured early in my Christian life was that of continually believing that I was teetering on destruction, that I was constantly oscillating between salvation and perdition. Have I repented enough? Have I done enough to feel that I was again in God’s good graces? What about all the sins I’ve committed that I can’t recall or of which I am unaware?

As much as I wanted to believe that my salvation was by faith in Christ and in him alone, I was still faced with the grim consequences of my soteriology: God provided grace, but it was my decision to either take his hand or to slap it away. And it was my decision to continue in this salvific enterprise--and my sin was a definite issue. Was I still saved at any given moment? I couldn’t be sure. Despair was often the result.

Later, once I discovered that salivation indeed belonged to the Lord, I was set free! Free to worship God and to enjoy him and this life. God was the author and the finisher of my faith, not me. He holds me in his hand, and isn’t relying on my grip to keep me from falling away. What an occasion for rejoicing!

From Ligonier . . .

But I’m convinced that the Bible teaches that what God begins in our life, he finishes. Paul teaches, for example, in Philippians, “He who has begun a good work in you will perfect it to the end.” My confidence rests in the fact that Jesus promises to intercede for me daily as my Great High Priest. My confidence for my future salvation rests in my confidence that God will keep his promise and that Christ will intercede for me and preserve me. Again, if it were left to me, I would obviously fall away. I like to look at it this way: I’m walking the Christian life with my hand in God’s hand. If my perseverance depended upon my holding tightly to God’s hand, I would surely fall away because at some point I would let go. But I believe that the Scriptures teach us that God is holding my hand, and because he is holding my hand, I don’t have to fear that I will fall ultimately and finally.

Now that doesn’t mean that Christians don’t involve themselves in serious sins and what we would call in theology “serious and radical fall,” but the issue we’re discussing here is whether a Christian will ever fall totally and finally. In the New Testament John tells us, for example, that “those who went out from us were never really with us,” and that “Christ does not lose those whom the Father has given to him.” So my confidence again rests in the intercession of Christ and God’s ability and promise to hold on to me. In and of myself I am capable of sinning even unto the loss of my salvation, but I’m persuaded that God in his grace will keep me from that.

You can read the rest here.

--The Catechizer

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Rome, The Infallible Interpreter?

The Roman Catholic Church claims that only she can correctly interpret the Scriptures. We Protestants, of course, “protest” such a claim. But before we even make our Scriptural case for Sola Scripture, a few questions come to mind. Such as, if only Rome can correctly interpret the Bible, who was providing the interpretations as the Epistles were being read aloud in the early church, and why is no mention of this need made by Paul and the others?(Along those lines, who interpreted the letter for Philemon?) Besides “Because we say so,” why ought we accept Rome’s claim as the sole interpreter? And here’s an even better question posed over at Green Baggins . . .

I do want to ask formally this question: if the RCC has a monopoly on the interpretation of the Bible, how come they have not come out with an inerrant commentary on the Bible? They keep telling us that “our own private interpretations” are wrong when they run foul of the RCC. However, they don’t tell us what every verse in fact means. I would think this would be a rather high priority, seeing as how we are dealing with direct revelation from God. I want to know what God said to me in His Word. How can the Roman Catholic find that out? Would it not be vitally important that we have God’s Word all figured out by the church as to its meaning? If a RC apologist responds by saying that it is all interpreted in the Tradition, I would say that they are operating with a definition of Tradition that doesn’t really work. Tradition is basically what the current RCC teaches. Besides, very few verses have ever been definitely interpreted by the RCC as to their meaning. Where is the definitive interpretation of the Bible? In the Protestant tradition, we really don’t have to worry about that. We have and can learn from all the writers of the past, while not having to agree with any one or group of them, unless, say, we take a vow upholding a particular confessional standard.

You can read the rest of the post here.

--The Catechizer


Saturday, January 24, 2015

John Calvin on Holiness

Sanctification is a slow, painful process that lasts until Glory. Indeed, we’ll only make small strides in this life. But strive we must. The holiness of our Lord must always be before our eyes. (How easy it is to lose sight of this, Lord help us!) John Calvin spilled much ink on this topic and his insights are valuable. Ligonier summarizes some of Calvin’s thoughts over at their blog. Here’s how it begins:

Holiness consists in conformity to Christ. Calvin writes, “Because the Father has reconciled us to Himself in Christ, therefore He commands us to be conformed to Christ as to our pattern.” Indeed, he continues, “Unless we ardently and prayerfully devote ourselves to Christ’s righteousness we do not only faithlessly revolt from our Creator, but we also abjure Him as our Savior.”

This is strong language. The word ardently conveys the idea of eager zealousness, or as we might say today, “going all out” or “giving 100 percent.” The word abjure means “to renounce strongly,” as in Peter’s third denial of the Lord when “he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know the man’” (Matt. 26:74).

Calvin leaves no room for a middle ground. Either we ardently pursue the example of Christ or else we strongly renounce Him by our conduct and lifestyle. How different this standard is from the attitude of so many of today’s Christians, who are quite casual or halfhearted in their pursuit of Christlikeness. But from Calvin’s matter-of-fact writing style, it is clear that he regards a zealous pursuit of holiness as the normal Christian life.

You can read the entire post here.

--The Catechizer


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thought of the Day: God’s Justice vs. His Love

It’s in vogue today to claim that God won’t punish anyone because He’s a loving God. The truth is, if you sacrifice justice for love, you have likewise sacrificed love—for love demands justice. Thankfully, this is a false dilemma—one does not have to be sacrificed for the other. God is both loving and just—and we see both God’s love and His justice in the doing and dying of Christ.

--The Catechizer


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Freedom of the Regulative Principle

When I was a Pentecostal, the church service was an ever-changing event. Being “led by the Spirit” meant that the whims of the preacher or worship leader could lead the service into any given direction. One of my “pastors,” who fancied himself a prophet, would stop mid-sentence and say something like, “Yes, yes, Lord. I’ll do that.” And off we’d go into a different direction. (Funny, though, that the direction never lead away from the offering.) Anything else was seen as “bondage” because we were “quenching the Spirit.”

You’re average Evangelical church isn’t this bad, but the liturgy is still typically something that revolves around wants and desires of those in charge. As a result, man, not God, determines the means and modes of worship. But the question is for the Pentecostal, the Evangelical, and any other Christian church, is freedom really found in doing what we want?

Pastor Kevin DeYoung answers this question at his blog in a post titled, The Freedom of the Regulative Principle. Here’s how it begins:

Even though I grew up in a Reformed church, until seminary I was one of the multitude of Christians who had never heard of the regulative principle. It’s not been at the core of my identity. But over the years I’ve come to appreciate the regulative principle more and more.

Simply put, the regulative principle states that “the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself and so limited by his own revealed will” (WCF 21.1). In other words, corporate worship should be comprised of those elements we can show to be appropriate from the Bible. The regulative principles says, “Let’s worship God as he wants to be worshiped.” At its worst, this principle leads to constant friction and suspicion between believers. Christians beat each other up trying to discern exactly where the offering should go in the service or precisely which kinds of instruments have scriptural warrant. When we expect the New Testament to give a levitical lay out of the one liturgy that pleases God, we are asking the Bible a question it didn’t mean to answer. It is possible for the regulative principle to become a religion unto itself.

But the heart of the regulative principle is not about restriction. It is about freedom. . . .

You can read the rest of the post here.

--The Catechizer

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Why Christians Need Confessions

I didn’t grow up in the church, so when I became a believer I came in cold. Once I did start going to church I fell in with a bad theological crowd: Word of Faith Pentecostals. After six years of binding, loosing, and demon chasing, I realized that I didn’t know squat about Christianity. That’s where the creeds, confessions, and catechisms came in. They taught me the Christian faith, as they have to millions of believers for generations.

But not only are Christians taught the faith through these documents, but they are also a means of protecting the believer from the church. Indeed, if I had known them when I became a believer I wouldn’t have wasted six years with the big-hair and loud-suits crew.

Carl R. Trueman, Professor of church history at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, offers the following seven reasons why every church needs these standards in an article in New Horizons:

  1. Confessions delimit church power.

  2. Confessions offer succinct summaries of the faith.

  3. Confessions allow for appropriate discrimination between office-bearers and members.

  4. Confessions highlight that which is of importance.

  5. Confessions relativize the present and connect us to the past.

  6. Confessions reflect the substance of our worship.

  7. Confessions fulfill a vital part of Paul’s plan for the post-apostolic church.

Click here for Dr. Trueman’s explanation of each reason.

--The Catechizer


Monday, January 19, 2015

Today in Church History: Heidelberg Catechism

On January 19, 1563, the Heidelberg Catechism was published in German under the title, "Catechismus, or Christian Instruction, as Conducted in the Churches and Schools of the Electoral Palatinate.

It was named after the German city where it was prepared by Zacharias Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus, at the request of the Elector Frederick III. Soon after it was written, it was translated into Dutch, and along with the Belgic Confession and the Canons of the Synod of Dort, the Heidelberg Catechism became part of the doctrinal standards of the Dutch Reformed churches. For centuries it has been cherished by Presbyterians as well, especially for its warm and autobiographical style, as displayed in its first question and answer:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong " body and soul, in life and in death " to my faithful savior Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to serve him.

--John Muether


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage and State Interest

From The Wittenberg Door archives . . .

Our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation," George wrote for the majority. "An individual's sexual orientation -- like a person's race or gender -- does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.

According to the California Supreme Court, marriage rights should be conferred upon same-sex couples because they can establish loving, long-term, committed relationships. Not to do so would be the same as denying fundamental rights to citizens based solely upon their skin color.

Loving, Long-Term, Committed Relationships

I love Frank Capra’s 1944 adaptation of Arsenic and Old Lace. It’s one of my favorite movies. So it's with great trepidation that I add this modern twist: What if the Brewsters lived somewhere in California instead of Brooklyn, New York; and one day, the sisters, Abby and Martha, hear on the radio that same-sex, loving, long-term couples can now receive the same benefits that married couples receive. Seeing as how they are of the same sex, they love each other, and they have pledged to spend their lives together, they must be eligible, right? Not so fast.

There’s a problem—they’re not having sex. The government is not interested in their loving, lifelong, same-sex relationship unless the wild mambo is involved. So out came plan B: Elaine.

Elaine, the minister’s daughter, moves in with the Brewster sisters; and since Elaine is looking to offset some gambling losses (she was sure Michigan could take North Carolina), she’s willing to have sex for money (i.e., tax benefits).

“But wait,” says the government! “We have some arbitrary rules to apply: sisters don’t count, and it can’t be three people, and Elaine is already married to Mortimer, so she’s out ...”

“But we love each other! Isn't it all about love?"

As this little exercise in reductio ad absurdam reveals, the court’s ruling is logically vacuous.

Is Homosexuality the Same as Ethnicity?

As the Los Angeles Times points out, “The ruling cited a 60-year-old precedent that struck down a ban on interracial marriage in California.” In the court’s mind, ethnicity and homosexuality are on the same moral plain. But is this the case?

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ethnicity is white. He was born that way and can do nothing to change it. His ethnicity is intrinsic to him. Consequently he had—and has—no choice in the matter. Those with homosexual desires, on the other hand, have a choice as to whether or not to act upon those desires. The latter is morally relevant, while the former is not. Thus ethnicity and homosexuality are not on the same moral plain (one involves choice and the other does not—one is intrinsic and the other a behavior). And since the state should only treat equals equally, it is in fact immoral to judicially conflate the two.

State Interest

The State’s only interest in marriage is that it is the best way for it, the State, to perpetuate itself. Mommies and daddies are from where the next generation of citizens will come. And the best environment for the raising of responsible citizens is a married, monogamist, heterosexual household. Married and monogamist because that brings stability to the home; heterosexual because both the mother and the father bring something in particular to the childrearing enterprise.

This unit is the best way to secure society’s future. Therefore, the State has an interest in favoring and protecting marriage between a man and a woman. It has no such interest in same-sex unions

--The Catechizer


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Today in History: A Prayer at Valley Forge

During the long winter of 1777–78, when the Patriot army camped at Valley Forge, George Washington shared the hardships suffered by his men. He spent much of his time rounding up food, begging the Continental Congress for suppliers, and bolstering the troops’ spirits. His presence kept the army from disintegrating.

Tradition holds that one cold day, Isaac Potts, a Quaker farmer who lived near Valley Forge, was walking through the woods when he heard a low, solemn voice. Stealing quietly in its direction, he found a riderless horse tied to a sapling. The farmer crept nearer and through the trees saw a lone man on his knees in the snow.

It was General Washington. Tears marked his face as he bowed his head and asked God to look after his men.

At home that evening the farmer told his wife of the encounter, “All will be well, Martha,” he said. “If there is anyone the Lord will listen to, it is this brave man. I have seen General Washington on his knees. Our independence is certain.”

American History Parade

1639 - Three Connecticut towns adopt the Fundamental Orders, one of the earliest constitutions in the colonies.

1784 - The Continental Congress ratifies the Treaty of Paris, officially ending the Revolutionary War.

1914 - Henry Ford introduces a moving assembly line for cars, reducing production time from more than 12 hours to about 90 minutes.

1943 - Franklin D. Roosevelt becomes the first U.S. president to travel by airplane while in office, when he flies to a wartime conference in Casablanca, Morocco.

The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America