October 31, 2011

3 Ways to Make the Reformers Proud

by Clint Archer

On October 31st 1517 Anno Domini a comically tonsured German monk, with an attitude and a mallet posted the Medieval equivalent of a snarky  blog post on the castle door at Wittenberg. Martin Luther’s 95 Theses voiced irrefragable concerns about doctrine, ecclesiastical abuses, and unbiblical doctrines. The paper was merely intended to spark debate and reform within the Roman Catholic Church.

However, the spark blew a little further than the intramural playground of the Vatican. The white squall of God’s Spirit (with a little help from Guttenberg’s press and a Latin-German dictionary) ignited the hearts of the masses, as the Theses went viral.

Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Melanchthon, Bucer, Farel, and countless others lived and died to leave a legacy of passion and proclamation. They showed that when you love Jesus and his word, you would rather die than keep quiet. If they inspire you, here are…

3 ways to make the Reformers proud today:

1. Read more Bible than blogs

Post Tenebras Lux is Latin for “After Darkness Light” which was the tagline motto of the Reformation. After centuries of spiritual darkness which enshrouded the world in ignorance, the Reformers basked in the illumination which dawned with the Scriptures availability in vernacular languages.

When Luther was exiled, and went into the witness protection program of Fredrick the Wise (cool nickname) at Wartburg Castle, instead of languishing in a pity party of impotence, he redeemed the time by translating the Hebrew OT into German [Actually it was the NT, which he did in 11 weeks, later called the “September Testament” (1522); the OT was tackled in 1534]. One of the hallmarks of Reformers was their desire to get the Bible in the hands of everybody. As biblical translator, William Tyndale, articulated in his impromptu mission statement retort to a Greek-snob, “I defy the Pope and all his laws! In fact, if God spares my life, I intend to make it possible for a common farmer, a plowman, to know more of the Scripture than you do!”

You are standing on the shoulders of the Reformers when you savor the taste of Scripture on your native tongue. Enjoy your English/Spanish/Afrikaans/Zulu Bible. Read it, mull over it, memorize it. I’m a fan of Greek and Hebrew, but a translated Bible is a precious gift of God.

Read the part above the study Bible line with more attention than the comments below. Read more Bible than commentaries.

If you quoted Calvin in a debate on Election, he would slap you. Quote Scripture. If you appealed to Luther to back up pedobaptism, he’d grunt a Germanic expletive at you. Appeal to Scripture. (As a Baptist, my guess is that he’s changed his view on baptism, and his use of coarse language!)

And read more Bible than blogs. Make that a personal rule, “Resolved to not check my RSS feed until I’ve checked in with the God-breathed word.”


2. Use Your Latin

Well, not actual Latin. What I mean is that we should be familiar with whatever medium or forum in which doctrine is currently discussed.

Latin was not the lingua franca. It was the medium of the academic elite. Theological debate flowed in Latin. It was one of the ways the Roman Catholic church stopped people thinking for themselves.

Today, there is no way anyone with a modem or smartphone can plead ignorance. To be in the dark today is a matter of negligent stewardship.

If you live in a township in Soweto, you may have an excuse for not having access to sound teaching. But if you are reading this blog post, and still don’t know both sides of the Cessasionist/Continuationist brouhaha, or the Premill/Amill tussle, or the Lordship/FreeGrace debate…it is because you are willfully ignorant (a nicety for ‘stupid on purpose’).

Know who the movers and shakers of Evangelicalism are, read their blogs and books, and listen to their MP3 sermons. Make sure you are not unplugged from the matrix of theological understanding due to laziness. Don’t be the sluggard with his hand in the bowl, too lazy to get the gruel to his lips.

Get familiar with the mediums in which doctrine is discussed today.


3. Don’t go back to Rome

Not that many Protestants are really tempted to become a ECT signatory; but there is a sentiment among those whose libraries are light on church history books, to think of Catholics as “not so far off.” (Sorry to bring this up 2 weeks in a row, but it is Reformation Day.)

Please read Vatican II in your spare time. It will bring tears to your eyes as you see how deviant its view is of what our Savior did on the cross (passages that exemplify this are found in last week’s post, see the former link). It will make you love Jesus more, and it will make you run far from Rome on your way to the cross in gratitude for grace by faith alone.

Understand what the Reformers were willing to die for. Read “Five English Reformers” by J. C. Ryle. That will purge the urge to reconcile with Rome. Don’t give up ground for which the Reformers bled.

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Jason kanz

    Bravo (and I did spend about an hour in the Bible this morning before reading your blog) 😀

    • Thanks, And keep it up!

  • Danieljrossouw

    you a pedobaptist?

    • Uh, no. But if I was, I’d try to defend it with Scripture, not Luther. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify!

  • Ruth116

    Thank you for shaming me! I confess to giving more time to reading blogs and listening to sermon tapes more than actually reading the Word. The Reformers worked hard and gave up their lives for believers of their day AND today; Me!

    • Ha! Thanks for the confession! We all need these reminders.

      • are you now taking confessions on this blog? – jk 🙂

  • Cheynekunselman

    Clint (or anyone able to help, for that matter), could the exact location within the Vatican II’s document family be pointed out that you were referencing above under Point #3, Don’t go back to Rome? There are 16 document comprising the Vatican II’s publication and I was trying to pinpoint the section(s) you had in mind. Thanks!!

    • See last week Mondy’s post where I cite passages from Vatican II with references.

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  • mikemccune

    Good article. Good reminders about the Reformation. I think if I remember my history correct, that Luther translated the NT in German while at Wartburg Castle (correct me if I am wrong). But the point of reading the Bible is an excellent reminder

    • Mmm. Thanks Mike, you’re right. I was relying on (faulty) memory. I looked it up and Luther translated the NT into German in 11 weeks. That draft was known as the “September Testament” and was later edited by Melanchton (1522). The OT was tackled in 1534. Thanks.

  • Wow. You are pretty proud of yourself, aren’t you? Can you not see arrogance in what you have written?

    • I’m seriously at a loss as how to reply, friend. I meant no offense, and not quite sure where it was taken (unless you’re Catholic, in which case I can see how any pro-Reformation banter can be seen as arrogant). Sincerest apologies.

      • No, I’m not a Romist; my concern is not with the reformation, or even banter. My concern is that you come off as very elitist. You seem to think you have everything right; the problems you are concerned about seem like they can be summed up simply as “Everyone should be exactly like Clint.”

        • Ben

          I do not share your sentiments Felix. In fact, I feel that you yourself come off as very elitist.

          Perceptions are often subjective, and many times one can find a reader/listener bringing their own baggage to the situation and as a result falsely imputing something upon the author/speaker. My point is that simply perceiving someone as being proud does not necessarily mean that they are in fact prideful.

          • I appreciate the desire to be supportive. I suppose I should have included some encouraging words rather than just a negative critique. But, to respond to your point, can you really not see the arrogance in statements like:

            “But if you are reading this blog post, and still don’t know both sides of the Cessasionist/Continuationist brouhaha, or the Premill/Amill tussle, or the Lordship/FreeGrace debate…it is because you are willfully ignorant (a nicety for ‘stupid on purpose’).”

            Anyone who has a specialty in some area of knowledge could talk that way (imagine a legal news junkie who proclaims that anyone who doesn’t know both sides of each of the current cases before the Supreme Court of the United States is “stupid on purpose”). Those really are important things, but if such an expert starts to believe that his specialty trumps all others and that any person lacking expertise in his specialty is ‘stupid on purpose;’ that expert would have to be considered arrogant. In fact, most people would use a somewhat stronger ‘a’ word to describe him.

            Of course, it wouldn’t make any sense to warn of the appearance of arrogance if I thought Clint was a truly arrogant person. My hope was that he might consider how condescending his post sounds and perhaps avoid future pitfalls.

          • Ben

            I can see your point Felix. Perhaps it would have been better worded with something a little less fiery, like “there is really no excuse to not …”

            I don’t particularly like the statement you were referring to, as I am purposefully trying to avoid some doctrinal systems. I have been reading the NT, and memorizing some books, and I want to see what my own position will be based upon the Scripture before I learn too much about those specific systems (i.e. eschatological views), otherwise I may come to the text with some heavily tinted lenses.

          • Karl Heitman

            You’re not comparing apples to apples here. Not every American citizen is expected to know the ins-and-outs of the American legal system; otherwise, there would be no need for lawyers. On the contrary, any true Christian will love learning about theology because that’s how we know God and know things He has done and will do. Therefore, all Christians are to be students of the Word. I’m sure you agree. Not all people are to be experts in every vocation, but children of God have in common the desire to know Him more. Clint’s argument was to simply point out that Christians today have an incalculable amount of resources to educate themselves about the truth of Scripture and matters of faith and practice. There is no excuse for a Christian to remain ignorant on basic matters of theology and ecclesiology. I see no arrogance on Clint’s part whatsoever. To answer a theological question in a way that says “we should just act like Christ, so that question about [blank] is not worth discussing” is a cop out. The doctrines Clint mentioned are not topics for the “spiritually elite.” They are doctrines every Christian should be familiar with because the Bible teaches one or the other.

        • Felix has a point. I certainly don’t mean that if people are ignorant about the mentioned theological debates they are dumb, as myhyperbole may have made it sound. I intended to point out that to make the Reformers proud one would need to keep up with theological debates. The people in Luther’s day who were ignorant, had little recourse, but to learn Latin and get an expensive theological education. In our day anyone with the internet can do that. If you don’t, it’s not b/c the Church is trying to keep you ignorant, it’s because you choose to be. Hope that clarifies things, Felix. Thanks for the reminder to be humble.

          • You are right that information is easier than ever to get, and that is a very good thing. But think about it this way. Medical information is also easier than ever to obtain, but few of us theological types really bother to do much study; we can’t be experts on everything, so at some point we have to trust those who are. I think many people who might not know the difference between cessationism and continuationism feel the same way about theological issues. They don’t necessarily think it unimportant but rather that expertise is just beyond their capacity—just like I feel about something like medical care.

            Thanks for your post, and sorry for sounding so negative at first.

  • Great reminders for us, here in the 21 century. We are blessed because of those who have gone before us!

    • Thanks Jess, and well said. We stand on their shoulders.

  • Jim

    One correction, Luther translated the New Testament from Greek to German at Wartburg Castle (Not Wartberg). I was just there last month.

    • Just corrected that, thanks Jim.

  • Karl Heitman

    “If you quoted Calvin in a debate on Election, he would slap you. Quote Scripture.” I like that. As an unashamed Calvinist, I think this must be why so many seemingly like-minded brethren hate being labeled a Calvinist. When a call myself a Calvinist, I assume they know I’m a Calvinist because I have been convinced by Scripture; not merely by a formulated systematic theology. However, don’t you think it can be appropriate to quote the reformers to add weight to your argument… in the right setting of course? I mean, c’mon man, you just quoted Tyndale to prove your point on taking the precedence of Scripture over everything else…. Thanks for the post.

    • Hey Karl, yeah totally. I quote guys all the time, mostly for the way they said it, and to prove that I didn’t come up with the idea. I still think if I quoted Calvin instead of Scripture to prove election, he’d graciously backhand me. 🙂

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  • bmh

    Sola Fide!

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