Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Martin's gone to change the world

Today is Reformation Day. Did you know that? Happy Reformation Day! Here are some reasons why i believe that the Reformation is not only still boneshakingly important today, but also why i believe it is the second most significant moment in history not recorded in Scripture.

The Word.
The Bible is the most important thing we have to help us to persevere as Christians. Where else are we to find a book that is God breathed? Where else are we to find a book that contains such good news? Nowhere? Where else are we to find a book that is useful for teaching and correction and rebuke? That tells us of our Savior? Nowhere. Lose the Word, and soon you're probably going to lose the virgin birth or the resurection or the bodily crucifixtion...lose those and you've lost Jesus. Lose Jesus, and you'll waste your life. The Reformation called people back to the Word of God, to a literal interpretation of it. The Reformation today calls people to live by every word the Lord speaks and to humbly submit to it. There is nothing more important than that. What would you rather listen to? Someone using vague 'biblical principle' to illustrate his point, or someone soaked in God's Word, handling it well, book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse to enthrone the Lord in our hearts? I know which one i'd choose.

The Cross.
It upsets me to my core that i live in a time where people are denying the all sufficiency of the cross of Christ. I want you to stop reading and say five times, out loud: penal substitution is true and vital...done that? Once more, penal substitution is true and vital. Some people have lost the message of the cross and liken the idea of propitiation to 'cosmic child abuse'. How dare they. How dare they compare and debase the wisdom of God in salvation to the grossest form of perversion there is. Where they rob God of His mighty Holiness. What sort of God do these people worship? Not the One i worship, thats for sure. Luther fought against this loss of Cross focus, which in his day took the form of paying for indulgences at church...salvation by works under another name. If we are to have a big view of God we must have a big view of the Cross and majesterial work and effectiveness. We must kneel at Calvary, staying close to it all our lives. Otherwise arrogance and pride are the results. The Reformation bought us back to the cross, and the Reformed superheroes since have carried on that work.

The Church.
I have been blessed by being part of an amazing church, and it's probably because of that that i have such a passion for local Church. If you are a Christian and you're not committed to one local church...sort it out. Church should be the place where people feel safest of all, where people who have nowhere else to go can feel totally at home, where the lost and the broken can just come and sit, where single mums can bring their kids, where people who have been made to feel socially outcast can feel at home. That is church. People from every conceivable walk of life coming together in breathless gratitude and worship. Not somewhere where people are made to pay for their salvation (financially pay) or where they are made to feel like second class citizens if they can't. Not some sort of upper middle class social club where people dress up, drink coffee and pat eachother on the back. It should be somewhere where people are confronted with God's truth, where people are challenged and loved. Going to and hearing of some churches today, you get the impression that the Reformation was just something that happened to other people. I never want to be part of a church like that. The Reformation, bought us back to a model of church that is biblical, and for that, i am thankful.

The Lord.
Last, but never ever ever ever least ever ever ever, comes the Lord. Through some of the things i've just mentioned, which is in no way an extensive list, people were bought back to the Lord. By His word, His people and His truth, from the Reformation, many were saved. God did not let us slip into something that would condemn and judge us, and for that we should rejoice. He did not judge us by hardening our hearts, He gave us men to point us to the truth. Real life heros. And now, thanks to the work that started 489 years ago and continues the Reformed Tradition today, we have a much bigger, better and clearer view of God than we would have done otherwise. We have an actual view of God, and not some misguided view. We can be justified through faith, and know God through faith. Before the Reformation we were losing sight of these things.

The Reformation was pretty cool...anyone think we kind of need another one?


Sally said...

A good, clear post, Ed.
You know that I don't necessarily agree with you, but we both knew that. ;-)

What I was going to ask was... have you actually read the Steve Chalke book which you have quoted ("The Lost Message of Jesus")? If you have, that's fine. However, if you haven't, I recommend that you do. It is an excellent book, and even if you don't agree with it, I certainly feel it is important to understand the logic behind someone's viewpoint - in much the same way that I read your post and am glad I did, as it has clarified further what Reformation theology is. :o)

FloydTheBarber said...

Hello Sal,

Cheers for the comment dude. I haven't read 'Losing the message of Jesus', but i accept your point that i maybe should if i'm going to engage with him. I guess my reasons for not are 1. its a total waste of time and i'd rather read almost anything else. 2. i'd probably end up throwing it across the room.

Hope you've got a warm coat for those chilly scarboro evenings...say hi to Micheal for me.

TheologyJohn said...

Hmmm... good post Ed. :)

That said, I have two issues with what you've said. Firstly, reading the lost message of Jesus is a total waste of time? Do you not think it's possible that he has *anything* good to say? If you only read books that you already agree with, you'll never have your beliefs challenged, never learn anything. Semper reformanda! (Not that I deny penal substitution, you understand!)

Secondly, you claim the reformation restored a biblical doctrine of the church, or something like that. In response, I can only say - huh? Reformation ecclesiology is rubbish - I can't think of any doctrine the reformation did worse. They weren't really expecting to exist as a separate church for long, so they didn't really feel they had to come up with a decent ecclesiology, so they just didn't bother.

FloydTheBarber said...

Hey John,

Re: The Lost Message of Jesus i think my reading it would be a waste of time given my lack of time to do anything at the moment, and my opinion of his pain point. As i said earlier, if i'm going to properly engage with it at some point i do need to read it, but i think for the purposes of this post there would have been little point in reading it. Does he have anything good to say?

Talking about Reformation ecclesiology i don't think i was really referring to their doctrine of the church so much as saying that they made the church more inclusive, which i think they did. Although, on this topic, i will admit you are clearly know more.

FloydTheBarber said...

Altho' on rlflection i do appear to have said 'the Reformation bought us back to a model of the church that is more Biblical' so TJ, i expect you're right :-)

Sally said...

"my opinion of his main point"
Ok, my first thing is, are you sure that that phrase summarises his main point? I'm not, and I've read it. That sentence appears once, in chapter 13 or 14 of the book, after he has made significant grounds for his argument. Now, I will confess that it is 2 years since I read it, and Michael currently has my copy, so I can't check.

"Does he have anything good to say?"
Secondly, yes, I really do think he does. And not just because I agree with large amounts of what he says.
I totally understand the 'not having time to clean your teeth, let alone read yet another book' sentiment. However, if you do find the time, I would recommend it. Even if it merely solidifies your Calvinist/PSA/etc opinion further, then at least you will know the reasoning and logic of the 'other side'.

Yes, I do have a lovely cosy coat, but it's been bloomin' freezin' today! I was on placement and it was wet play. Oh joy! And I will tell Michael 'hi' as I'm seeing him this weekend.

God bless!

TheologyJohn said...

Sorry, Ed, I realised that my comment was perhaps overly critical - esp when I did actually think the post was generally a good one! I have issues re never feeling comfortable complimenting, and also often finding compliments hard when they're done to me, which I guess makes me pretty screwed up, huh! ;)

re the lost message of Jesus - that's not his main point (at least according to him), it's the one that's been controversial and thus been debated about most in response to the book. He's actually written an article on it available over at http://www.oasistrust.org/temp/RedeemingspthespCross.pdf, which is probably worth reading on this issue rather than the book itself, which doesn't cover the issue very much (I'm told.) (My response to objections to PSA are included in my talk on PSA, over at http://www.relay.pindancingangels.com/TC.pdf - there's also an article countering Chalke's comments in 'Redeeming the Cross' available from http://www.theologian.org.uk/doctrine/punished.html).

I similarly haven't actually read the book myself (due to similar time constraints), although I've read parts of it - it's not a book I'd particularly recommend, but I'm sure I'd get something out of it and it wouldn't be a complete waste of time. I just felt that it's important for evangelicals to realise that we can and indeed have to learn from other people, even if they have substantially different theologies to ours, especially when there's many theologians who have utterly wrong theologies on some issues but are completely right on others (e.g. I've been learning a bit about the Cappadocian fathers in my elective study recently - some really profound things said about the trinity, but I'm told they had an awful doctrine of the cross.) I think it's actually a serious evangelical disease that we as a group (myself included, although studying theology does kind of ) often aren't willing to listen to people outside of ourselves - the definition of orthodoxy becomes group-based ("so and so says it and he's orthodox, so it must be good") rather than bible based. Not that I'm saying that's what you were doing then, but it tapped into those kinds of thought proceses. I think I almost certainly really overreacted! I think I was in a critical mood yesterday, sorry!

Re reformation ecclesiology - yeah, it's generally agreed that their ecclesiology was pretty pants, esp. in the days of Luther. That said, there were some valid points you made about the indulgence being partially an ecclesiological issue (although I would probably argue that official RC doctrine of the indulgence was much less problematical than practical RC doctrine of it.)

FloydTheBarber said...

man...long comments!

TJ: i accept your points about evangelicals being sometimes an inward looking bunch. In practical terms i guess i'm far more likely to agree with something new/that i haven't heard that Piper/Mahaney/Stott etc writes than something new/that i haven't heard that someone else who i'm less acquainted with writes. This is not a good thing.

Sal: thanks for making me think mate. i still think it's unlikely that i'll read it, but i'll look at the links that TJ left me. It's flipping cold in Guildford as well. Wet play sounds exciting...we just played in plactic boxes at my primary school...seriously!

Re: The books main message. Steve Chalke may not claim that as his main message, but the whole 'cross is child abuse' thing is surely one of the worst/least true things to come out of someone who claims to be a Christian that i can think of.
What is his main point? (genuine question)...is it not a denial of penal substitution?