Category Archives: History

Calvin’s Repudiation Of Personal Revelations

Discernment BibleIn writing about the Reformers each Tuesday, I’ve sought to emphasize their commitment to God’s Word. Present-day evangelicals, for reasons I don’t fully understand, have moved away from the idea of relying on Scripture as the sole means of hearing from the Lord, and instead pursue mystical experiences of direct communication with Him. The Reformers would have found such expectations puzzling.

John Calvin, as a matter of fact, directly refuted the concept of God speaking to anyone apart from His Word. Consider the following quotation of Calvin’s writing on the topic of Scripture’s authority:

Since no daily responses are given from heaven, and the Scriptures are the only record in which God has been pleased to consign His truth to perpetual remembrance, the full authority which they ought to possess with the faithful is not recognized unless they are believed to have come from heaven as directly as if God had been heard giving utterance to them.

As far as Calvin was concerned, the thought of God speaking in any way other than Scripture shouldn’t even be entertained. He insisted that the Lord had spoken with full authority in His Word, and therefore believers could trust that written record of His truth.

But Calvin didn’t stop there in his repudiation of personal revelations. With boldness that would make a modern discernment blogger blush, he unapologetically equated the practice with outright heresy!

The fanaticism which discards the Scripture, under the pretense of resorting to immediate revelations is subversive of every principle of Christianity. For when they boast extravagantly of the Spirit, the tendency is always to bury the Word of God so they may make room for their own falsehoods.

I doubt John Calvin would show much tolerance in a room full of 21st Century evangelical women off-handedly talking about things they believe God told them. But then, he lived in an age that cherished the Bible, having seen the Roman Catholic Church persecute (and often execute) men and women for simply owning a Bible in their own language. He valued Scripture too much to see its authority supplanted by claims of personal words from the Lord.

According to Calvin, such personal words “buried” the Word of God. Hadn’t the Reformers just excavated that same Word of God that had been buried under Roman Catholic tradition and papal authority for centuries leading up to Martin Luther’s 95 Theses? Why, in so short a time, would Calvin acquiesce to anyone allowing Scripture to then undergo a second burial? And wouldn’t a burial under something as subjective as personal mysticism (which might easily be attributed to too much wine or not enough sleep) be even worse?

Calvin’s words elevating Scripture over personal spiritual experience must echo through our minds today. Like so many aspects of the 16th Century Protestant Reformation, they must remind us to treasure the Bible as God’s Word — His only Word — to His people. They must remind us not to bury such a incomparable treasure under the filthy vestiges of subjective experience.

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Saturday Sampler: April 9 — April 15

Tulip Sampler 01Stephen Altroggie of The Blazing Center enumerates 9 Glorious Things The Resurrection Means To Us as a preparation for our Resurrection Sunday worship. Please enjoy this encouraging piece.

Having adopted New England as my  home, I’ve often felt saddened and troubled by this region’s departure from its Biblical foundation. So I appreciated Elizabeth Prata for writing New England’s mission drift in The End Time. She shows the destructive power of compromise.

While you’re on Elizabeth’s website, be sure to read O to see ourselves as others see us. Or maybe not… I think it’s one of her finest essays.

I’m not overly fond of Mortification Of Spin, and have been thinking about canceling my subscription. But Todd Pruitt’s article, Bit-O-Vinegar on his 1517 blog, has made me reconsider. He encourages people like me who tend to be less than gentle about confronting error.

Over at Biblical Woman, Dorothy Patterson writes Ms. Independence Gets Married in response to one of her readers who married later in life (although it amused me, since I married at age 48, that her reader considered the late 20s marrying late). Patterson gives Scriptural advice that any bride should read.

On her blog, Wise In His Eyes, Rebekah Womble asks, Are Reformed Christians “All Head, No Heart”? She handles this common criticism with fairness and grace.

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According To Calvin, It’s All About God

I just watched this video about John Calvin.  After you watch  it, please scroll down for my comments.

Did you catch the part that said Calvin developed the idea that it’s all about God? Please don’t overlook that remark, as I believe 21st Century Christians have lost that attitude. Calvin contributed a great deal, and a wide variety, of things to the Christian Church, but this idea of the Lord’s centrality cannot be over emphasized.

In this series, I have made the mistake of simply repeating historical accounts of the various Reformers. Those facts can be easily accessed by doing Google searches on whichever Reformer you choose to research. I very much encourage you to do such research, believing that knowing who these men were and what they did can help you understand why we must never forget the sacrifices that freed true Christians from the Roman catholic Church. At this point, however, I believe it is more advantageous to demonstrate how the theology of the Reformers applies to the state of evangelicals in our own time.

Increasingly, evangelical churches emphasize what God can do for us, rather than teaching why we must worship Him. The teachings center on having better marriages, being successful parents, managing our money and finding fulfillment in Christ. By these man centered teachings, pastors subtly imply that Jesus exists for our benefit. Calvin would never have tolerated such self-centered doctrine! In faithfulness to Scripture, he directed attention to Christ.

As evangelicals, we would do well to pay attention to Calvin’s emphasis on the Lord as center of the universe. We cannot continue in the sin of thinking that the Lord of all creation, mighty King who deserves all of our worship, should be treated as our servant. We must remember that creation itself revolves solely around Him. He is the one who deserves all glory and praise.

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Calvin Didn’t Fit My Agenda

 

I thought I’d introduce John Calvin the way I introduced the other Reformers in my Tuesday blog posts. I’d share an account of his conversion. Based on the conversion stories of Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe, John Huss and Martin Luther, I just assumed that the Lord brought Calvin to Himself through Scripture. Such a scenario, of course, would have made a nice symmetrical pattern, allowing me to emphasize the importance of God’s Word in the regeneration process.

I’m not saying Calvin’s reading of the Bible didn’t have a role in his conversion. It may well have. Before pursuing a career as a lawyer, Calvin entered the University of Paris in 1523 to study for the priesthood. Clearly, his privileged position of having educational opportunities gave him access to the Bible that very few people enjoyed in the 16th Century. So it’s entirely possible that Scripture caused his conversion.

The problem is that, thus far, I’ve read and/or heard seven or eight accounts of Calvin’s conversion, and they’re all vastly different. Some emphasize the martyrdom of an elderly evangelical man that he watched, while others go on and on about his overwhelming sense of personal sin.

And then we have this short YouTube clip from Ligonier of Ian Hamilton discussing the event:

So did the Holy Spirit use the Bible to subdue Calvin’s soul? It’s probable, based on Romans 10:14-17.

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (ESV)

But since historical record fails to offer a clear explanation of how John Calvin came to saving faith, I don’t think I’d be intellectually honest to impose Romans 10:17 on the story. Obviously, this Reformer did depend on God’s Word throughout the remainder of his life, permitting him to become probably the most recognized developer of Reformed Theology.

 
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Hus Did What For The Sake Of The Gospel?

Okay, I confess. I didn’t do my homework. I’d intended to write about John Hus today, finishing my little sub-series on the pre-Reformation reformers. Instead of studying, however, I spent time learning a different digital art program that I’d bought three years ago and subsequently neglected. I do need to invest time in my art, yes. But we can only celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation once.

October 31st isn’t that far away, and we should start covering people who actually shaped the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century. As important as John Hus was to church history, I must forgo writing about him, looking forward to introducing John Calvin next Tuesday.

But since Hus holds such a vital place in paving the way for Martin Luther, John Calvin and the other 16th Century Reformers,  I decided to post this 4 minute video summarizing his life, ministry and martyrdom.

Like Peter Waldo and John Wycliffe, Hus preached that the Bible had greater authority than Roman Catholic tradition and that justification comes through faith alone. Unlike these two men, Hus actually died for preaching Biblical Christianity. The very church that claimed to represent the Lord Jesus Christ ordered his execution, falsely convincing him of heresy.

Many more people would suffer martyrdom for espousing the Biblical tenets of the Reformation. In our own own century, when Pope  Francis declares that the Reformation is over, we need to remember why the Reformation happened and what it cost the men and women who stood for the true Gospel. Hus, and many Christians after him, chose death rather than recanting Biblical doctrine. If we now accept the Pope’s declaration, we certainly negate everything the Reformers suffered for the sake of the Gospel.

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Why Study Peter Waldo?

ancient-church-01In thinking about this Tuesday series on the Protestant Reformation, I realize that simply recounting the history probably wastes time. The Internet contains a plethora of articles and videos by people much more knowledgeable about church history than I, which means you can easily click or tap your way to understanding the key players and highlights.

I’m not convinced you would. As I’ve remarked on several occasions, most 21st Century Americans tend to avoid history, claiming that it’s boring and irrelevant. Okay, sometimes it certainly feels that way. But if you take the time to study church history, you’ll find that it’s fascinating as well as helpful in discerning problems confronting the present-day Church.

My job isn’t to spoon feed you  history. Rather, it’s to get you so excited about the Reformation that you’ll investigate it for yourselves. When I mention, for instance, Peter Waldo, I want you to see his Biblical challenges to Roman Catholic teachings as inspirational. How can this 12th Century Frenchman encourage us to stand for sound doctrine amid the aberrational teachings of our own day?

We know that, as a result of studying the Bible, Peter Waldo came to believe in justification by faith in Jesus and His finished work on the cross. Consequently, he rejected the doctrines of Purgatory and Transubstantiation.  As you can imagine,  the church hierarchy wasn’t exactly pleased.

Waldo suffered excommunication in 1184 for his views. At that point in time, excommunication presupposed a person’s damnation as well as virtually cutting him off from the rest of society. Clearly, he paid an enormously high price for his commitment to Scripture.

Why didn’t Waldo keep his dissenting views to himself? Here, we can only speculate, I guess. But let me suggest the obvious possibility that Waldo genuinely believed that the Roman Catholic Church had deviated from the truth of God’s Word. As he saw it, fidelity to Scripture. was more important than placating the church, but he was willing to take personal risks in order to honor Christ.

Ladies, are we as willing to stand against popular teachings that go against Scripture, even if we forfeit the approval of our friends and churches? That’s a serious question, and one that I hope the study of the Reformers will help us work through. I believe that the example of people like Peter Waldo can encourage us to stand on the Word of God, even as our own churches pressure us to compromise.

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When Waldo Read The Bible

medieval-crucifixThis past weekend, another Reformation blogger introduced me to Peter Waldo. Waldo lived from approximately 1140 to 1205 in Lyon, France, predating John Wycliffe by over a century. I’m just beginning to study Waldo and his followers, the Waldensians, so I’m not prepared to write about him in much detail today. Nevertheless, I want to make a few remarks regarding him, just to get us thinking.

For openers, Peter Waldo came to faith as a result of having scholarly friends translate the Bible into French so that he could read it. Like John Wycliffe and Martin Luther after him, Waldo began questioning Transubstantiation, Purgatory and the opulent lifestyles of Roman Catholic leaders because those teachings and practices failed to line up with Scripture.  Are you seeing a trend, by any chance?

Clearly, reading and understanding God’s Word prompted the men to challenge Roman Catholic tradition. Rome, on the other hand, maintains that tradition has equal authority to Scripture. Therefore men like Peter Waldo threatened the Roman Catholic system while encouraging people to trust solely in the Word of God.

But notice that Peter Waldo lived over 300 years before the Reformation officially started. John Wycliffe didn’t even write his denunciation of Transubstantiation until the 1380s, and Martin Luther wouldn’t post his 95 Theses to the Whittenburg door until 1517. History generally doesn’t count him as a part of the Protestant Reformation.

Technically, history is right, I suppose. The Reformation began in earnest because of the 1440 invention of the printing press, which allowed the wide dissemination of Luther’s writings and translations of the Bible into common languages. Yet the Holy Spirit, as far back as Peter Waldo (perhaps farther, though I know of no one earlier) faithfully rose up people to speak against the ways Roman Catholicism corrupted Christianity.

So Peter Waldo reminds us of  God’s sovereignty to speak through His Word to give people discernment. Sadly, he and the Waldensians had relatively little influence in Europe (again because the printing press wouldn’t be invented for more than 200 years). But we see that the Lord didn’t leave the world without a witness to the authority of Scripture.

21st Century Christians face growing pressure to embrace Catholicism once again. Dear sisters in Christ, please remember that Peter Waldo courageously stood against Roman Catholicism because of his commitment to God’s Word. His followers endured great persecution for their efforts to purify the Church, as we shall see in coming blog posts. Separating from Roman Catholicism, which refused to accept Scripture as its only authority, cost far too much for us to erase the differences now. I beg you to listen to Peter Waldo and return to God’s Word.

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