Category Archives: History

Saturday Sampler: October 15 — October 21

Wing Ding Sampler

To discover A Surprising Barrier to Personal Bible Study, check out Knowable Word for Ryan Higginbottom’s interesting challenge. I pray that you’ll then accept his challenge. Believe me, you won’t regret doing so!

Read 5 Reasons Jesus Doesn’t Want us to be Like the Good Samaritan by Jordan Standridge of The Cripplegate. Your second grade Sunday School might be shocked by this article, but I believe Standridge has a grasp on the real point of this parable. Feel free to use my comments section to tell me whether you agree or disagree with him.

Those of us who don’t always appreciate the Bible’s restrictions regarding ministries women can perform will find comfort in Women Can Trust God’s Design for the Church by Candi Finch, a regular writer for Biblical Woman. It’s interesting what one learns from assembling bookcases.

Continuing her latest series on Do Not Be Surprised, Erin Benziger writes Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Impatience. Does this woman read my diary? At any rate, she accurately handles the topic of impatience, skillfully applying Scripture as she deals with its many facets.

You moms out there might appreciate these Last Minute Reformation Day Resources for Kids courtesy of Jessica Pickowicz at Beautiful Thing. She offers a splendid selection of materials for both young children and teenagers.

Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life provides a wonderful, easily read, overview of the Reformation with her blog post, Remembering the Reformation: A Timeline. If you need help understanding the Reformation and its effects on Western Civilization, this is the article for you!

Okay, Michelle Lesley is quantitatively more conservative than Martin Luther, offering only 8 Theses for Women of the Modern Day Reformation, but her tips on how we can appropriately serve the Lord lay out a good track for us. As an added bonus, she begins her essay with an enticing book recommendation.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

What John Calvin And Martin Luther Say To Rick Warren And Beth Moore

Medieval Tower

Yesterday I tried to demonstrate that today’s popular teachers who promote new paradigms and/or claim to receive personal revelations from God are completely different from the Reformers of the 16th Century. I noted that, while these present-day teachers distract us from Scripture, the Reformers called Christians back to God’s Word.

So why should we bring up 500-year-old people instead of tackling Beth Moore, Rick Warren and the others directly?  How does understanding a group of religious dissenters from the Renaissance help us combat the false teachings that permeate 21st Century evangelicalism? Most Christians (even those who have excellent discernment abilities) ask such questions.

And in some respects, the people asking those questions have a point. Yet many of the errors that Beth Moore, Rick Warren and others make run parallel to errors that Martin Luther, John Calvin and the other Reformers had to correct.

For example, Beth Moore often bases her teachings on visions and personal revelations she claims to have received from the Holy Spirit. A simple Youtube search on “beth moore visions from god” will document this fact. One of the reasons discernment bloggers warn so strenuously against Beth Moore is precisely because of her extrabiblical revelations.

But did you know that John Calvin devoted Chapter 9 of his seminal book, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, to the very topic of extrabiblical revelations? It’s a short chapter, which you can read by clicking this link, but it offers a Scriptural argument (as long as you know that he understands prophecy to mean the Canon of Scripture) against personal revelations.

On a wider scope,  Rick Warren’s statement that Catholics and Protestants have the basic doctrines of Christianity in common probably would have perplexed an older Martin Luther. Hadn’t Luther risked his very life refuting Rome’s teaching that grace came through the sacraments and through purchasing leftover merits accrued by Mary and the saints? Hadn’t he insisted that justification comes through faith alone?

Until the Catholic Church rescinds the Council of Trent, which stridently condemns the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, Protestants must recognize that Catholics preach another gospel. Therefore we cannot accept Rick Warren’s embrace of Roman Catholicism. The very Reformation itself exposes Rick Warren as, at best, a seriously compromised evangelical.

Of course, we must ultimately measure truth by the Bible, not by the Reformers. Calvin and Luther had a few blind spots of their own. But the Reformers teach us how to apply Scriptural principles to teachers like Beth Moore and Rick Warren. Studying the Protestant Reformation enhances our discernment. Don’t underestimate its value.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Remember His Faithfulness

As we look back at the Reformers this month, can we help noticing how faithful the Lord was in helping them proclaim the Gospel? For that matter, can we look back further to see His faithfulness to the apostles? To the Old Testament prophets?  To all who trusted in Him?

Observing how the Lord has cared for his own throughout history gives us hope that He will continue caring for us. And that care goes well beyond this earthly life, extending into eternity!

This week’s hymn commemorates God’s faithfulness to our spiritual fathers and anticipates that He will show us that same faithfulness.  In this wonderful month of celebrating 500 years of reform, let’s treasure the promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Saturday Sampler: October 1 — October 7

Fantasy Flowers Sampler

Fall has arrived, meaning that the time all too quickly approaches when cold New England winters will prevent John and me from going anywhere. Including church. We grieve that many able-bodied evangelicals don’t appreciate the privilege of weekly church attendance. Perhaps Scott Slayton’s post, What You Miss When You Don’t  Gather With Your Church in  One Degree to Another, can give you a different perspective on the importance of meeting with your church as often as possible.

In Growing 4 Life, Leslie A. lists Five ways to know that you are too in love with yourself. Gulp! Her insights don’t  comply with psychological principles, but they definitely agree with God’s Word. Please make this one a high priority on your reading list!

I love Rachelle Cox’s Let’s Get Real About Women’s Discipleship in Gospel-Centered Discipleship. This article puts forth some unexpected thoughts about ways women disciple each other, and I think those thoughts might encourage some of you. See what you think.

For an accurate and concise explanation of Revelation verses Illumination, please visit Unified in Truth and start using the two terms Biblically. If you still believe that the Lord gives revelation now, you may need to rethink your theology.

Some of you are probably married to elders in your church. If so, you might appreciate An open letter to elder’s wives by Andrew Gutierrez in The Cripplegate. I find it also instructive to those of us who are friends with women married to elders. Let’s not place these ladies in awkward positions.

As an introduction to a new series in her Do Not Be Surprised blog, Erin Benziger writes about The Lie of ‘Acceptable’ Sins. This series, she promises, won’t be comfortable, but it will lead us to find comfort in the Gospel of God’s grace. I’m looking forward to it, knowing that Erin writes with fidelity to the Scriptures and with reverent passion for the Lord.

For a truly intriguing discussion on a perplexing passage in Genesis, you shouldn’t miss Mercy, Hope, and The Tower of Babel by the author of A Narrow-Minded Woman. She brings out a variety of points that I’ve never noticed, making the incident much more compelling and applicable. I especially like her emphasis on the sovereignty of God.

In an article for Meet the Puritans, Joel Beeke enumerates Ten Lasting Fruits of the Reformation. Those who consider history to be boring and irrelevant should read this piece, if only so that they can see why geeks like me keep writing about the Reformation as if it actually matters.

Have you been sending positive thoughts to Las Vegas this week? In Why Your Positive Thoughts Are Not Helping Anyone, Josh Buice of Delivered By Grace explains why Christians err when they speak of sending positive thoughts. He also tells us how we can actually help hurting people.

I want to close this week’s edition of Saturday Sampler by sharing the video below of the sermon my pastor, Jeremy Garber, preached at First Baptist Church in Weymouth, MA last Sunday. The reminder to use discernment fits so seamlessly with the purposes of this blog that I believe I must include it.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

How Could Understanding Sola Scriptura Apply To 21st Century Evangelicals (Or Does It?)

sola-scriptura-02October 2017 has arrived, bringing more intensified blog posts and podcasts about the Protestant Reformation. Hopefully a few evangelicals will gain interest in this watershed moment in church history (indeed, in world history) as the conversation escalates.

Sadly, most probably won’t.

History in  general bores most people. I’ve mentioned before that one friend of mine prefers to concentrate on the mess in the 21st Century Church rather than study what happened 500 years ago. To her, the Reformation seems largely irrelevant. And I definitely agree that the visible Church has very serious problems that Christians should address vigorously. Sitting in an ivory tower memorizing the Five Solas seems ineffectual when people like Beth Moore, Jen Hatmaker and Lysa TerKeurst are actively promoting false teaching and obscuring the truth.

Yet I would argue that false teaching proliferates precisely because most evangelicals have ignored, neglected and/or forgotten the Five Solas and other legacies of the Protestant Reformation. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), for example, would go a long way in correcting most of the errors in present-day evangelicalism.

By 1517, the Roman Catholic Church had devolved into a religious system that suppressed the Gospel for the sake of political power. Popes depended on the unquestioning obedience of the laity, and consequently they developed a theology that made people rely on works and religious taxation (as exemplified in the sale of Indulgences) in order to retain their hold on people.

Keeping the Bible and the Mass in Latin helped them maintain control over everyone. By making God’s Word inaccessible to all but the highest levels of clergy, the Roman Catholic Church avoided questions about its unbiblical doctrines and practices. As you might expect, therefore, the Reformers’ emphasis on preaching the Word and translating it into languages that people could read for themselves posed a substantial threat to Rome.

Today, the Bible is readily available in an astounding variety of formats, and most false teachers will encourage their followers to study it. They obscure it, however, by promoting supplemental teaching, mystical experiences or self-centered interpretations that cause people to follow them. They discourage proper hermeneutics and rush to annex psychology,  Charismatic gifts and/or mysticism to Bible Study, thus distracting people from the clear teaching of Sacred Text.

Studying the Protestant Reformation, and observing how the Reformers drew people back to the Bible, would go a long way in correcting many flaws in the present-day church. As we see how Luther, Tyndale, Calvin and other 16th Century Reformers insisted on Sola Scriptura and the other Solas, we learn to resist error and cling to the truth. If ever a generation needed to study the Reformation, it’s this one.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Avoiding Either Side Of The Mess

IMG_1656Did you miss me yesterday? A friend and I were in Boston taking a trolley tour. As you can probably guess, it wasn’t my first trolley tour. In addition to other trolley and Duck Boat tours, I’ve also taken multiple Freedom Trail walking tours and a literary walking tour.

The tour yesterday differed from most of the other tours I’ve taken in that the guide didn’t gleefully mention all the hypocritical actions of the Puritans who first settled Boston. Having been on so many tours, I knew exactly where the derogatory comments usually pop up, so I braced myself each time. I figured they world be worse than ever since Trump’s presidency seems to have emboldened anti-Christian sentiment.

I was relieved. And pleasantly surprised.

Obviously, the Puritans did some terrible things in the name of Christ. Denying historical fact, even when it would be advantageous to deny it, doesn’t really do much good. I do understand that principle. And possibly Christians need to say yes, some of what happened in 17th Century Boston dishonored the very  Lord those Puritans claimed to follow.

But if a tour guide decides to point out the sins of the Puritans, he or she should also point out their virtues. Not once have I heard, for example, a tour guide mention the January 15, 1697 Day of Fasting and Repentance for the Salem Witch Trials. Presumably, doing so would weaken their anti-Christian narrative.

However, doing so would also demonstrate an intellectual honesty that few people in our postmodern culture care to possess. Although one tour guide admitted to me that he purposefully included Puritan bashing in his walking tour for entertainment value (to which I replied that I find it less than entertaining), he forgot that most of his customers probably will never crack open a history book. If he gave them the only view of the Puritans they’d ever get, he needed to offer positive as well as negative comments.

American history is a messy business, no matter what political and religious beliefs you have. Intellectual integrity simply doesn’t allow me to ignore things like the Salem Witch Trials, but neither does it allow non-Christians to characterize all Puritans as hypocrites (or worse). Yesterday I enjoyed history that avoided both extremes.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

“The Word Did Everything”

Powerful WordReading an old issue of Tabletalk magazine yesterday, I spotted a fascinating quote Martin Luther made in regard to the Protestant Reformation. I have no idea of the context which occasioned this remark, and perhaps we don’t really need to know why he said it. At any rate, it gives us much to ponder.

I did nothing; the Word did everything.

At first, Luther’s humility might take us off guard. Looking back, we see that God used this little German monk, who otherwise probably would have been nothing more than a footnote in history at best, to change the course of Western civilization. Let me offer just one example of how the Reformation affected history.

Because of Martin Luther, millions of Christians have been liberated to hear and read the Word of God that lead them to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. A century later, a group of these Christians would sail to the New World, hoping to establish a land that honored the Lord and reflected His ways. Their descendants, while largely corrupted by 18th Century Enlightenment thought, built a nation based on Biblical principles and faith in a Creator Who endowed us with inalienable rights. Such a nation could never have existed if the Protestant Reformation hadn’t severed Christians from papal authority.

So Luther’s humble words could cause us to stammer incredulously a bit. He did nothing? Puh-leeze!

Yet Luther saw a vitally important point that I believe we must acknowledge. In and of himself, Martin Luther indeed was an insignificant man. But God’s Word opened His spiritual eyes, enabling him to see how the Roman Catholic Church had replaced the true Gospel with human traditions that exploited the common people and permitted popes,  cardinals and bishops to live opulent lifestyles.

More importantly, God’s Holy Spirit used Luther to bring the Bible to the people so that everyone had access to the truth. This access to Scripture in turn allowed men, women and children to come to the Lord directly, no longer dependent on the mediation of priests.

Once Luther and the other Reformers began preaching God’s Word and encouraging their hearers to read it for themselves, the Lord began a revival that swept across Europe like wildfire! Despite the many compromises and deviations that have since sullied the visible church, filling it with false teachers and false converts, the Word of God continues to bring people to saving faith.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~~Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

I agree with Martin Luther. Although the Lord used him powerfully to restore His Church to Biblical Christianity, He did so by opening Luther’s eyes to the Word. From that point onward, the Word indeed did everything.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin