Category Archives: History

A 2017 Retrospective You May Not Expect

Medieval TowerOnce again, presumably to increase traffic to their blogs, bloggers have been producing their Top Ten lists of their most popular articles of 2017. Once again, I’ve decided not to follow suit.

For a while this week I considered compiling a list of the five blog posts I believe were my most important this past year. Although the one I considered the most important happened to be far and away the most popular essay in the history of The Outspoken TULIP, for the most part the pieces I really wanted people to read received the lowest amount of views. If I listed them here, I doubt readers would be any more attracted to them now than they were when I originally published them.

I felt particularly disappointed that my year-long series on the Protestant Reformation didn’t interest many readers. Granted, I remained indifferent to that point in history for many years myself. In writing those articles, I guess I forgot how long it took for the Lord to wake me up to the monumental significance of what the Holy Spirit accomplished through Luther, Calvin, Tyndale and others in the 16th Century. Therefore I felt impatient with readers who didn’t share my newfound passion for the Reformation.

Since October 31, I’ve pretty much backed away from writing about the Reformation, largely because I know that people are even less interested in it now that the 500th anniversary has passed. Certainly, my posts since then have drawn more views. If I had any business sense, I’d get the hint that people want to read about discernment and longings of physically disabled women more than about old dead guys standing for the recovery of Biblical doctrine.

But if pragmatism is a major cancer in the 21st Century church, surely Christian blogs dare not practice pragmatism in determining content. I wish more people would read my Reformation posts instead of posts that they think might offer some juicy gossip.

As I’ve said before, we can learn the most about discernment through studying the Protestant Reformation. The Reformers teach us how learning and properly applying Scripture leads to true discernment. Although we might think that the Reformation, being 500 years behind us, can be tucked away with our high school history books, the truth is that we desperately need its lessons.

This week, bloggers are presenting retrospective lists looking back on 2017. And that’s entirely appropriate. But for Christians, isn’t it even more appropriate to look back to the Protestant Reformation for instruction on how to discern sound doctrine? I hope you’ll read some of the essays I wrote about the Reformation this past year (click “The Reformation” link in my Categories index). I’d much rather you read some of these articles than my Top Ten posts.

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The Boring Way To Develop Discernment

Stained Glass WindowDuring October 2017, you couldn’t go online without seeing multiple blog posts about the Protestant Reformation. Actually, some of us started writing about it much earlier, hoping to build excitement (or at least interest) among evangelicals. We did so primarily because most professing evangelicals fail to appreciate — or even understand — the differences between Protestant theology and Roman Catholicism.

Many evangelicals simply don’t care. They prefer to minimize the importance of doctrine in favor of finding common ground with Catholics.

Even deeper, many evangelicals follow the wider culture’s general disdain for history. Having suffered through a Medieval History class in college with a professor who spoke in a monotone, I do see why people believe history is boring. His class bored me, and I marveled at the history majors who constantly raved about that professor. I suspect many people assume history is boring because they’ve also endured history teachers like that.

The predominate boredom with history frustrated me as I blogged about the Protestant Reformation week after week. By October 31st, I found myself feeling relieved that the 500th anniversary had passed. I looked forward to writing on more popular topics that might attract more readers.

I  wonder if other bloggers felt the same relief. It wouldn’t surprise me.

But I think folding up the Reformation and packing it away until next October 31st might do a great disservice to the body of Christ. Instead of bowing to the prevailing indifference to church history, we need to encourage our fellow evangelicals to understand why the 16th Century Reformers (not to mention Reformers before them) risked their lives to draw people back to God’s Word.

Professing Christians have once again moved away from the Word of God. That’s why they gravitate to popular teachers like Beth Moore and Joel Osteen. Interestingly, people who consider themselves to be discerning gravitate to blogs that expose these false teachers. And, in moments of weakness, I find myself writing articles that allow me to plunk Beth Moore’s name in the title, knowing that doing so will attract readers.

I wish that those who so eagerly seek to be discerning realized that the Protestant Reformation was the greatest example of discernment in Christian history. If anyone really wants to learn principles of discernment, the Reformation definitely offers the quintessential starting place. Why? Precisely because each and every one of the Reformers went back to Scripture. Many suffered martyrdom for their insistence on the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.

The hoopla over the 500th anniversary of the Reformation has given way to blog posts about celebrity sex scandals, Thanksgiving and now Christmas. The pressure to convince postmodern evangelicals that the actions of a German monk in 1517 have any serious meaning as we approach 2018 has subsided, liberating us to blog about subjects that readers crave.

Except we need, more than ever, to remember the Reformation, with its passion to bring God’s people back to His Word. Maybe I won’t blog about the Reformation every week, but I will most assuredly keep it before you, praying that you’ll understand its relationship to Biblical discernment. Hopefully you’ll begin to see how the Reformers teach us to evaluate popular teachers against God’s Word.

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Welch Revivals, Bondage And Actual Obedience To The Lord

Bible Mask MedievalFor years, John and I have been getting DVDs from Netflix. For reasons that would distract from the point of this blog post, we’ll be closing our account soon, so we’re watching the last few movies on our queue.

A few nights ago, we watched a documentary about Evan Roberts, an evangelist during the Welch revivals in the early 1900s. I knew very little about either Roberts or the Welch revivals,  but I thought the movie might be interesting. And okay, I hoped to glimpse places I’d seen during my three months in Wales.

The movie definitely brought back memories (including memories of Wales), but not exactly the memories of lush green hills dotted with sheep or ruins of medieval castles that I’d anticipated. Instead, watching Roberts agony as he sought God through one spiritual experience after another while he burdened himself with the legalism of fearing to step outside of God’s  will reminded me of the Bible college I attended in Wales. And of Charismatic teaching in general.

I’d never really seen the connection between legalism and the dependence on spiritual experiences until I watched that movie, but the relationship struck me powerfully. Certainly we see it in 21st Century evangelicals (even those who don’t consider themselves to be Charismatics) as they urge us to expect personal revelation from God and warn us against “stepping out of God’s will.” I remembered the desperation to receive personal guidance, which caused me to wrench fragments of Scripture out of context, and pleading with God to speak to me lest I make a mistake and foil His plan.

What a sad way to go through life!

And what an affront to the sovereignty of God, as well as to His love! Yes, the Lord commands our obedience, but He calls us to obey what He clearly commands in His Word, not impressions or voices in our head telling us whom to marry or what job to accept. God’s principles outline what characteristics to look for in a husband. Marry whomever you please, as long as he possesses those characteristics and proposes to you. Take the job as long as the employer doesn’t ask you to violate Scripture. Don’t agonize unnecessarily, straining for some  mystical experience to offer confirmation.

People like Evan Roberts may appear quite spiritual, but their gnosticism never allows them to walk in the Spirit. Consider Paul’s words to the Colossians:

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. ~~Colossians 2:20-23 (ESV)

Although I don’t recommend the documentary (which is why I won’t give the title), I’m glad I watched it because it clarified some of the dangers in Charismatic teaching. I certainly praise God for mercifully rescuing me from that bondage.

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Saturday Sampler: October 29 — November 5

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An essay by Ryan Higginbottom in Knowable Word reveals One Temptation of Digital Searching that had never occurred to me. His admonition might spare you from misinterpreting God’s Word.

I enjoy pretty much everything Candi Finch writes on Biblical Woman, but Meet Katie Luther, One of the Protestant Reformation’s Leading Ladies has to be my all-time favorite piece I’ve read of hers. Once again,  we see that history can not only inspiring, but downright fun! I dare you to get through this piece without cracking a smile.

Writing for The Cripplegate, Jordan Standridge gives us The Cry of the Reformation: Jesus is our Sufficient Savior!  His article goes to the heart of the Reformation, directing us  back to the Lord Jesus Christ as all a sinner ever needs.

What should 21st Century evangelicals learn from the Reformers’ cry of Sola Scriptura?Michael J. Krueger of Canon Fodder answers that question with What is Sola Scriptura Protecting Us Against? More Than You Think. This article taught me a few things that deepen my appreciation for this doctrine of grace.

On her blog,  The End Time, Elizabeth Prata analyzes the state of present-day evangelicalism against the backdrop of the Reformation. Reformation Day 500 and counting! affirms the sad reality that the Reformation is far from over. Her essay will enhance your conviction that we absolutely must stand on God’s Word, using it as an instrument of discernment.

Reprising an article from Tabletalk Magazine (which I read all the time), the blog from Ligonier features The Holy Spirit’s Ministry by Sinclair  Ferguson. If you struggle with the idea that some of the Spirit’s gifts ceased with the close of the apostolic era, this piece may help you.

I’ve definitely sinned in my attempts to perform discernment ministry. So Lara d’Entremont’s blog post in Renewed in Truth Discipleship, Where Discernment Goes Wrong, rightly convicted me. Please take a look at the post yourselves and see whether or not the Lord would have you reconsider your approach to discernment.

Erin Benziger once again correctly uses Scripture to expose a sin that all of us fall into — usually without realizing it. In Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Envy on Do Not Be Surprised, she illustrates the dangerous potential in this seemingly innocuous sin.

I’m including a second article from The Cripplegate because Jesse Johnson’s Semper Reformanda? addresses seven serious problems in 21st Century evangelical churches. My regular readers will notice that some of his concerns echo issues that I’ve been writing about for years. Please take a look at this thought-provoking blog post.

Commenting on events in the news, Jennifer of One Hired Late In The Day concludes that Sin makes people stupid, and explains the world we live in. Her essay matches the power of its title!

I struggle with sinful, self-centered anger.  But Michelle Lesley reminds of 6 Reasons to Recapture Righteous Anger. She makes very interesting and unexpected observations that most Christians overlook.

As someone who has been severely disabled since birth, I read Tim Challies’ essay,  No Better (Or Worse) Time To Be Disabled with tremendous interest. Although he specifies people with intellectual disabilities, don’t think for a moment that these ideas couldn’t eventually carry over to anyone with severe birth defects.

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After Darkness, Light

Post Tenebras Lux

Even among Christians who genuinely love God’s Word and have a passion for Him, I feel like a certifiable nerd these days. Hardly anyone outside on my blogging and Twitter associates seems aware that today marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. And the few who actually do know don’t show a great deal of concern (let alone excitement) over the matter. That was 500 years ago, they reason. They remind me that not everyone enjoys history as much as I do.

A few longtime friends have (if I correctly understand their Facebook comments) expressed hope that I’m not idolizing theology instead of loving Jesus. Certainly, dead orthodoxy poses a danger to any Christian, and therefore self-examination has a place for those of us who write zealously about the issues involved in the Reformation. I don’t want to exalt anything above the Lord Jesus Christ.

I wonder, however, if people accused Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and the other 16th Century Reformers of idolizing theology.

Actually, they accused them of heresy, even though it was the false teachings of Roman Catholicism that caused the Reformers to go back to Scripture and question the Church’s teachings in the first place. Those men and women stood against the errors in the Roman Catholic Church because they loved Jesus and had a passion for His Word.

In order to appreciate their passion for Biblical theology, it helps to understand the development of the Roman Catholic Church. Outlining that history goes well beyond the scope of today’s essay, but I strongly encourage you to read What is the origin of the Roman Catholic Church? from GotQuestions.org. Suffice it to say that Roman Catholicism kept most people in spiritual darkness for approximately 600 years, withholding Scripture from all but the elite so that Rome could maintain political power.

The Reformers began reading Scripture translated from the original Greek and Hebrew, and consequently saw huge discrepancies between what the Word taught and the teachings of Rome. As I’ve said repeatedly throughout this Tuesday series, they risked their very lives (and many died as martyrs) over the theological differences between them and the Roman Catholic Church.

They rightly took the motto, Post Tenebras Lux (after darkness, light), to describe God’s wonderful work of restoring sound doctrine to His people.  The light of God’s Word had at last dispelled the darkness of Roman Catholicism, and the Reformers preferred persecution and death to compromising their theology. Does that mean they idolized theology over the Lord?

I would argue that the Reformers’ love and passion for Christ emanated from their return to Biblical theology. As they rediscovered the doctrines of grace in the pages of Scripture, the light shone brightly, leading them to know and love the Lord, Who had been in the shadows of Catholic tradition for almost six centuries.  To those Reformers, the theology that shed light on the Lord and His will caused them to rejoice in His remarkable grace. They gave Him all the glory. Indeed,  the appearance of light after darkness fueled their passionate love for Him.

Oh dear 21st Century believers, don’t let people discourage you from loving the theology that leads you to a clear understanding of Who Jesus is and what He teaches. As John said to me yesterday, we can’t really love the Lord apart from right theology. Praise God for the courageous Reformers whom He used to bring His people from darkness into light.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ~~1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

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Saturday Sampler: October 22 — October 28

Five Easter Babies

Ligonier posts R.C. Sproul’s article, What Does the Roman Catholic Church Believe About Justification? This helpful piece brings us to the core issue of the Protestant Reformation and encourages Christians to continue declaring the Gospel.

Firmly but gently, Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day answers the question, But what if my husband isn’t a believer? by opening the Bible and examining what the Holy Spirit says through the apostle Peter on this subject. I appreciate her approach to this important topic.

With Halloween coming quickly, Michelle Lesley reprises Should Christians Participate in Halloween? 7 Scriptures to Consider (which she originally published in 2014). I really like her application of Biblical principles to this controversial question.

Writing for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Rebecca VanDoodewaard outlines 5 Lessons from Reformation Women as an encouragement to us. Women don’t have to be in pulpit ministry in order to serve the Lord mightily.

In his moving blog post for The Cripplegate, Jordan Standridge writes about The American Priest who Proved the Reformation is Not Over. Please, if you’re tempted to minimize the differences between Catholics and Protestants, make time to read this eye-opening piece.

If you like impassioned writing, don’t miss Elizabeth Prata’s The Reformation shows us why we need expository preaching in The End Time. Thankfully, Elizabeth hasn’t bought into the pervasive attitude that church history is boring and irrelevant. In fact, she applies lessons from the Reformation to current evangelical trends.

Biblical counselor Lara d’Entremont of Renewed in Truth Discipleship helps us see that Letting Go of Self-Suffiency is a necessary act of repentance. It also alleviates some pretty big burdens.

For a slightly different take on the Reformation, read David Qaoud’s piece, 5 Common Misconceptions of Reformation Day in Gospel Relevance. I learned a few things. So might you.

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What We Don’t Know Will Definitely Hurt Us

Wood Church Bas Relief

I’ve been asking questions on Twitter and Facebook in an effort to understand what most evangelicals think about the Reformation. Having spent most of my Christian life in Charismatic and Armimian churches, many of my friends (though genuinely saved) don’t subscribe to Reformed Theology. Curiously, some of them quote  Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Devotions, but they also quote Oswald Chambers, Rick Warren and Charles Finney, leaving me to wonder if Spurgeon makes that much of an impression on them.

Sometimes things make you scratch your head in bewilderment.

Anyway, few of my friends have responded to my questions. Perhaps their silence speaks volumes about their indifference to the Reformation. And I get that. I need to confess my own indifference to the Reformation before the Lord brought me into Reformed Theology.

I did receive one response that disturbed me. The person declared that the Reformation was indeed very important to her, citing several changes in the Roman Catholic Church. Those changes, however, resulted from Vatican II, which happened about 450 years after the Reformation, and only made surface level changes within Catholicism.

Perhaps I misunderstood my friend’s comment. If so, I hope she’ll publicly correct me and better help me understand the point she wanted to make. But the fact that nobody else questioned her apparent confusion of the Reformation and Vatican II causes me to wonder if people really make a distinction between the two events. I realize that not everyone enjoys history, but these two major events really have little to do with one another.

Perhaps my friend isn’t representative of most 21st Century evangelicals. Sadly, I suspect she just may be. If so, I fear that modern-day evangelicals are headed into new Dark Ages, every bit as apostate as the centuries leading up to 1517.

Ignorance about the Protestant Reformation explains much of the compromise among present-day evangelicals. If we don’t know at least how the issues of justification by faith alone and the authority of Scripture caused the Reformers to stand against the papacy (often losing their lives in the process), we will quite probably compromise our own doctrine and seek fellowship with people who embrace a different gospel. I pray that my friends, as well as evangelicals in general, will look at the Reformation and see the critical importance of doctrine. May they then glorify the Lord Jesus Christ for restoring His Word to His beloved Church.

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