A Wrinkle In Theology

Robin Olsen PortraitSocial media definitely gives me a wealth of subject matter! Consider this quotation:

Joy is the infallible proof of the presence of God.  ~~Madeline L’Engle

When that quote showed up on my Twitter feed a few years ago, I vacillated between laughing, crying and throwing up. I have fond childhood memories of Madeline L’Engle’s book, A Wrinkle In Time, but I rather wish she’d confined her writing to children’s fiction and left theology alone. That quote sounds pretty and poetic, admittedly, but it positively oozes with the sloppy theology that permeates today’s visible church.

L’Engle elevates the subjective emotion of joy as “infallible proof” that God is present. This “reasoning” reminds me of so many professing Christians who validate things like the Gay Christian Movement because they interpret the enthusiasm among “gay Christians” as an indication that He sanctions their misinterpretation of Scripture.

But truth must never be at the mercy of fleeting experience. People often feel great joy in the midst of extremely sinful behavior. Yet God, being holy, neither will nor can grace sinful  behavior with His presence. The joy at a college drinking party may, in some instances (such as celebrating the end of finals), be quite genuine, but any true presence of the Lord would bring the revelers to repentance in short order. Indeed, His presence brought the prophet Isaiah to humility.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” ~~Isaiah 6:1-5 (ESV)
Throughout the Bible, actually, God’s presence frequently evoked fear and trembling as people saw the contrast between their sinfulness and His holiness. Sometimes, joy followed. And we definitely will have joy in heaven, where those of us who are born again through His Spirit will be in His presence forever. But humility and repentance serve as much more reliable indicators of His presence for now.
Hopefully Madeline L’Engle ironed out her theology before she died.

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Smelly Preaching Wanted

A friend from church posted this picture on his Facebook feed a few years ago. It definitely contrasts the seeker-sensitive posture of 21st Century churches. In our day, we minimize the seriousness of sin (if we mention it at all), sometimes even denying that certain behaviors should even be considered sinful in the first place. After all, we reason, we must make the Lord attractive, so people will actually want to come to our churches (and, as a result, fill our offering plates).

Making church appealing to our friends and family may be good salesmanship, but it doesn’t fulfill the Great Commission. Jesus never told us to sign up young, potentially affluent, wage-earners to fund our building projects. He instead commanded us to make disciples by passing on His doctrine and calling others to obey Him (Matthew 28:16-20). Part of making disciples necessitates helping people acknowledge their sin and move toward repentance.

Such demands repel those people whom the Lord has not called to salvation. But the elect, who mourn over their sin because they know how deeply it offends the Savior, will embrace such preaching as a portal to eternal life. Indeed, Paul and his co-workers observed this very principle, and mentioned it to the church in Corinth:

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? ~~2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (ESV)

Preaching, whether in a church setting or in personal evangelism, can’t afford to coddle sin. God’s servants don’t sell a product; we proclaim the truth–including the fact that the Lord, being perfect in Holiness, cannot and will not tolerate sin among His people. Wondrously, He shed His blood to atone for the sin of those who believe, providing us the grace to live in holiness!

Those who don’t understand their desperate need for salvation find the Gospel to be odious. The very suggestion that the Lord would dare to condemn them simply because they refused to depend on His righteousness rather than their own, is a stench in their nostrils. But for those of us who know the weight of our sin, nothing could possibly smell as sweet as the Gospel! May we have the courage to declare the whole Gospel, trusting the Holy Spirit with the results.

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Why Did He Do That?

Spotlight on God

Every now and again, evangelicals get so caught in the details of Christian living that we lose sight of the actual Gospel itself. Quite possibly, this shift of emphasis happens because, from start to finish, the central Gospel message directly assaults self-esteem. We want to believe that God sees something in us worth saving and that we contribute to the salvation process. The Gospel frustrates us by refuting both propositions.

Today, I want to address the Gospel’s position on human worth. Certainly, I adamantly embrace  the pro-life position that, from conception to final breath, every human life has value. We must, as we talk about human worth, maintain a clear distinction between conversation on abortion (and euthanasia) and conversation on our inability to merit salvation. Please remember that these are entirely separate issues!

Some months back, in my blog post, Why Pick On Psychology, I noted that popular evangelical writer Max Lucado once wrote:

“If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning… Face it, friend. He is crazy about you!”

As wonderful as Lucado’s words sound, however, they leave non-Christians (especially false converts) with the impression that God practically worships us. He joins other post-modern evangelicals who promote the false notion that Christ redeemed us because we were somehow worthy of His love. We’re special, they say, and His sacrificial death merely proves our intrinsic value.

What a perverted view of His gracious love! Scripture teaches that He loves  us because of His grace, not because we possess any attractive qualities. In fact, Romans 5:8 bluntly says that He died for us when we were still entrenched in our sin. We can’t bring a single thing to the table!

Instead of viewing ourselves as the centers of God’s universe and thinking that He waits breathlessly for us to “make Him Lord and Savior,” let’s consider Scripture’s assessment of the situation.

 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. ~~Ephesians 2:1-7 (ESV)

Not the  most flattering portrait of us, is it? I don’t enjoy knowing that, apart from God’s grace, I would be dead in my sin, and a child of wrath. I’d much prefer to believe that He saw some little spark of goodness in me that made me worthy of His love and His death on the cross. But God’s Word simply doesn’t permit such fantasy.

Ironically, Jesus shed His precious blood on my behalf precisely because I couldn’t do anything to merit His favor. Therefore, my salvation necessarily throws the spotlight back on Him. Despite the stench of my sinful inclinations, the Lord chose to save me from the eternity in hell that I so richly deserve. Understanding the depths of my depravity enables me to rejoice in Christ’s unexplainable and wonderful love for me.

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Frankly, I World Have Preferred The Vacuum

catholic-mass2Today’s post, I’m sorry to say, won’t be the post I’d hoped to write. I’m trying to research the development of Roman Catholic teaching, particularly leading up to 1517, in order to better understand (and thus present to  you) why the Reformation needed to take place. Before you roll your eyes and complain that I’m boring, however, consider that we can better appreciate the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation by knowing why the Church needed reform in the first place.

I’ve learned that Roman Catholicism in general is a very complex religion. The Roman Catholicism of 1517 has added complexities due to its political power and its need to tax the faithful for the purpose of building St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. I find myself asking where the Papacy came from? How did the doctrine of Purgatory develop? Why did the Roman Catholic Church teach that people had to perform acts of penance?

The Protestant Reformation didn’t happen in a vacuum, but rather it came about by God’s sovereignty as He awakened people to the ways that the Roman Catholic Church had  corrupted the Gospel with teachings that wrongfully made salvation contingent on human effort.  Although Scripture plainly teaches that Christ alone is the propitiation for sin (1 John 4:10, just to name one verse) and that He is the only mediator between God and humanity (1 Timothy 2:5-6), Catholicism insists on an elaborate system of merit  and priestly authority for its adherents to secure salvation.

Martin Luther originally objected to Roman Catholic doctrine because it exploited poor people by having them pay money so that their departed loved ones could escape Purgatory earlier. But the selling of indulgences was, in actuality, a surface issue. It merely highlighted the sad fact that Catholic teaching deviates from Scripture.

Three years ago, the folks at The Cripplegate blog posted an excellent presentation entitled 5 differences between Catholic theology and the gospel, which offers a brief, easily read, comparison between the two schools of thought. Since I doubt my ability to improve on their post, I’d strongly encourage you to read it for yourselves. Although the writer fails to use Scripture in demonstrating the Biblical gospel, those who are familiar with basic Protestant teaching should be able to see flaws in Roman Catholicism.

The Reformers, like Luther, understood the discrepancies between Rome and the Bible. Yet, he  suffered excommunication and exile, firm in his stance that Scripture must be preferred over both tradition and Papal pronouncements. In his own defense, he said:

Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.“On May 25, the Emperor issued his Edict of Worms, declaring Martin Luther an outlaw.

Would that 21st Century Christians had Luther’s unwavering passion for God’s Word!

Along with other great reformers, Luther pointed Christians back to Scripture’s authority, rejecting the notion that the Pope’s pronouncements held equal weight to God’s Word. His cry of Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) serves as one of the lynchpins of reformed theology.  Obviously, I’m deeply committed to this lynchpin, and praise the Lord for Luther’s role in making the Bible accessible to all Christians.

In my next post on the Reformation, I’d like to look at the doctrine of Purgatory and the selling of Indulgences to explain why Luther wrote the 95 Theses that ignited the Protestant Reformation. Hopefully, I’ll find time to study the matter. Next Tuesday, however, John has an important appointment in Boston, so I’ll probably just post a video on the subject. At any rate, by October 31st, 2017, all of us should better understand the reasons for celebrating the Reformation.

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They Think Sodom Married Gomorrah

old-bibleThe Word of God has never been as available, especially in developed countries,  as it is today. In addition to a wide variety of print Bibles, people can find a wide  range of Bible software as well as an astronomical amount of online Bibles and Bible Study websites. Thanks to modern technology, Christians (and non-Christians) have never enjoyed so much access to God’s Word.

The availability of Bible software and study materials has definitely benefited me, particularly with respect to my disability. Now, instead of having to depend on others to hand me commentaries, concordances or dictionaries,  I simply tap a few  computer keys with my handy-dandy headstick and voila! What a blessing to use the abundant resources that have been made available (at little or no cost) over the last few decades.

It bothers me, precisely because God has made it so easy to read and study His Word, that so many evangelicals have become Biblically illiterate. Al Mohler, in The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem , writes:

Some of the statistics are enough to perplex even those aware of the problem. A Barna poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. We are in big trouble.

Secularized Americans should not be expected to be knowledgeable about the Bible. As the nation’s civic conversation is stripped of all biblical references and content, Americans increasingly live in a Scripture-free public space. Confusion and ignorance of the Bible’s content should be assumed in post-Christian America.

The larger scandal is biblical ignorance among Christians. Choose whichever statistic or survey you like, the general pattern is the same. America’s Christians know less and less about the Bible. It shows.

How can a generation be biblically shaped in its understanding of human sexuality when it believes Sodom and Gomorrah to be a married couple? No wonder Christians show a growing tendency to compromise on the issue of homosexuality. Many who identify themselves as Christians are similarly confused about the Gospel itself. An individual who believes that “God helps those who help themselves” will find salvation by grace and justification by faith to be alien concepts.

We want to laugh at the idea that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and  wife, and warped minds like mine might even quip something about them having the only same sex marriage in the Bible, but biblical illiteracy is no laughing matter. When Christians don’t know the clear teachings of Scripture and neglect sound doctrine, they easily believe false teaching and fall for unbiblical practices that lead them into counterfeit religion and, consequently, away from Christ.

As we approach the 499th “anniversary” of the Reformation this coming Monday, we should bear in mind that Luther stood up to the Roman Catholic Church because they had corrupted Scripture. As a result, he devoted himself to translating the Bible into German so that anybody could read it. A few years later, William Tyndale began working on a English translation, an illegal activity (neither the Roman Church nor the Church of England wanted the general public to read Scripture) which caused him to be brutally executed. These men, as well as other Reformers, valued God’s Word above their own lives, risking everything to make it available to us.

Luther and Tyndale would undoubtedly rejoice to see the amazing variety of print and digital Bibles in existence 500 years after their labors. For that reason, however, they would quite likely be distressed by the apathy evangelicals demonstrate toward the Bible. They’d find nothing funny about mistaking Sodom and Gomorrah for a  married couple.

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Saturday Sampler: September 4 — September 10


Responding to Andy Stanley’s recent suggestion that evangelical pastors should “take the spotlight off the Bible and back on the resurrection,” Josh Buice of Delivered By Grace argues, Andy Stanley — We Can’t Arrive at the Empty Tomb without a Bible. Buice demonstrates why Scripture provides the foundation for proclaiming the Gospel.

John turned 67 this past week, and I’ll turn 63 at the end of the month. Because we’re growing older, Donald Whitney’s article, Spiritual Disciplines and the Sinkhole Syndrome (on the Ligonier blog), cautions me against supposing that my “spiritual maturity” entitles me to ease up on personal prayer and Bible Study. Young people can also learn from this post.

Diane Bucknell, writing for Out of the Ordinary, explains why Contending for Old School Hermeneutics is essential in understanding and interpreting the Bible. Present-day evangelicals, who all too often approach God’s Word subjectively, would do well to consider her points.

Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason actually shows how to apply hermeneutics in his Soundbite of the Week: Does Jeremiah 29:11 Apply to Us Today? Praise the Lord for people like him who refuse to  force interpretations on Scripture that the Holy Spirit never intended.

Although Erik Raymond writes A Couple Phrases I Wish Preachers Would Stop Saying So Often specifically for pastors and Bible Study leaders, his piece in The Gospel Coalition Blog actually applies to all Christians. Subjectively is such a major problem among evangelicals today; let’s not exacerbate this problem by using popular, but careless, phraseology when we talk about the Lord.

How can I resist mentioning Elizabeth Prata’s convicting essay, Etiquette of meeting a monarch in The End Time? Evangelicals don’t often think of the Lord as King of kings and Lord of lords. Our first taste of heaven may be quite humbling!

Out of the Ordinary also features Kim Shay’s post, The whole sentence matters, which examines 1 Peter 5:7 in its context. Her blog post gives us a different, more accurate, perspective on this well-known Bible memory verse.

Continuing my unplanned (by me) theme of proper Bible interpretation, 4 Practical Guidelines for Reading Old Testament Stories by George H. Guthrie reminds us that overall context unlocks Scripture’s meaning.

Denny Burk’s post, They’ll never come after the church…until they do reminds me of my reasons for starting The Outspoken TULIP  14 months ago. Ladies, we live in a time of growing hostility to the Lord and His Word, and we must do all we can not to compromise with the world’s values. Knowing Scripture, and knowing it accurately, is essential as this spiritual warfare escalates. I beg you, read the Bible in context and apply it obediently, regardless of the cost. These perilous times call us to live for His honor.
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Don’t Be Afraid To Fear God

Thoughtful BoyOriginally, I thought I’d include Elizabeth  Prata’s essay, Why fearing the Lord is a good thing; cultivate it, in this week’s Saturday Sampler. Surprisingly, the Sampler has already gained a fair amount of popularity, so putting it there may have attracted more of my readers to her post. But as I typed a comment on her website, I realized how much I wanted to offer my own thoughts on this topic.

When I became a Christian, the Lord brought me to Himself because I saw the gravity of my sin.Putting it bluntly, I knew I was going to hell, and that knowledge scared me. Understanding my eternal destiny apart from Christ prepared me for the joyful news that Jesus took the punishment for my sin when He died on the cross! Knowing my desperate situation gave me love for the Savior Who shed His blood in order to save me from the Father’s wrath.

Oh, don’t talk about God’s wrath, you say. You remind me, quite correctly, that false converts and those who actually know they’re not Christians read this blog. You warn me that the mention of God’s wrath and judgment could alienate those people, perhaps causing them to reject the Gospel.  After all, people want to hear that God loves them, and has a wonderful plan for their lives. Surely I can slip in a mention of sin subtly, without frightening anyone unnecessarily!

I remember a conversation years ago with a friend who maintained that he had been won to Christ, not by fire-and-brimstone preaching, but by assurances of God’s love.  Therefore, he reasoned, Christians should minimize talk of fearing God. Perfect love casts out fear.

(Ah, the beauty of quoting Scripture out of context!)

Yet God even made seasoned apostles tremble.  When the glorified Christ appeared to the apostle John on Patmos, it was hardly a warm fuzzy experience!

12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. ~~Revelation 1:12-17 (ESV)

I’ll let Elizabeth’s essay elaborate on how the fear of the Lord should affect genuine believers, and instead will point out that John’s fearful reaction to the same Jesus he once treated with intimacy (John 13:25) only shows how much more unbelievers should tremble at the thought of His presence. This Christ, having the keys of Death and Hades, certainly commands trembling from those who violate His Word and treat him as an object of mockery.

But such holy fear, rather than paralyzing the sinner, graciously calls that sinner to trust in Christ’s work on the cross. No one, no matter how altruistic or philanthropic he or she may be, has any  hope of atoning for his or her sins, but the Lord lovingly accepted the wrath of God as if He deserved it. Fearing God lets the sinner see how wonderful Christ’s sacrifice truly is.

In the words of John Newton:

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

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Loving Others: The Worst Thing A Codependent Can Do

Psychology AftermathYesterday I mentioned that people who are labeled as codependents typically receive counsel to put their own (felt) needs first rather than sacrificing themselves for the sake of others. In the sort of “Christian” counseling that uses Scripture (generally quoted of of context) to authenticate psychological principles, counselors find ways to convince clients that God would not want them to lose themselves in service to others.

In their article, Codependency, A Biblical View, the writers at Southern View Chapel say:

We are being told that it is very difficult to discern whether the behavior of a codependent was caused by his “illness,” or the “illness” was caused by his behavior. At any rate, Melody Beattie groups the problems of codependent people around the following categories: caretaking, low self-worth, repression, obsession, controlling, denial, dependency, poor communication, weak boundaries, lack of trust, anger, sex problems, miscellaneous and progressive (Codependent No More, p37-45). After reading her lists, you realize that few, if any, can totally escape the codependent label.

Minirth and Meier blame addictions and compulsions on codependency. Even more importantly, they claim that a codependent is unable to obey God: “The Christian’s foremost privilege and responsibility is to hear and respond to God. The codependent can neither hear clearly nor respond adequately. It’s that simple” (p171). How cruel God must be, to demand obedience from people who cannot obey because of their emotional illnesses (caused usually by harsh parents), then punish them because of their disobedience. Either the apostles of codependency are right, or God (in His Word) is — we cannot have it both ways!

I believe, based on my own involvement in “counseling ministry,” that Southern View Chapel is absolutely correct in their assessment that the theories on codependency diametrically oppose Biblical teaching. I’ve seen several instances in which Christians (whether genuine or merely professing) have declined to serve others out of concern that doing so might pull them into codependent behaviors. In essence, teachings on codependency boil down to convenient excuses for selfishness.

The Bible, on the other hand, calls Christians to exercise the same sacrificial love that Jesus Christ exemplified on the cross. As it so happens, the passage I’ve been working through in my Quiet Time lately reinforces God’s command to love at one’s own expense:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. ~~1 John 4:7-11 (ESV)

Let me be clear that Christ’s death on the cross extends far beyond a mere example of self-sacrificial love. Regular readers know that I’ve written many essays on Christ’s purpose in giving Himself to be crucified, and I’ll undoubtedly write many more such essays as time goes on. I definitely don’t want to reduce the implications of Christ’s atoning work to simply an example for Christians to follow. It means so much more than just that!

Yet Scripture does plainly teach that the Lord’s act of dying in our place establishes the standard of Christian love. The apostle John maintains that this type of love marks true believers. In contrast to codependency theories, love demands self-denial and calls Christians to set aside our own interests in order to benefit others.

Teachings on codependency appeal to our sinful natures. Perhaps saying it that bluntly seems harsh, but shouldn’t we be a bit harsh when it comes to mortifying our flesh? As Christians, we must reject psychological principles that lure us to disobey Scripture, and especially when they promote selfishness. Love, for Christians, is more than a choice — it’s a command from God.

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Why Sola Scriptura?

Bible AloneIt always saddens me that people have an aversion to history. Having moved to Boston from San Francisco, I find the history of my new home so thrilling that I can’t understand the indifferent attitude of my friends who have lived here all their lives.Why can’t they see what a treasure this place is?

It troubles me even more deeply that so many evangelicals fail to comprehend the importance of church history in general and the Reformation in particular. The history of our religion helps us understand why doctrine matters so much, both in showing us how the visible church has deviated from Scriptural teachings over its 2000-year lifetime and in showing us how godly men and women faced persecution and martyrdom in order to restore doctrinal purity to the Church. In studying church history, we often realize the preciousness of our faith. More specifically, the study of the Reformation causes us to realize the preciousness of the Bible.

Let’s start by talking about the most famous of the 16th Century Reformers, and then examining what 21st Century Christians can learn from his example. Martin Luther’s disagreements with the Roman Catholic Church originated with his study of Scripture, which he regarded as God’s highest authority. The Catholic Church (which held both religious and political authority at the time), by contrast, insisted that it has authority equal to the Bible. Officially, the Catholic still holds this doctrine, known as “Magisterium.” Over time, Luther observed that many Roman Catholic teachings had developed, not from the Word of God, but as a way for Rome to exploit and control the people.

Although Luther originally posted his 95 Theses strictly in response to John Tetzel’s oppressive tactics of selling Indulgences (see my October 23, 2015 blog post), the resulting conflict alerted him to Rome’s elevation of ecclesiastical authority.Thus, a major tenet of the Reformation was Sola Scriptura, meaning that Scripture alone is the Christian’s authority.

As I indicated a moment ago, Magisterium usually diverted attention away from God’s Word, leaving 16th Century laity at the mercy of church officials. Luther, until he understood justification by faith when he read Romans 1:17, had suffered personally from the church’s false teaching that Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross required human effort in order for it to effect a person’s salvation. As a young monk, he put himself through grueling acts of penance trying to atone for his sins. And once he finally understood the wonderful truth that Christ had fully paid for those sins, the Roman  Church excommunicated him for preaching justification by faith alone. Yet he clung to his conviction that Scripture, not Magisterium, had to be his final authority.

Later in his ministry, Martin Luther’s writings reflected the lessons he learned from his battles with Rome:

[Commenting on Psalm 119] “In this psalm David always says that he will speak, think, talk, hear, read, day and night constantly—but about nothing else than God’s Word and Commandments. For God wants to give you His Spirit only through the external Word.

Every time I read this quote, I marvel at how well it applies to the attitudes, and sometimes the outright teachings  of present-day Christians. Or more accurately, professing Christians. While the vast majority of evangelicals pay lip-service to the Bible’s authority, they all too frequently seek to augment it with human philosophies. I’ve written about many of the ways evangelicals compromise Scripture: Holy Yoga, psychological models, the Gay Christian Movement, mysticism and so forth.

All of these additions to Biblical Christianity contradict Sola Scriptura because they undermine the truth that Scripture provides all  we need (2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:3-4). Just as Roman Catholicism supplanted Scripture’s supremacy in the Middle Ages, the trends that infiltrate today’s evangelical circles threaten to supplant its supremacy now. I believe this insurrection comes in part because we’ve neglected the lessons of the Reformation, especially in regards to its high view of Scripture.

We need to study the Reformation because it brings us back to a realization of the Bible’s authority and sufficiency. Martin Luther, along with many other men and women of his era, risked their lives by standing on the Word of God, rather than the ideas of human beings, as their sole authority. In studying them, we gain a greater appreciation for the Scriptures that they restored to us.

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America At 240

ConstitutionSome of America’s Founding Fathers may have been genuine Christians, but I haven’t studied enough of their biographies and writings to determine how many of them actually demonstrated signs of true conversion. I’ve read some of David Barton‘s materials, which warrant great skepticism, so I seriously question his assertion that 52 of the 55 Declaration of Independence signers were “orthodox, evangelical Christians.” (Actually, Barton’s orthodoxy might well be questioned also…but that’s another blog post.) So let’s agree that we really don’t know how many of the Founding Fathers really knew the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our ignorance of the true spiritual condition of these men means that we probably shouldn’t insist on believing that the United States of America began as a Christian country. Our Constitution certainly drew on very broad Biblical principles, however, as evidenced by this quote by John Adams:

Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

So one could make the case that the Founding Fathers intended our country to operate under some level of Scriptural influence. In that respect, I believe that Christians indeed have every reason to mourn over the moral and spiritual decline of our country. Most Americans used to at least publicly respect Christian values.  But now, and especially since Obergefell vs Hodges, public sentiment runs decidedly against anything that promotes godly attitudes and behavior.

The fact that our presidential primaries have given us Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as the presumptive nominees indicts us as a culture that prefers pragmatism over personal integrity.  As these two candidates raise defiant fists at God’s laws against lying and sexual immorality (among other things), those who support them also openly defy the Lord and His teachings.  We want a  government that gives us “free” stuff and celebrates sexual deviance. We want to regulate every industry except the one that kills our unborn babies, and we want to coerce Christian colleges to jettison their  convictions.

Unless God shows mercy at the GOP convention later this month, either Clinton or Trump will destroy America become the next president.  God’s judgment on America?  Perhaps. Definitely a chilling prospect, either way.

But as a Bible-believing Christian, I don’t entirely despair. Our 240-year-old country most likely won’t reach its 250th birthday, and the freedoms that John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and the 53 others who risked being hung for treason gave us may be snatched from us soon. Yet Bible-believing Christians hope in a sovereign Ruler Who will one day establish His perfect Kingdom. America,  along with the rest of the world, will come to an end (presumably by moral suicide), but God’s Kingdom will never end.

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