Italian Renaissance Art, My Bucket List And The Protestant Reformation

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The Holy Family by Botticelli

During my freshman year of college, I took an overview class on Italian Renaissance art (fall semester) followed by a class on High Renaissance art (spring semester). I loved all of it, and developed a desire to visit Florence and Rome to see some of the pieces I’d studied in person. Especially Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.

Shortly after moving to the Greater Boston Area to marry John, complications from my disability curtailed my ability to travel. Providentially, however, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has hosted several exhibitions of Italian Renaissance art, allowing me to see works by Titian, Tintoretto, Donatello and even sketches by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo! Last month we saw an exhibition of Botticelli which also included works by Fillippo Lippi and Verrochio.  Okay, not everyone’s cup of tea, but I praise God for bringing these artists to my doorstep.

Therefore I’ve been content about never visiting Italy. That contentment has grown as I’ve learned more about the Protestant Reformation and the events that led Martin Luther to post his 95 Theses.

As I’ve explained in numerous blog posts, Luther protested the selling of Indulgences, Pope Leo X’s primary means of financing the rebuilding of Saint Peter’s Basilica, offended that the Roman Catholic Church preyed on the fears of poor people by propagating the unbiblical notion of Purgatory. Terror stricken peasants eagerly purchased Indulgences in hopes of minimizing time in Purgatory, never realizing that Christ completely paid  for the sins of all who believe in Him.

In other words, Rome exploited the fears of people who believed their false doctrine of Purgatory for the purposes of financing Saint Peter’s Basilica. Really comprehending that horrible fact made me kind of glad that I can’t go to Rome. It sours my taste for seeing Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling (though I might enjoy his Last Judgment fresco, in which he put Leo X in hell).

A couple days ago, however, John and I watched a YouTube video called Introduction to the Life of Martin Luther on Bruce Gore’s channel. Gore reiterated the account of Luther being grieved by the sale of Indulgences, mentioning the role of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Then he remarked that Protestants can enjoy the Basilica as the catalyst for our Protestant heritage.

Although I still feel content with the marvelous Italian Renaissance art that the Lord has brought to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, I greatly appreciate the perspective Bruce Gore articulated regarding Saint Peter’s Basilica. Though I’ll only see it through books and Internet articles, I’ll know that God used the evil means of financing that building to bring about the Protestant Reformation. Doesn’t He do all things well?

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The Reformation Reflects Today’s Church

Modern ReformationAs this year leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation has progressed, I’ve grown disappointed (if not a little frustrated) with my lack of structuring my study time. So many men and women risked their lives standing against the Roman Catholic Church for the sake of the Gospel — some even becoming martyrs rather than compromise God’s Word. I’d anticipated telling their stories as a way of inspiring you (and myself) to stand firm against the erosion of sound doctrine in our own day.

The truth is, my almost 64-year-old body can’t accommodate my to-do list. Bible Study, blogging, social media and trying to be a wife collide with expanded Personal Care Attendant schedules and slowing typing speed, leaving less time and energy to research Knox, Lady Jane Grey, Zwingli and others who did so much to restore Biblical Christianity to Western civilization. Would Christ’s words about the spirit being willing and the flesh being weak apply here?

Maybe. But I digress.

With three months still to go until October 31st, I intend to continue using Tuesdays to keep the Reformation before you. Why? Because I believe Christianity in postmodern times has been corrupted as badly as it had been in the 16th Century, and consequently that Bible-believing Christians in our day need the fortitude and conviction that led those Reformers to praise God as their bodies were burned at the stake for the sake of the Gospel. Their willing spirits certainly conquered their weak flesh!

The assaults on Biblical Christianity came from Roman Catholicism during the Middle Ages as the church developed traditions that had more to do with supporting the opulent lifestyles of popes, cardinals and bishops than with the Gospel. Let’s briefly review the teachings that first prompted Martin Luther to openly question the church.

As we’ve seen throughout this series, teachings on the sacramental system, Purgatory and Indulgences taught people that, although their baptism as infants brought them the initial grace of salvation, they perfected that grace through the sacraments. But even then, they might need to spend time in Purgatory atoning for sins left unconfessed. Of course, purchasing Indulgences for themselves or loved ones could shorten that time, admitting the suffering soul to heaven.

Not surprisingly, medieval Catholicism suppressed access to the Bible. Obviously, reading the Bible without the church’s official annotations and apocryphal books would expose the errors propagated by church authorities.

Professing Christians in our day have different false teachings, in addition to having various vestiges of Roman Catholic mysticism, making it necessary to look again at the Reformers and the doctrines they recovered. As those Reformers directed people back to reading the Bible in its proper context, we must hold to solid Biblical doctrine and resist evangelical fads.

Neglecting the Protestant Reformation may be fashionable, but it increases our vulnerability to present-day false teaching. I’m clearly not the polished church historian that I’d like to be, and I may fail to tell the stories that need telling, but if I can keep the Protestant Reformation before you, perhaps you’ll start researching it for yourselves. You just may be surprised by what it reveals about the 21st Century church.

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Was It Really Worth All That?

John Reading Tyndale Bible
Photo taken by Julie Garber of John reading a 2nd edition Tyndale Bible

Anyone can access the story of William Tyndale by doing a simple Google search or by reading Stephen J. Lawson’s book, The Daring Mission of William Tyndale. I’m quite confident that others can narrate his contribution to the Protestant Reformation more accurately, and certainly more eloquently, than I could.

Nevertheless, I want to offer a brief outline of Tyndale’s exploits, simply for the sake of showing you what the Reformers sacrificed in order to restore God’s Word to Christians.

Tyndale (b. 1494 – d. 1536) was an accomplished linguist, with impeccable credentials for any sort of translation work. As he grew in his exposure to the writings of Erasmus (a Roman Catholic who made the Greek New Testament available) and Martin Luther, he developed a desire to translate the Bible from its original Greek and Hebrew into English.

Although such a translation would have been technically legal in England in the 16th Century, Catholic condemnation of the practice stemming from the struggle with Wycliffe two-and-a-half centuries earlier resulted in a law that such translation work could only take place under a bishop’s patronage. Obediently, Tyndale approached Bishop Cuthbert Turnstall, who had actually worked with Erasmus on his Greek New Testament. Turnstall flatly refused Tyndale’s request.

Tyndale believed that Scripture should be available to common Englishmen, rather than left to a Roman Catholic clergy that added their own doctrines to it and therefore amassed enormous political and ecclesiastical power. So he fled to Europe, where he lived incognito while he produced the forbidden translation.

Living in Brussels, Tyndale and his supporters smuggled English translations of the New Testament in bales of cotton that were shipped to England. Of course, this activity definitely violated English law. Tyndale knew that, if he was captured, he would face the death penalty. But he willingly took that risk, continuing to translate the Old Testament as he smuggled copies of the New Testament back to England.

In 1530, Tyndale wrote a pamphlet opposing King Henry VIII’s plan to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. While Tyndale most assuredly was correct in denouncing the king’s actions as unbiblical, I’m baffled as to why he would do something that would obviously intensify England’s resolve to capture and execute him. As a result of the pamphlet, someone high in the king’s   court engaged a profligate named Henry Philips  to befriend Tyndale and ultimately deliver him to English authorities.

After an 18-month imprisonment, Tyndale was executed by strangulation (because his executioners respected him and wanted to spare him the  30-minute agony of being burned alive) and then burned at the stake. His last words were “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes!”

Was God’s Word worth such suffering and sacrifice? The indifference many professing Christians show it today makes it seem like William Tyndale would have done better to pursue an academic career, privately studying the Bible for himself. But he loved God’s Word and gave his life. As he once said to a prestigious clergyman, “I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!”

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Saturday Sampler: July 9 — July 15

Heart Sampler 02Let’s begin this week’s edition of Saturday Sampler with An explanation of Martin Luther and the Reformation for children (and adults can watch, too!) courtesy of Tom and his excatholic4christ blog. Tom features a charming (and surprisingly accurate) animated video using Playmobile figurines to tell the story of Luther. Even if you think history is boring, I guarantee you’ll enjoy this video and Tom’s remarks.

Studying the Bible should change us as we apply what we’ve learned. Sometimes, though, we don’t  quite know how to make the application. Ryan Higginbottom of Knowable Word writes Make Your Bible Application Stick to provide helpful tips.

Celebrating a milestone in his blogging career, Tim Challies offers advice to his fellow bloggers in 5,000 Days. Whether you’re just starting to blog or you’ve blogged for several years, you will definitely learn something from Tim’s wealth of experience. And Tim, if you read this paragraph via pingback, congratulations on having produced 5,000 blog posts!

Prayer is difficult, especially when we don’t see immediate results. Praise the Lord for Elizabeth Prata’s encouraging article, Heaven is a busy place in The End Time. I appreciate the wonderful glimpse of the heavenly realm in reference to prayer that Elizabeth opens to us in her essay. I think you might also find it exciting.

Five “Fake News” Stories That People Believe about Early Christianity by Michael J. Krueger of Canon Fodder corrects common arguments refuting the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. I hope people who dismiss the importance of church history will read this piece and consider that knowing the past can help us correct flawed thinking in unbelievers.

The doctrine of the Trinity fascinates me. Sadly, I seldom write about it. While I certainly should change my silence on this wonderful topic, Jeanie Layne introduces it brilliantly in The Mysterious Trinity and Why It Matters, which appears in For The Church. Her work challenges me to devote more blog time to writing about God’s triune nature.

Readers of The Message paraphrase should read Denny Burk’s informative post, Eugene Peterson will always exist. I’m not totally surprised by this revelation about Peterson, but it intensifies my belief that Christians should not read The Message as their Bible. You’ll also want to read Burk’s follow-up article On Eugene Peterson’s Retraction.

In his piece for Parking Space 23, Jason Vaughn writes Sex as a Biblical overview of the Lord’s intention for this special activity between husband and wife. It’s a lengthy read, but well worth the time.

For those who believe that Calvinists don’t support evangelism and/or missions, please go to 5 Minutes in Church History and read Calvin & Missions. This transcript of Stephen Nichols’ interview with Michael Haykin dispels the widespread characterization of Reformed Christians by explaining John Calvin’s passion to bring the Gospel to lost people.

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It’s To Die For!

Open Bible 03On November 1, 2016, I set out to write weekly blog posts on various aspects of the Protestant Reformation. Originally I envisioned writing about the cost the Reformers paid to restore access to the Word of God.

I’m troubled, you see, by the vast Biblical illiteracy among evangelicals in the 21st Century. The very fact that I attended a Charismatic church that allowed people to continue giving prophecies even when their prophecies obviously didn’t come true, and then a church that turned to seeker-sensitive methodologies in order to fill its pews, convinces me that present-day evangelicals simply don’t know how to rightly divide God’s Word. For the most part, even those who read the Bible daily fail to read it in context or apply proper hermeneutics. In short, I believe that professing Christians in our day and age don’t understand the incomparable value of Scripture.

We take it for granted.

And because we take Scripture for granted, we twist it, misapply it and/or make it more about us than about the Lord Jesus Christ. I’d love to cite examples of how we do so, but there are just too many to fit into a single blog post. If you’ll look through my categories list, you’ll find numerous posts I’ve written about various false teachers and movements within evangelicalism that deviate from Biblical Christianity.

Of course, part of the deviation from sound doctrine happens because Satan aggressively works to distract Christians from the truth. In Scripture, both Jesus and the apostle Paul repeatedly warn us, “Do not be deceived.” Christians must constantly wage spiritual warfare by using the Word of God, which Paul and the writer of Hebrews call the Sword of the Spirit.

Additionally, human beings are just plain obstinate. Like Old Testament Israel, we’ll follow the Lord in the excitement of revival, but when the enthusiasm wears off we look for ways to enhance the Gospel. We deceive ourselves into thinking that our little additions give us better worship experiences and/or enable us to appropriate God’s grace more accurately.

But also, we (and yes, I include myself in this indictment) fall into error so easily because we forget to cherish the Bible.

In this digital age, Christians (and non-Christians, for that matter) have access to the Bible that would have astounded the Reformers! Yet Bible illiteracy hasn’t been this high since the Middle Ages. I read one survey of teens raised in Christian homes who thought Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple.

Studying the Protestant Reformation has taught me how precious the Bible really is. Next time I write an installment in this Tuesday series on the Reformation, I intend to write about William Tyndale, an English contemporary of Martin Luther who spent years as a fugitive before being captured and executed by strangulation and burning at the stake. His crime. Translating the Bible into English. I will share his story for the same reason I’ve been blogging almost every Tuesday about the Reformation: to plead with you to recognize that God’s Word is worth our very lives!

 

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Saturday Sampler: July 2 — July 8

Butterfly SamplerWhat a wonderful way to begin the week! Sunny Shell, in her Abandoned to Christ blog, writes #PsalmSunday: Psalm 48:10-11 as a brief, but powerful, devotional on why we should rejoice over God’s judgments. She gives us good food for thought with this one!

As Americans celebrate Independence Day, Clint Archer’s Heavenites: Our True Citizenship in The Cripplegate puts patriotism in its proper perspective. Loving America has its place, but Christians may want to rethink how closely we align ourselves with this present world.

They say history repeats itself. The Reformation 500 blog demonstrates this principle through its post Jesus Overthrows a Corrupt Priesthood.

Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day consistently produces outstanding blog posts, but Is it normal to feel like I’m sinning more? easily ranks among her best. She deals with a common fear that few Christians dare not ask out loud.

Make time to read Does Abstinence Teaching Really Promote Purity? by Aimee Byrd of Housewife Theologian. She takes the responsibility of sexual purity way beyond external behaviors. Doesn’t that approach remind you of something Jesus would do? Anyway, her angle on teaching purity can apply both to young teens and those of us who have been married for years.

Using the life of Solomon as an example, Jim Elliff of For The Church issues the warning, Don’t Just Tweet Your Proverbs to those of us who are in the latter stages of life. Younger people, however, also need to consider his admonition. Praise God for His faithfulness in bringing this piece to my attention.

John and I enjoy Christian podcasts. Because our disabilities limit our church involvement, we appreciate being able to augment the Sunday sermons our pastor preaches with sound teaching from men like John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Mike Abendroth and Alistair Begg. Yet we understand that Man (Or Woman) Cannot Live on Podcasts Alone, as Courtney Reissig of The Gospel Coalition Blog helps us see. Unless physical limitations (such as those John and I have) prevent you from active participation in your local church, please don’t depend on podcasts as your primary source of spiritual nourishment.

Providentially, a brief teaching in Biblical Woman offers encouragement to those of us who actually have been relegated to the sidelines. How Do You See the Difficulties in Your Life comments on Philippians 1:12-19 to redirect or perspective on our limitations.

In Hanging on to the Life Ring Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life shows us how to survive the flood of false teaching that engulf present-day evangelicalism. Ladies, please don’t overlook this one!

Scripture-twisting is epidemic among professing Christians, and the 4th of July can bring some examples out of the woodwork. Michelle Lesley demonstrates this problem in her post, Top Ten 4th of July Twisted Scriptures. Dearest sisters in Christ, please remember to read verses in their proper context before you apply them to 21st (or 18th) Century America.

I’ve confessed before that I battle the sin of anger. Tim Challies brings much needed conviction to me with his article, Angered At and Angry With. He approaches the topic from a different perspective than usual, which makes it all the more interesting.

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Saturday Sampler: June 25 – July 1

Polygon Flowers SamplerAlas! After 500 years, the Roman Catholic Church still resists the Protestant Reformation. Tom of excatholic4christ gives chilling evidence of this fact by writing Coming soon to a Protestant church near you: the “Ecumenical Rite of Mass”. In this piece, he explains some of the reasons why Protestants mustn’t participate in such activities.

Social media certainly has a grip on teenagers and young adults. If you have teenaged kids, perhaps you worry about their infatuation with Facebook, Snap Chat and text messages. Although your concerns definitely have great validity, Kristen Hatton, in a post for The Gospel Coalition Blog, suggests that Social Media Isn’t Your Teens’ Biggest Problem.

In What does a true revival look like? Part 1, The End Time‘s Elizabeth Prata takes us back to the Great Awakening to show how God worked to bring people to repentance.

Yes! Mary Liebert of The Verity Fellowship reminds us that Exposition Is For Women, Too. This message simply can’t be overstated, especially when so many women’s Bible Study groups focus on emotions and girl talk. Ladies, God makes His Word as available to us as He makes it to men.

In his article for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Jay Harrison exposes The Hypocrisy of Phariseephobia. I have noticed the same phenomenon, but Jay’s personal struggles with homosexuality give him greater credibility in calling out this sin. His thoughts should inspire all of us to repentance.

Eric Davis, in a truly exceptional post for The Cripplegate, absolutely nails a major problem with psychology. Fictitious Forgiveness: Why We Cannot Forgive Ourselves brings out a number of ways that the myth of self-forgiveness clashes with Biblical Christianity. The Lord used almost all of Davis’ points to convict me of my arrogance in this area.

I hope you won’t miss Comparing Modern Day Evangelism to What the Bible Teaches by Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life. Her observations are challenging, and most of us certainly need those challenges. I definitely do!

For an interesting angle on judging, take a look at Peter Stayton’s essay, Why I Need My Friends to Judge Me, on his blog One Degree to Another. I won’t spoil it by hinting at how he approaches the subject other than to say I’ve never seen it quite this way before.

Should I Feel God’s Presence in My Life? asks R.C. Sproul on the Ligonier blog. As a former Charismatic, I greatly appreciate this little glimpse into Sproul’s life, as well as the resulting wisdom.

Allen Cagle, blogging at Parking Space 23, probably writes Receiving Criticism primarily to his fellow pastors, but all Christians can benefit from the Scriptural principles he presents. As the Internet sets us up for hostile attacks from those who disagree with us,  these principles can help us handle criticism in godly ways.

 
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