Category Archives: The Reformation

Calvin’s Repudiation Of Personal Revelations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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According To Calvin, It’s All About God

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

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

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

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

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

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Calvin Didn’t Fit My Agenda

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Hus Did What For The Sake Of The Gospel?

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

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

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

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

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

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Why Study Peter Waldo?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday Sampler: February 26 — March 4

cross-sampler-02Commenting on something she read in The New York Times, Elizabeth Prata has an essay in  The End Time discussing Practical magic’s resurgence that I believe is worth your attention.

In Learn to Discern: The Corruption of Christianity (the latest in a series in Growing 4 Life), Leslie A. shares an essay by her brother,  Pastor Dean. Dean examines six popular trends which have dangerously weakened the visible church.

Once again, Rebekah Womble knocks it out of the park on her blog, Wise In His Eyes. This time, I recommend her blog post, Women, Don’t Feed on Fluff for its Scriptural guidelines on discerning whether an author or teacher is worth our time (and money).

As Reformed Christians commemorate this 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, we must consider the differences between us and Roman Catholics. Blogging for The Cripplegate, Jordan Standridge asks Which Jesus does your Roman Catholic friend believe in? This post offers helpful guidelines for witnessing to Catholic friends and family.

Michael J. Krueger has been writing a series for Canon Fodder. His latest installment, Taking Back Christianese #8: “It’s Not My Place to Judge Someone Else”, takes on the common misapplication of Matthew 7:1.

Lisa Morris of Conforming to the Truth cautions us about The Upside Down Truth About Quick Bible Devotions. Ladies, we can do better.

Are you observing Lent this year? If so, Michelle Lesley lists 40 Things to Give Up for Lent as an encouragement to think Biblically about the season. If you wonder why (after writing so strongly against observing Lent Tuesday) I’ve included her article on this Saturday Sampler, read what she has to say.

Even through Brian Lee’s article, Repent of Lent: How Spiritual Disciplines Can Be Bad For Your Soul, appeared in The Federalist three years ago, it raises points about the practice that mustn’t be overlooked. Perhaps this is the most Biblical treatment of Lent I’ve read so far.

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Should Evangelicals Observe Lent?

img_4045I know I said we’d talk more about Peter Waldo today, but since then it dawned on me that Lent begins tomorrow. What a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the necessity of the Protestant Reformation.

In the last few years, I’ve noticed evangelicals (including some I know personally) talking about giving up things for Lent. This trend disturbs me, and all the more as I learn the history of the Reformation. I can’t understand why those who have been liberated from the legalism of Catholicism would willingly return to one of its rituals, thinking that a forty day fast would somehow impress God.

As I mentioned in my latest Saturday Sampler, The Cripplegate ran Jesse Johnson’s article on Lent last Wednesday. If you haven’t read it yet. I implore you to at least read the section on the history of the tradition. Johnson explains how a tradition that began as a way to prepare new Christians for baptism degenerated into false spirituality at best and hollow ritual at worst.

Like most Roman Catholic rituals, observing Lent focuses on human works. Penance, fasting and almsgiving enable one to attain greater sanctification, thus becoming yet another means of making oneself acceptable to God. By performing these rites during the six weeks leading up to Easter, one supposedly draws closer to God because of these sacrificial acts of self-denial. The emphasis, as usual, falls on human effort rather than on the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross.

Some would argue that Lent teaches us how to practice self-denial. Giving up Facebook, for example, shows us how to die to our addiction to social media. Lent, they insist, helps us develop self-control, therefore making us more godly. Interestingly, the apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians, cautioning them against outward displays of self-righteousness.

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)

Certainly, self-control is a fruit of the Spirit that Christians should exercise, but it’s a result of salvation rather than a means to it. The Reformers all insisted on returning to the Biblical doctrine that faith alone justifies a person. Lent returns us to a system that the Reformers fought long and hard against. It takes our eyes off the finished work of Christ, bringing us back to man-made religion.

As evangelicals, we must honor the efforts of the Reformers, who extricated us from the legalism of Catholicism. Reverting to the demands of Catholic rituals disregards both the Reformation and (of more serious consequence) the Gospel itself. Dying to self for the Lord is so much more (and so much different) than giving up Facebook or rich food for forty days each year. Please don’t sacrifice your freedom in Christ simply to follow a tradition of human origin.

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