What’s The Big Deal About Hearing Personal Words From God?

Christians generally accept the premise that the book of Revelation was the final work of Scripture, and consequently that the Canon is closed. Therefore, Jesus’ warning in the last chapter applies to all of the Bible:

18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. ~~Revelation 22:18-19 (NASB95)

Most evangelicals today would verbally affirm this passage, but their claims that God speaks to them through thoughts, impressions, signs and/or visions calls their affirmations into question. We have to wonder why, if God revealed Himself in His Word and forbade any additions to it, professing Christians would entertain the notion that they need further communication from Him.

On one level, I sympathize with them. Spending my first 31 years as a Christian in Charismatic fellowships taught me that I needed to have at least a few experiences of hearing from God to gain credibility with my friends. I believed that hearing directly from the Lord established me as a mature believer. So I subconsciously conjured up a few experiences, which I embellished over the years. Sadly, I sincerely believed my own fabrications. Even after I began turning away from Charismatic theology, I retained some degree of openness to the idea of God speaking to my heart.

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The Reformers Were Cracked Pots, Not Crackpots

Some months back, a reader left a comment asking me to write some posts demonstrating that the 16th Century Reformers like Luther and Calvin weren’t models of perfection. At the time, I felt that she’d made a reasonable request. We often look back on those Reformers as if they could do no wrong, thus cultivating a very dishonest approach to history. For that reason, I agree that we mustn’t ignore negative facts about these heroes of the faith.

When I agreed to write a few articles on the character deficiencies of these men, however,I failed to consider the changes in my condition and the impact said changes would have on my schedule. Sadly, I have at least seven hours a week less time at my computer, which restricts my ability to research topics. I have some idea of Luther’s antisemitism, and I sort of know that Calvin had issues with the Anabaptists because they wouldn’t baptize their infants, but I don’t believe I’m educated enough on these problems to write intelligently about them. So I need to back out of my agreement to write on the flaws of 16th Century Reformers.

As I thought about this matter these past few days, a couple things occurred to me that I want to discuss. In acknowledging the truth that the Reformers sinned in certain areas, we must examine our motives for wanting to look at their sins. And we must consider the probability (not merely the possibility) that history will look back on us and see our blind spots.

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Flashback Friday: After Darkness, Light (With An Updated Introduction)

Post Tenebras Lux

Four years ago, Reformed Christians celebrated the 500th anniversary of the event held to be the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther, then an Augustinian monk, simply posted his Ninety Five Theses asking for a scholarly debate on the Roman Catholic practice of selling Indulgences. At the time, he had absolutely no intention of breaking from the Roman Catholic Church; he only wanted to encourage an examination of its teachings in light of Scripture. Sadly, Rome hadn’t the slightest interest in having “a drunken German monk” question Papal authority, and eventually Luther was excommunicated as a heretic.

At around that time, God awakened John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli and John Knox (among others) to the necessity of getting back to God’s Word. Through their faithful unwillingness to compromise with the errors of Roman Catholicism, these men laid the foundation for the Reformation. Their willingness to suffer and risk their lives so that you and I could read the Bible and worship the Lord according to its teachings should be celebrated! Therefore, on October 31, 2017, I commemorated the 500th anniversary of the official start of the Reformation by writing the following blog post.

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The Big Anniversary Was Four Years Ago, So Let’s Forget It For A While

Few people these days know much history, mostly because they assume it has nothing to do with them. It’s boring and dusty, full of dates to memorize and bloody battlefields where too many young men surrender their lives. And we’ve all suffered through history classes in school with teachers who drone on in monotone voices that make our eyelids heavy. Once we walk across a graduation stage and firmly grip that diploma, we assure ourselves that we’ll never have to think about history again!

Between November 1, 2016 and October 31, 2017, I blogged every Tuesday about various aspects of the Reformation in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his Ninety Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Whittenburg, Germany. Sadly, those articles attracted very few readers, probably because people prefer reading about current controversies. Critiques of Beth Moore always get more clicks than essays about Luther, Calvin or Tyndale, And I admit to understanding that boring history teachers in everyone’s past have taught us that watching paint dry is more interesting than 16th Century religious squabbles. But I believe the blog posts about the Reformation were important four years ago, and I believe blog posts about the Reformation are just as important now.

This October 31, we need to remember the Reformation, even though it’s not the major anniversary that it was four years ago. As evangelicals, we still must be mindful of our spiritual heritage. Furthermore, we owe honor to the men and women of the 16th Century who suffered immense persecution to restore Biblical worship to the church. Neglecting church history sets us up to repeat the errors of past generations.

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It’s Not Too Late For Christians

John and I regularly listen to The Dividing Line webcast with Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries. Yes, people, I know James White is a controversial figure, and sometimes he aligns himself with teachers he really shouldn’t (most notably, Michael Brown). At the same time, White holds tightly to Reformed Theology, and has an excellent understanding of history in general. We value his insight and carefully consider his perspective — even when we don’t share his conclusions.

White has made various predictions about our country’s trajectory that cause many to accuse him of wearing a tin foil hat. He firmly believes that the Biden administration will plunge the United States into a dystopian society. And he thinks the damage will be irreversible.

I hope he’s wrong. I believe he’s right.

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So Yeah, Reformation Day Is Coming — And I Don’t Think Anyone Has Noticed

2020 has been (if you’ll allow me to state the obvious) a turbulent year. The alleged pandemic, protests that aren’t as peaceful as the media claims and the U.S. election that threatens to plunge our country into socialism all vie for our attention. Understandably, 1517 is the last thing on our minds.

Should it be?

Right now, we’re living in extremely serious times. I’ll admit that church history doesn’t capture my attention the way it did a year ago. Again, that’s fairly understandable, I suppose. But it’s also rather disconcerting.

Even more disconcerting is the fact that I haven’t seen many other Reformed bloggers writing about the Reformation this year. We’re busy writing about so many other issues. Important issues, certainly, and issues that definitely require attention. I by no means wish to shame anyone for addressing contemporary topics. 2020 demands as much.

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The Forgotten Moment We Remembered Three Years Ago

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Often, effective blogging depends on keeping up with current conversations in social media. Readers crave hot topics — the more controversial, the better! As a result, very few people right now have even the slightest interest in reading about the Protestant Reformation.

Between November 1, 2016 and October 31, 2017, I devoted almost every Tuesday to blogging about the Protestant Reformation. Since October 31 of that year, I’ve said little about the matter, largely because the 500th anniversary had passed and everyone else has moved on to other topics. After all, the anniversary was over; other matters had begun to capture everyone’s  attention.

Including Read More »

Luther’s Greatest Work Came About Because Of A Theological Disagreement

Dead Church SteepleReading Martin Luther’s The Bondage of the Will requires determination. I regret to say that I gave up after reading 60% of it. Yes, my degree in English Literature involved reading things from centuries past, so the book shouldn’t have been so daunting to me. I’ve gotten lazy in my 43 years since graduation.

That said, I did actually read over half of it, and learned a lot from his argument against the concept of free will. Luther wrote this treatise in response to On Free Will by Desiderius  Erasmus,  a Catholic humanist who was the first to translate the New Testament directly from the Greek. I appreciated Luther’s ability to reason from God’s Word consistently in making his case. I stopped reading partly because he successfully convinced me that Scripture supports his position.

So why am I writing about a book that I haven’t opened in four years and didn’t Read More »

Overlooked Posts From 2019: The Relevance Of Dry, Dusty History

This time of year, many bloggers share their most popular posts from the past 12 months. Ever the nonconformist, I’ve decided to celebrate the year’s end by featuring favorite articles of mine that my readers seem to have overlooked. Today I’m posting one I wrote back in October.

Medieval MonastaryEveryone raved about Dr. Dill. My friends who majored in history adored him as much as we English Literature majors adored Sister Nicholas — at least as much. So in my Senior year at Dominican University of California,  I signed up for his Medieval History class. After all, history classes with Mr. Squires in high school delighted me so much that I took one just for fun.

Dr. Dill taught by straight lecture. I’d grown used to the more discussion oriented style of my English professors, so I struggled to pay attention to Dill’s  monotone voice. Having a straight lecture class immediately after lunch in an upstairs classroom that stayed warm even in January didn’t help either.

The class bored me. Mr. Squires made me care about the Supreme Court rulings of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., but poor Dr. Dill simply couldn’t get me excited about the Great Schism or the Ottoman Empire. It wasn’t until nine years later, when I visited a 14th Century gravestone in Wales, that I regretted not paying attention to Dill’s lecturers.

So, contrary to popular opinion, I really do understand why most people feel an aversion to history. Most high school history teachers are more like Dr. Dill than Mr. Squires. Consequently, my blog posts on the Protestant Reformation generally leave my readers cold. I get it!

But I also get the fact that the Protestant Reformation was the greatest revival in church history. And it troubles me that most evangelicals simply couldn’t care less about it.

I’m troubled because I see an indifference to God’s Word (if not an illiteracy of Scripture) among professing evangelicals. Because evangelicals won’t look at church history, they don’t appreciate the restoration of God’s Word that the Protestant Reformation made possible.  Therefore we take Scripture so much for granted that we manipulate, supplement and/or ignore it according to whatever evangelical trend strikes our fancy.

The Reformation happened because men gained access to the original Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. They saw how the Latin Vulgate translation misrepresented Paul’s teaching on justification. They saw how keeping Scripture exclusively in the hands of the clergy gave Rome too much power over people.

Of course, it’s easy to simplify the Reformation. Since I only understand history on a small scale, I admit that I don’t write some about the Reformation with much depth. But even a surface level understanding of the Reformation helps me cherish God’s Word as I never have before.

I am sure that most of you see history as dry and dusty. Sadly, my experience with Dr. Dill is more typical than not in regards to history, making people shy away from any discussion of the Reformation.

Please don’t let any high school or college experience with a boring history teacher turn you off to learning a little about the greatest revival in church history. I hope that my next two blog posts might help you consider the impact of the Protestant Reformation and its subsequent exaltation of God’s Word. Perhaps knowing the price the Reformers paid to ensure that laity could read the Bible for ourselves might deepen your appreciation for this Book that God has given us.

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