Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Put This In Your Dispensationalist Pipe And Smoke It.

There is probably no more Israelite-ish book in the Bible than Leviticus. Most Christians admittedly bog down in their “read through the Bible in a year” plans when they hit Leviticus. They wonder if the book has any relevance for New Testament believers. The cause of this sensation is no doubt the lack of clarity most people possess concerning the relationship of Old Testament Israel to the New Testament Church.
To help clarify this, let’s look at Leviticus 26:11-12. “I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.” (ESV)
These verses are at the end of a segment (26:1-13) that contains the blessings of covenant keeping. The covenant in question is the Covenant of Grace. We know that this is so because it contains God’s promise to Abraham from Genesis 17:7-8
And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” (ESV)
Many people mistakenly believe that the Law given at Sinai was a return to the Covenant of Works, but this is not true. The Sinai Law was part of the Covenant of Grace. This can be seen from the fact that in Exodus 19, before the Decalogue was given, God re-confirmed with Israel the Covenant of Grace He had made with their forefather Abraham. Not only that, but the prologue to the Decalogue is pure, unadulterated grace. 
One can compare Ezekiel 37:26-28 with the Leviticus 26 passage to see a confirmation that this is a special promise of God relating to the Covenant of Grace.
I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore. (ESV)
Fastforward several centuries to the day of Pentecost and the time immediately after it. Pentecost, whatever else may be said about it, is the beginning of the New Testament Church. It is the point at which the worship of God moves from a physical temple to a spiritual one. I said all that to say this: anything which occurs here can no longer be said to be a part of the Old Testament Israel-centered religion. In a fully New Testament context, Peter confirms that the promise to Abraham relates to the Church (Acts 2:39 cf. Acts 3:25).
Later, speaking to a church comprised largely of ethnic Gentiles, Paul quotes this promise (“I will be your God and you will be My people) in reference to the Church. Indeed Paul acts as if he understood the original promise to be finally fulfilled in the New Testament Church. Here is what he says: What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people. (ESV)
Notice that Paul actually says that the New Testament Church IS the Temple spoken of throughout Scripture.If this weren’t clear enough, two times in Romans 4 (verses 1 and 9-12 - again addressed to Gentiles), Paul refers to Abraham as “our father.” And in verses 9-12, Paul argues conclusively that the promises of the Covenant of Grace were made to Abraham before there were such people as Jews. That the New Testament Church is the fulfillment of God’s covenant to Abraham is even clearer in Galatians, because this is precisely what Paul argues in Galatians 3.The reasoning of Galatians 3:6-9 absolutely demolishes the phony dichotomy between Israel and the Church which Dispensationalism creates. Look back at Leviticus 26:11-12. The covenant promise of God is this: I will be your God and will dwell with you. Ezekiel 37:26-28 reaffirms this promise to Israel. Paul then interprets the promise to “dwell among you” to mean that the Church IS the temple of God and the promise therefore is ultimately for the New Testament Church (2 Cor. 6:16). Romans 4 and Galatians 3 argue conclusively that the New Testament Church is the continuation and fulfillment of the Old Testament church, Israel.
Confirming that we have not read into Scripture something that is not there, the Bible itself ends on this very note. Revelation 21:3 reiterates this promise to the Church:And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (ESV)

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Covenant of Grace is Identical in the Old and New Testaments

1. Immediately after the Fall, God established this covenant (Genesis 3:15; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8).

2. The Gospel, which is the offer of this covenant, is proclaimed in the Old Testament as well as in the New (Genesis 3:8, 16; Genesis 15:6 {IN the Lord, not just "the Lord."}; James 2:23).

3. The Surety of the Covenant was as equally efficacious in the Old Testament as He is in the New Testament (Hebrews 13:8; Revelation 13:8).

4 Believers in the Old Testament had all the benefits of the Covenant that believers in the New Testament have.
            A. God as Father - Exodus 20:2; Isaiah 40:10; 64:8; Jeremiah 3:4
            B. Forgiveness of sins - Psalm 65:3; 32:5
            C. The spirit of adoption unto children - Romans 8:4; 2 Corinthians 4:13; Psalm 143:10
            D. Peace of conscience with God - Psalm 4:7; 62:1
            E. Childlike communion with God - Psalm 139:18; 73:28
            F. Partaking in sanctification - Psalm 119:97

The "What about this verse" Objections:

1. Old Testament believers didn't 'receive the promises.' - Hebrews 11:13.
Answer: The "promises" refer to the Incarnation. They had the substance of the promises in faith though the things had not yet actually occurred in time.

2. The Law made none perfect - Hebrews 7:19
Answer: The ceremonial laws did indeed lack sufficiency. The repetition of the sacrifices indicate that they knew this. Though the ceremonies were insufficient, they did point to Christ. Colossians 2:13 

3. The way into the holiest place way not yet been manifested. - Hebrews 9:8
Answer: Christ is the way (John 14:6, cf. Hebrews 10:19-20). While Christ had not yet actually paid the ransom the ceremonies were still in effect. This is not the same as saying that prior to Christ's death no one went to heaven. The ceremonies were promises that the substance they typified would come, and God dealt with the people accordingly.

4. Light and life weren't present before Christ - 2 Timothy 1:10
Answer: Before Christ does not mean before His Incarnation. The text refers to the measure of revelation and the revelation to the Gentiles, which prior to the Incarnation only occurred in Israel.

5. Hebrews 11:39-40 and 1 Peter 1:12 seem to indicate that the Old Testament believers did not partake in these benefits.
Answer: The texts refer to the Incarnation. The promises weren't received during these saints' lifetimes and they knew it. They believed in a Christ that would come. They lived by the same faith - only they lived by a faith of anticipation, while we live in a faith of fulfillment. But the object of the faith is and was the same. It is not that the blood of goats and lambs actually atoned for sin. But God acted as if it did because these sacrifices served to tide the people over till the true sacrifice was made. God treated the Old Testament elect as if Christ had actually already come and died for their sins. They offered sheep in faith that the real sacrifice would someday come. From God's side though, Christ is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Brief History of the Medieval Church 7

A most important part of the Reformation was a vernacular translation of the Bible. Luther’s New Testament (1522) was reprinted at Basel with a glossary. In Zurich it was adapted to the Swiss dialect in 1524, and revised and improved in subsequent editions.

The characteristic difference between the two Reformers is in the general theory of the sacraments, and especially the Lord’s Supper. Zwingli regarded the sacraments as signs and seals of a grace already received rather than as means of a grace to be received. Yet both were equally earnest in their devotion to the Scriptures as the Word of God and the supreme rule of faith and practice.

The pioneer of Protestantism in Western Switzerland is William Farel. He was a traveling evangelist, a man of faith and fire, as bold and fearless as Luther. He is called the Elijah of the French Reformation. He had once been a devoted papist, but after he became a Protestant he only saw the prevailing corruptions and abuses of Romanism. He hated the pope as the veritable Antichrist, the mass as idolatry, pictures and relics as heathen idols that must be destroyed like the idols of the Canaanites.  He never used violence himself, except in language. Persecution only motivated him to greater action.

Calvin arrived at Geneva in the summer of 1536 and was urged by Farel to assume the great task of building a new Church on the ruins of the old. He labored for a while as Calvin’s colleague, and with him was banished from Geneva because they demanded submission to a confession of faith and a rigorous discipline. Calvin went to Strasburg. Farel accepted a call as pastor to Neuchâtel in July of 1538, the city where he had labored before. For the remaining twenty-seven years of his life, Farel remained chief pastor at Neuchâtel, and built up the Protestant Church. He died peacefully, Sept. 13, 1565, seventy-six years old.

Farel was aided in his evangelistic efforts chiefly by Viret and Froment, who agreed with his views, but differed from his violent method. Peter Viret, the Reformer of Lausanne, was the only native Swiss among the pioneers of Protestantism in Western Switzerland; all others were fugitive Frenchmen. He shared the labors and trials of Farel and Froment in Geneva. An attempt was made to poison them; he alone ate of the poisoned dish, but recovered, yet with a permanent injury to his health. His chief work was done at Lausanne, where he labored as pastor, teacher and author for twenty-two years.

We now come to the life and work of John Calvin, who labored more than Farel, Viret and Froment. He was the chief founder and consolidator of the Reformed Church of France and French Switzerland. Revolution is followed by reconstruction and consolidation. For this task Calvin was providentially ordained.

Calvin was, first of all, a theologian. He was the ablest exegete among the Reformers, and his commentaries rank among the very best of ancient and modern times. His theology, therefore, is biblical rather than scholastic, and has all the freshness of enthusiastic devotion to the truths of God’s Word. He had a rare power of clear, strong, convincing statement. He built up a body of doctrines which is called after him, and which obtained symbolical authority through some of the leading Reformed Confessions of Faith. Calvinism is one of the great dogmatic systems of the Church. The Calvinistic system is popularly identified with the Augustinian system, and shares its merit as a profound exposition of the Pauline doctrines of sin and grace. Calvin did not grow before the public, like Luther and Melanchthon, who passed through many doctrinal changes and contradictions. He adhered to the religious views of his youth unto the end of his life.  Calvin’s literary output is unsurpassed by any ecclesiastical writer, ancient or modern. It is amazing when we take into consideration the shortness of his life, the frailty of his health, and the multitude of his other labors as a teacher, preacher, church leader and correspondent.

The Reformation was carried to England and Scotland mainly as a result of John Knox. He has often been wrongly accused of being a mere “recording” of Calvin. He thought for himself and when his views differed from others, he did not hesitate to disagree openly – even with Tyndale or Calvin. His courage is unrivaled by any, except perhaps Farel. His power as a preacher is just simply unrivaled. On more than one occasion was the whole course of English history changed as a result of one sermon by John Knox.

His influence continued even into the next century. John Milton’s treatise justifying the putting to death of Charles I, leaned heavily on Knox. In 1683, when Charles II began to show that he was a Roman Catholic, commanded the works of Knox to be burned in public in Oxford. This accompanied a prohibition of the reading of Knox’s works. This was in 1683 – Knox died in 1572!  Knox is behind the whole attitude of the Pilgrim Fathers toward the state. Thomas Carlyle is correct when he claims that Knox is the founder of American Puritanism. The Pilgrims, armed with Knox’s attitude toward the state and Calvin’s theology, headed to North America and built a society based upon these principles.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Brief History of the Medieval Church 6

On the memorable thirty-first day of October 1517, which has ever since been celebrated in Protestant Germany as the birthday of the Reformation, Martin Luther nailed to the doors of the church at Wittenberg ninety-five Latin Theses on the subject of indulgences and invited a public discussion.  No one accepted the challenge and no discussion took place. But history itself undertook the disputation and defense. The Theses were copied, translated, printed and spread throughout Germany and Europe in a few weeks. The Theses of Luther found a hearty response with liberal scholars and with thousands of plain Christians. On the other hand, the Theses were strongly condemned by the clerical hierarchy and the universities.

The main writers against Luther were Tetzel, Conrad Wimpina and the formidable John Eck who was at first a friend of Luther, but now became his enemy. These men hurt their cause in public estimation by the weakness of their defense. They could produce no arguments for the doctrine and practice of indulgences from the Word of God, or even from the Greek and Latin fathers, and had to resort to extravagant views on the authority of the Pope. They even advocated papal infallibility, even though this was still an open question in the Roman Church, and remained so till the Vatican decree of 1870.

After the debate at Leipzig, Luther lost all hope of a reformation from Rome. Luther was prepared for the bull of excommunication. He then turned the tables against the Pope. The Pope had ordered his books to be burned and they were actually burned in several places. Luther returned fire for fire, curse for curse. On December 10, 1520, at nine in the morning, before a large number of professors and students, he committed the bull of excommunication, together with the papal decretals, the Canon Law and several writings of Eck and Emser, to the flames.

In his final stand for the truth he had preached, he spoke these immortal words, “Unless I am refuted and convicted by testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear arguments (since I believe neither the Pope nor the Councils alone; it being evident that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am conquered by the Holy Scriptures quoted by me, and my conscience is bound in the word of God: I can not and will not recant any thing, since it is unsafe and dangerous to do any thing against the conscience."

Dr. Eck exchanged a few more words with Luther, protesting against his assertion that Councils may err and have erred. "You can not prove it," he said. Luther repeated his assertion, and pledged himself to prove it. Thus pressed and threatened, amidst the excitement and confusion of the audience, he uttered in German, at least in substance, that concluding sentence which has impressed itself most on the memory of men: "Here I stand. [I cannot do otherwise.]  God help me!  Amen."

The Reformation work in Zurich was headed by Ulrich Zwingli. Zwingli was elected to the position of chief pastor of the Great Minster, the principal church in Zurich by seventeen votes out of twenty-four, Dec. 10, 1518. He arrived in Zurich on the 27th of the month, and received a hearty welcome. He promised to fulfill his duties faithfully, and to begin with the continuous exposition of the Gospel of Matthew, so as to bring the whole life of Christ before the mind of the people. This was a departure from the custom of following the prescribed Gospel and Epistle lessons, but justified by the example of the ancient Fathers, as Chrysostom and Augustine, who preached on whole books. By his method of preaching on entire books he could give his congregation a more complete idea of the life of Christ and the way of salvation than by confining himself to detached sections.

In July of 1522 Zwingli, with other priests, sent a Latin petition to the bishop, and a German petition to the Swiss Diet, to permit the free preaching of the gospel and the marriage of the clergy as the only remedy against the evils of enforced celibacy. The petition was not granted, but several priests openly disobeyed. Zwingli himself married in 1522, but did not make it public till April 5, 1524 (more than a year before Luther’s marriage, which took place June 13, 1525).

By these preliminary measures public opinion was prepared for the practical application of the new ideas, but the old order of worship had to be abolished before the new order could be introduced. The change was radical. It began at Pentecost and was finished on June 20, 1524. In front of a deputation from the authorities of Church and State, the churches of the city were purged of pictures, relics, crucifixes, altars, candles, and all ornaments, the frescoes effaced, and the walls whitewashed, so that nothing remained but the bare building to be filled by a worshiping congregation. The Swiss Reformers regarded all kinds of worship paid to images and relics as a species of idolatry.

The mass was gone. The preaching of the gospel and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper by the whole congregation took its place. The first celebration of the communion after the Reformed usage was held in the Holy Week of April 1525. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Brief History of the Medieval Church 5

The Pre-Reformers

The title, Reformers before the Reformation, has been fittingly given to a group of men of the 14th and 15th centuries who anticipated many of the teachings of Luther and the Protestant Reformers. Each of them stands in solitary prominence: Wickliffe in England, Huss in Bohemia, Savonarola in Florence, and Wessel, Goch and Wesel in Northern Germany. They differ, except for the moral reformer Savonarola from the German mystics in that they expressed open disagreement from the Church’s ritual and doctrinal teachings.

John Wickliffe, called the Morning Star of the Reformation was born about 1324 near the village of Wickliffe, Yorkshire, in the diocese of Durham. His own writings give scarcely a clue to the events of his career, and little can be gathered from his immediate contemporaries. Wickliffe occupies a distinguished place as an Oxford scholar, a patriot, a champion of theological and practical reforms and the translator of the Scriptures into English.

Wickliffe’s career as a doctrinal reformer began in 1378. He attacked the theological structure the Schoolmen and the abuses that had crept into the Church. A council condemned 24 articles, ascribed to the Reformer, 10 of which were pronounced heretical, and the remainder to be against the decisions of the Church.

Two years before his death Wickliffe had a stroke that disfigured but did not completely disable him.  He received a citation to appear before the pope. With unabated conviction, he replied to the Pope that of all men he was most under obligation to obey the law of Christ, that Christ was of all men the most poor, and subject to mundane authority. No Christian man has a right to follow Peter, Paul or any of the saints except as they imitated Christ. While saying mass in his church, he was struck again with paralysis and died two or three days later on December 29, 1384.

The dead man was not left in peace. By the decree Wickliffe’s writings were suppressed. The Lateran decree of February 1413, ordered his books to be burned and the Council of Constance formally condemned his memory and ordered his bones exhumed from their resting-place and "cast at a distance from the grave of the church."  The synod declared John Wickliffe a notorious heretic, excommunicated him and condemned his memory as one who died an obstinate heretic."  In 1429, at the summons of Martin IV the decree was carried out by Flemmyng, bishop of Lincoln. Fuller’s words, describing the execution of the decree have carved themselves on the pages of English history. He wrote, "They burnt his bones to ashes and cast them into Swift, a neighboring brook running hardby. Thus this brook hath conveyed his ashes into Avon, Avon into Severn, Severn into the narrow seas, they into the main ocean. And thus the ashes of Wickliffe are the emblem of his doctrine, which now is dispersed the world over."

Wickliffe’s chief service for his people was his assertion of the supreme authority of the Bible for clergy and laymen alike and his gift to them of the Bible in their own tongue. In his treatise on the value and authority of the Scriptures, with 1000 printed pages, more is said about the Bible as the church’s appointed guidebook than was said by all the medieval theologians together. Wickliffe was the first to give the Bible to his people in their own tongue. His version, which was made from the Latin Vulgate, was the outgrowth of his burning desire to make his English countrymen more religious and more Christian.

Up to the close of the 14th century, a number of laymen in high position at court had favored Wickliffefism. This support was for the most part withdrawn when persecution took an active form.  

In Bohemia the views of Wickliffe they took deeper root than in England and assumed an organized form. The English Reformer was called the fifth evangelist and in its early stages the movement went by the name of Wickliffefism. It was only later that the name Hussitism was substituted for Wickliffefism. Its chief spokesmen were Jan Huss and Jerome of Prague, who died at the stake at Constance for their avowed allegiance to Wickliffe.

In denying the infallibility of the pope and of the Church visible, and in setting aside the power of the priesthood to open and shut the kingdom of heaven, Huss broke with the accepted theory of Western Christendom; he committed the unpardonable sin of the Middle Ages. These fundamental ideas, however, were not original with the Bohemian Reformer. He found them in Wickliffe’s writings.

Public hearings were had regarding Huss and his writings. Whenever a copy of his book on the Church was shown, they shouted, "Burn it."  Whenever Huss attempted to explain his positions, he was met with shouts, "Away with your sophistries. Say, Yes or No."  Huss exclaimed that God and his conscience were on his side.  After seven months of imprisonment Huss was pronounced an ecclesiastical outcast and criminal. He was placed in the middle of the church on a high stool, set there especially for him. The bishop of Lodi preached from Rom. 6:6, "that the body of sin may be destroyed."  The extermination of heretics was represented as one of the works most pleasing to God. The sentence said, "the holy council, having God only before its eye, condemns Jan Huss to have been and to be a true, real and open heretic, the disciple not of Christ but of John Wickliffe, one who in the University of Prague and before the clergy and people declared Wickliffe to be a Catholic and an evangelical doctor." 

A guard of a thousand armed men was at hand. The streets were crowded. As Huss passed by he saw the flames on the public square that were consuming his books. His hands were tied behind his back and his neck was bound to the stake by a chain. The offer of life was renewed if he would recant. He refused saying, "I shall die with joy today in the faith of the gospel which I have preached."  Huss’ clothes and shoes were thrown into the flames. His ashes were gathered up and cast into the Rhine. A year after Huss’ martyrdom, on May 30, 1416, his friend Jerome of Prague was condemned by the council and also suffered at the stake. He shared Huss’ enthusiasm for Wickliffe. Huss’ life was spent in Prague and its vicinity. Jerome traveled in Western Europe and was in Prague only occasionally. Huss left quite a body of writings. Jerome left none.

The Reformation

No period in the history of the Christian Church has a more clear date set for its close than the Middle Ages. In whatever light the Protestant Reformation is regarded there can be no doubt that a new age began with the nailing of the Theses on the church doors in Wittenberg.

The initial issue that started the Reformation was the selling of indulgences. The idea of selling and buying by money the remission of punishment and release from purgatory was acceptable to ignorant and superstitious people. It was revolting however to sound moral feeling. Long before Luther it raised the indignant protest of earnest minds, such as Wickliffe in England, Huss in Bohemia, John von Wesel in Germany, John Wessel in Holland, Thomas Wyttenbach in Switzerland, but without much effect. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Brief History of the Medieval Church 4

Michael Cerularius, Patriarch from 1043 to 1059, renewed and completed the schism.  Prior to him the mutual anathemas were hurled only against the contending heads and their party; now the churches excommunicated each other. Pope Leo IX sent three legates to Constantinople. The legates were lodged in the palace, but Cerularius avoided them.  Finally, on the 16th of July 1054, they excommunicated the patriarch and all those who should persistently censure the faith of the Church of Rome or its mode of offering the holy sacrifice. Cerularius immediately answered by a counter-anathema on the papal legates. The patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem adhered to the See of Constantinople. Thus the schism between the Christian East and West was completed. The number of sees at that time was nearly equal on both sides, but in the course of years the Latin Church quickly outgrew the East. During the Crusades the schism was deepened by the brutal atrocities of the French and Venetian soldiers in the pillage of Constantinople in 1204, the establishment of a Latin empire and the Pope’s appointment of Latin bishops in Greek sees.

Corruptions of the Church

This period saw the introduction of several corruptions of the Church’s practice. The most important was the worship of Mary, which Mary entered into the soul of medieval piety and reached its height in the doctrine of her Immaculate Conception. The titles given to Mary were far more numerous than the titles given to Christ and every one of them is extra-biblical except the word "virgin." 

The medieval estimate of Mary found its highest expression in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception: the doctrine that Mary herself was conceived without sin. In 1854 the Pope (Pius IX) made it a dogma of the Church that Mary in the very instant of her conception was kept immune from all stain of original sin.

Another degradation of the Church’s worship was the veneration of relics. The worship of relics was based by Thomas Aquinas upon the regard nature prompts us to pay to the bodies of our deceased friends and the things they held most sacred. Following the seventh ecumenical council the Scholastics denied that when adoration is paid to images, worship is given to the image itself. It is rendered to that for which the image stands. In the earlier years of the Middle Ages Italy was the most prolific source of relics.

Among the objects transmitted to Western Europe from the East were Noah’s beard, the horns of Moses, the stone on which Jacob slept at Bethel, the branch from which Absalom hung, our Lord’s foreskin, his navel cord, his coat, tears he shed at the grave of Lazarus, milk from Mary’s breasts, the table on which the Last Supper was eaten, the stone of Christ’s grave, Paul’s thorn in the flesh and a tooth belonging to St. Lawrence. Christ’s tooth was only debunked because Guibert of Nogent argued that when Christ rose from the dead he was in possession of all the parts of his body. He also attacked the genuineness of the umbilical cord. The true cross was found more than once and fragments of it were numerous that one could build an entire forest from the fragments.

Another defect of this age was the neglect of preaching. True preaching was virtually forgotten in the Middle Ages. The office of the preacher was overshadowed by the function of the priest. The 12th and 13th centuries have each contributed a single pulpit orator of the first order: St. Bernard and Berthold of Regensburg. Probably one-half of the priests in Germany in the 12th century did not preach. The synod of Treves in 1227 forbade illiterate priests to preach. Before the arrival of the friars, a sermon in England was rare.

This began to change in the thirteenth century through the example of the friars. They were preachers and went among the people. Vast audiences gathered in the fields and streets to listen to a popular preacher like Anthony of Padua and Berthold of Regensburg. At the beginning of the fourteenth century, the Franciscans received formal permission from Clement V, "to preach on the streets the Word of God."

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Brief History of the Medieval Church 3

From here on, the entire medieval history of Europe is basically the history of the papacy and the empire. They were considered as the two arms of God for governing the church and the world. The papacy served as a wholesome check against military despotism of the emperors. The empire served as a check on the abuses of the papacy. Both secured order against the disintegrating tendencies of society. Both nourished the great idea of a commonwealth of nations, of a brotherhood of mankind, of a communion of saints. Nevertheless, the tendency of both was ultimately self-destructive.

The papacy grew in power and influence and the popes began to assert ever more blasphemous things of themselves – things, which the people, who had been pummeled into submission, accepted without question. Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) made “Vicar of Christ” the exclusive title of the pope, replacing older titles like “vicar of St. Peter.”  Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) in his bull Unam Sanctum, declared that the salvation of every human depends upon obedience to him. He saw the pope as Christ on earth.

Four other things of note happened during this period. This first was the rise of Islam; the second was the Great Schism in 1054, third was the German mystic movement and lastly was the translation of the Bible into English by John Wickliffe.


Islam employed brutal techniques in proliferating the doctrines of Mohammed. Christianity made its conquest by peaceful missionaries and the power of persuasion. Islam conquered the fairest portions of the earth by the sword and cursed them by polygamy, slavery and desolation. In its conquering march Islam took forcible possession of the lands of the Bible, and the Greek church, seized the throne of Constantine, overran Spain, crossed the Pyrenees and for a long time threatened even the church of Rome and the German empire, until it was finally repulsed beneath the walls of Vienna. The Crusades, which figure so prominently in medieval Christianity originated in a desire to wrest the holy land from the followers of "the false prophet."  Even the Reformation in the sixteenth century was complicated with the Turkish question, which occupied the attention of the diet of Augsburg as much as the Confession of the Evangelical princes and divines. Luther, in one of his most popular hymns, prays for deliverance from "the murdering Pope and Turk," as the two chief enemies of the gospel - (Erhalt uns,Herr, bei deinem Wort, Und steur’ des Papst’s und Türken Mord).

Viewed in its relation to the Eastern Church Islam was well-deserved divine punishment for the unfruitful speculations, bitter contentions, empty ceremonialism and virtual idolatry that degraded and disgraced the Christianity of the East after the fifth century.

The Schism

No two churches in the world are at this day so much alike and yet so averse to each other as the Greek and Roman. They hold, as an inheritance from the patristic age, essentially the same body of doctrine, the same canons of discipline, the same form of worship. Yet their antagonism seems irreconcilable. The Greek and Latin churches were never organically united under one government, but differed considerably from the beginning in nationality, language and various ceremonies. These differences, however, did not interfere with the general harmony of faith and Christian life, nor prevent cooperation against common foes. As long and as far as the genuine spirit of Christianity directed them, the diversity was an element of strength to the common cause.

The doctrinal difference on the procession of the Holy Spirit existed before the Schism. However it assumed practical importance only in connection with the broader ecclesiastical and political conflict between the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Pope of Rome. The West did insert the filioque clause into the Creed without the East’s consent and without a Council, but the doctrinal issue was not as central as the two sides made it out to be. The West has continually denied that they mean to assert two First Principles into the Godhead. The East has continually asserted that this is what the West is doing. The East has been intransigent on this issue, even after demonstrations that the great Eastern theologians, such as Athanasius had taught the Dual Procession.

The first serious outbreak of this conflict took place after the middle of the 9th Century when Photius and Nicolas, two of the ablest representatives of the rival churches, came into collision. The dispute between them was at first personal. The deposition of Ignatius as patriarch of Constantinople, for rebuking the immorality of Caesar Bardas, and the election of Photius, then a mere layman in his place (858), were arbitrary and uncanonical acts that created a temporary schism in the East and prepared the way for a permanent schism between the East and the West. Photius was outraged by this conduct and held a counter-synod, and in turn deposed the successor of St. Peter in 867. In his Encyclical Letter to the Eastern patriarchs, he charged the whole Western church with heresy and schism and, most of all, for corrupting the Nicene Creed by the insertion of the filioque, and thereby introducing two principles into the Holy Trinity. This letter clearly indicates all the doctrinal and ritual differences that caused and perpetuated the schism to this day. The subsequent history is only a renewal of the same charges aggravated by the misfortunes of the Greek church and the arrogance and intolerance of old Rome.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Brief History of the Medieval Church 2

Gregory II (715–731) marks a transition to a new state of things. He clashed with the emperor Leo the Isaurian about the worship of images. Under his pontificate Liutprand, the mightiest king of the Lombards, conquered Ravenna and became ruler of Italy. But the popes found the dominion of a barbarian and formerly Arian authority more loathsome to the than that of distant Constantinople. So, stuck between a heretical emperor and a barbarian, they looked to the young and rising power of the Franks for deliverance and protection. The Franks had been converted under Clovis and under Charles Martel (the Hammer) had attained an impressive victory over the Saracens (732), which saved Christian Europe against the oppression of Islam. They had therefore become the protectors of Latin Christianity. They also lent their aid to Boniface in the conversion of Germany.

Pope Zacharias (741–752) brought Liutprand to terms of temporary obedience. Astolph, his successor once again threatened to integrate Rome with his kingdom. Zacharias sought the protection of Charles Martel’s son and Charlemagne’s father, Pepin the Short. In return for this aid Zacharias helped him to the crown of France. This was the first step towards the creation of a Western empire and a new political system of Europe with the pope and the German emperor at the head.

In 800, while Charlemagne was kneeling at the alter in St. Peter’s celebrating Christmas, the pope, under a sudden inspiration (but no doubt because of a premeditated plan, placed a golden crown on his head and the people of Rome shouted, “To Charles Augustus, crowned by God, the great and pacific emperor of the Romans, life and victory!"  From then on he was adored by the pope and was titled Emperor and Augustus instead of Patrician. For the West this was a reestablishment of the old Roman Empire. Together with the papacy the two controlled the history of the Middle Ages. The pope and the emperor represented the highest dignity and power in church and state.

The legal relation between the two powers is the struggle of centuries. In theory, it was easy to distinguish the two. The pope was confined to spiritual affairs and the emperor to temporal affairs. But because of their theocratic theory of the union of church and state the two quarreled frequently. Since the pope had voluntarily conferred the crown upon Charlemagne, he might claim that the empire was his gift, and that the right of crowning implied the right of un-crowning. This right was exercised by popes at a later period - popes who wielded the secular as well as the spiritual sword and absolved nations of their oath of allegiance. This is the medieval hierarchical theory, which derives all power from God through Peter as the head of the church.

Charlemagne, though he was devotedly attached to the church and the pope, was too absolute a monarch to recognize any other sovereignty within his own. His idea of theocracy was derived from the Old Testament relation between Moses and Aaron. He really believed that he was the divinely appointed protector of the church and the regulator of all her external (and to some extent also her internal) affairs.  

Charlemagne‘s main ambition was to unite all the Teutonic and Latin races on the Continent under his temporal scepter in close union with the spiritual dominion of the pope. His ecclesiastical domain extended over twenty-two archbishoprics or metropolitan sees. He gave his personal attention to things great and small. He introduced a settled order to his empire. He secured Europe against future heathen and Muslim invasion. He was universally admired or feared in his age.

Charlemagne was a firm believer in Christianity and a regular worshipper in the church. He is recorded to have attended church going morning and evening, even after nightfall, besides attending the regularly scheduled mass. He was very generous to the clergy. He gave them tithes throughout the empire. He appointed worthy bishops and abbots, endowed churches and built the grand cathedral at Aix-la-Chapelle, where he was buried. His respect for the clergy went so far as the veneration of the bishop of Rome as St. Peter’s successor. 

In spite of his many virtues, he was not as pure as the poetry of the church represented him, and far from being worthy of canonization. He sacrificed thousands of human beings to his immense ambition and obsession for conquest. He converted nations at sword-point in a war of religion for the annihilation of heathenism. This is contrary to the spirit of Christianity and is rather the Islamic principle: submission to the faith, or death. The most serious defect in his private character was his lack of self-control and disregard for the inviolability of the marriage bond. In this regard he was no better than an Oriental despot or a Muslim Caliph. He married several wives and divorced them at his pleasure. 

Charlemagne died after a short illness on January 28, 814, at the age of 71 and in the 47th year of his reign. He was buried on the same day in the cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Brief History of the Medieval Church 1

Having spent the last few weeks reviewing the life of the great Reformer Martin Luther, I thought it would be helpful to look back over the medieval Church. This covers the period from A.D. 590 -1517. This, I believe will give us an appreciation for the work Luther and the Reformers did.

The Medieval period, often called the Middle Ages, is the period that intervenes between the ancient world and modern times. For ecclesiastical history, it began with Gregory I (the Great), the last of the Fathers and the first pope in the modern sense of the term. Medieval Christianity on the one hand, is a legitimate continuation and further development of ancient Catholicism. On the other hand it is a preparation for Protestantism. The principal forms of medieval Christianity are the papacy, monasticism and scholasticism, which were developed to their height, and then assaulted by growing opposition from within.

At its introduction, Christianity had to deal with highly civilized nations; now it had to lay the foundations of new civilization among barbarian races. The missionaries of the dark ages had to visit wild woods and untilled fields, to teach crude nations the alphabet and to lay the foundation for society, literature and art. For this reason Christianity assumed the character of a strong disciplinary institution, a training school for nations in their infancy, which had to be treated as children. This is perhaps why medieval Catholicism was so legalistic, hierarchical, ritualistic and romantic in its character.

The Church monopolized all the learning and she made sciences and arts tributary to her. She took the lead in every progressive movement. She founded universities, built lofty cathedrals, stirred up the crusades, made and unmade kings, dispensed blessings and curses to whole nations. The medieval hierarchy centering in Rome reenacted the Jewish theocracy on a more comprehensive scale. It was perhaps a carnal manifestation of the millennial reign of Christ. It took centuries to erect this commanding structure, and centuries to tear it down.

Opposition came from several directions. There were the anti-Catholic sects, who, despite cruel persecution, never ceased to protest against the corruptions and tyranny of the papacy. Next there was the rising spirit of nationality that opposed an all-absorbing hierarchical centralization. Besides these there was a revival of classical and biblical learning, which undermined the reign of superstition and tradition and a struggle within the inner and deeper life of the Catholic Church itself, which loudly called for a reformation. The medieval Church was a schoolmaster to lead men to Christ. The Reformation was an emancipation of Western Christendom from the bondage of the law, and a re-conquest of that liberty "wherewith Christ hath made us free."

As the Medieval Period of Church History dawned a severe epidemic ravaged the Roman world. Gregory the Great’s predecessor died as a result of this plague. As the disease grew stronger a spiritual malady was brewing under the surface of the Church that far exceeded the severity of the deadly epidemic. Gregory began his administration with a public act of humiliation on account of the plague that had taken the life of his predecessor. Seven processions traversed the streets for three days with prayers and hymns. This was the first time in the Church’s history that prayers were officially offered to the saints, and, Oh! What results!  Eighty priests were stricken dead of the disease during the procession. Gregory’s rule saw the introduction of other such unbiblical innovations in the church’s worship.
Gregory I (or, the Great) connects the ancient with the medieval church. He is also one of the best representatives of medieval Catholicism. He was monastic, ascetic, devout yet superstitious. He was hierarchical, haughty and ambitious, yet humble before God. He was indifferent, if not hostile, to classical and secular culture, yet friendly to sacred and ecclesiastical learning. He was just, humane, yet liberal to ostentation. Gregory was full of missionary zeal in the interests of Christianity, and the Roman see, which to his mind were indivisibly united.

When Eulogius, Bishop of Alexandria, addressed Gregory as "universal pope," he strongly refused the title, saying: "In the preface of your letter you apply to me the proud title of universal pope. I beg your most sweet Holiness to do this no more.” He objected to the expression, "as you have commanded," which occurred in his Eulogius’ letter.

On the other hand, however, even while he protested in the strongest terms the blasphemous title of universal bishop Gregory claimed and exercised, as far as he had the opportunity and power, the authority over the whole church of Christ, even in the East.

Perhaps we have no right to indict Gregory’s honesty. But he was clearly inconsistent in disclaiming the name, and yet claiming the thing itself.  It is no wonder then that Gregory’s successors, less humble and more consistent than he, had no scruple to use equivalent and even more arrogant titles than the one he so solemnly protested against with the warning: "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble." But it is a very remarkable fact, that at the beginning of the unfolding of the greatest power of the papacy one of the best of popes should have protested against the antichristian pride and usurpation of the system.

The popes from Gregory I until Gregory II were mostly insignificant and obscure men. Their rules were marked by no major issues and were all relatively short as well.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Brief History of Martin Luther, Part 12

An Evaluation of Luther’s Character and Significance:

Notwithstanding his flaws, Luther still exerts a force inferior only to the sacred writers. Augustine’s influence embraces a wider sphere, but he never reached the hearts of ordinary people the way that Luther did. Luther is the one Reformer whose name was adopted as the designation of the church he founded. Luther was the German of the Germans, and the most vigorous type of the faults as well as the virtues of his nation. Nevertheless, Martin Luther’s influence extends far beyond the limits of his native land. He belongs to the church and the world.

Like all great men, he harbored colossal contrasts in his mind. He was a giant in public, but a child in his family. He was the boldest reformer, yet a conservative churchman. He abused reason as the handmaid of the Devil, and yet a slave of the letter. He was an intense hater of popery to the end, yet was a pope himself in his own church. Yet there was a unity in this apparent contradiction.

His polemical books rush along like violent storms. He knew his temper, but never tried to restrain it. His last books against the Papists, the Zwinglians, and the Jews, are his worst, and exceed any thing that is known in the history of theological polemics. He told Spalatin, “Do not think that the gospel can be advanced without tumult, trouble, and uproar. You cannot make a pen of a sword. The Word of God is a sword; it is war, overthrow, trouble, destruction, poison; it meets the children of Ephraim, as Amos says, like a bear on the road, or like a lioness in the wood." It may well be that his vitriolic tongue inflammatory rhetoric were necessary for the semi-barbarian Germans of his day. Providence used his violent temper to overthrow the power of the greatest spiritual tyrant the world has ever seen.

Notwithstanding his faults, he is still the greatest man Germany has ever produced. Indeed, he is one of the greatest men in history. Melanchthon, who knew him best, and suffered most from his overbearing temper, called him the Elijah of Protestantism, and compared him to the Apostle Paul. This is his legacy. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Brief History of Martin Luther, Part 11

The Augsburg Diet:

By 1530, the state of Protestantism was critical. The Diet of Speier had forbidden any further progress of the Reformation. The edict of Worms was still in effect and the Emperor had made peace with the Pope. On top of this, the Protestants were dividing. At the same time, thee empire was under threat of attack by the Turks. The Turks under Suleiman, who called himself “Lord of all rulers and the shadow of God over the earth,” approached Vienna in September of 1529. It was under such circumstances that the Diet of Augsburg convened on April 8, 1530. Its object was to settle the religious question and to prepare for war against the Turks. The invitation expressed a hope for the restoration of the unity of the holy empire of the German nation in one true church.

There was no hope, however, for such cooperation. The Catholics saw this as a declaration of war against the Protestants as well as the Turks. To the Protestants, it meant a defense against the Papists and the Turks. In Luther’s estimation, the Pope was at least as bad as Mohammed. Their motto was: Erhalt uns Herr bei Deinem Wort Und steur’ des Papsts und Türken Mord."

During the Diet of Augsburg, Luther was a prisoner in the castle of Coburg. With him were his amanuensis, Veit Dietrich and his nephew Cyriac Kaufmann. He was well cared for and enjoyed the time as best as he could with the heavy load of work and care on his mind. He frequently complained of dizziness and buzzing in his head, and a tendency to faint. Nevertheless, he accomplished a great amount of work. When his box of books arrived, he resumed his translation of the Bible. For recreation, he translated thirteen of Aesop’s fables in simlpe language and gave the morals in German proverbs.

With the Augsburg Confession, his work was basically completed. His followers were now an organized church, no longer dependant upon his personal efforts. He lived for another 15 years preaching, teaching and writing. Some of his later acts, like his furious attacks against the Papists and the Sacramentarians, obscured his fame. This only reminds us of the imperfections that adhere to the greatest of men. However, before he died, having read a short book by Calvin on Communion, he said to Melanchthon, “in this matter of the Lord’s Table we have gone too far. Do something about after I die.” Tragically, it was too late.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Brief History of Martin Luther, Part 10

The Diet of Worms:

The next important step in Luther’s life was the Diet of Worms. On January 28, 1521, Charles V opened his first Diet at Worms. Luther regarded it as a call from God and declared he would go even if he had to be carried there sick. He was aware of the fate that overtook Huss at Constance. He wrote to Spalatin, “You may expect everything from me except fear or recantation. I shall not flee, still less recant.”

His journey to Worms resembled a march of victory. People flocked to see the man who had dared to defy the Pope. Before he left Wittenberg, the Emperor had issued an edict forbidding the sale of his books. Friends tried to talk him out of going. He comforted his friends by reminding them, “Though Huss was burned, the truth was not burned and Christ still lives.” Luther wrote to Spalatin that he would go to Worms in spite of all the gates of hell and the evil spirits in the air. The next day, he sent him the famous words, “I shall go to Worms though there were as many devils there as tiles on the roofs.”

The day he arrived, Luther was led through side streets, avoiding the curious crowds, to the hall of the Diet. He was admitted at about 6 PM. There he stood: a poor monk of rustic manners amidst an assembly the likes of which he had never seen. The young Emperor, six Electors (including his own sovereign), the Pope’s legates, archbishops, bishops, dukes, princes, counts, deputies of the imperial cities, ambassadors of foreign courts and a countless other dignitaries; in short a fair representation of the highest powers in Church and State were there to see this intrepid man. Dr. Eck put two questions to him:
1. whether he was the author of a pile of books set before him on a bench, and
2. if he would retract them.

Luther acknowledged his authorship of the said books. As to the issue of a recantation of them, he humbly asked for some time to consider this, since it was a matter of salvation of the soul and the word of God. This he did, not due to a lack of courage, but from a sense of responsibility. The Emperor granted Luther one day.

On Thursday, April 18, Luther appeared before the Diet a second and final time. Eck again asked him if he would defend all the books he had written or recant some part. He replied that his books were of different sorts and it was only of the anti-popery books that he was being tried. Eck reproved him for evading the question and demanded an answer “without horns.” Luther replied with the sentence that marks an epoch in history: "Unless I am refuted and convicted by testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear arguments (since I believe neither the Pope nor the Councils alone; it being evident that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am conquered by the Holy Scriptures quoted by me, and my conscience is bound in the word of God: I can not and will not recant any thing, since it is unsafe and dangerous to do any thing against the conscience."

After this, Eck exchanged a few more words with Luther, who in the heat of the argument against the infallibility of councils, exclaimed, “Here I stand. God help me! Amen

Luther’s testimony at Worms was an event of historical importance for the whole world. He opened a debate – one that still continues – against the tyranny of authority over the supremacy of the word of God. For this, all Protestant Christians owe him a debt of gratitude. Had he recanted, we would all very likely still be buried in the death of papistical superstition and error.

With this accomplished, the negative part of Luther’s work was completed. The tyranny of popery had been broken and the way was opened for a reconstruction of the Church on the basis of the New Testament. Everything he later wrote against Rome was repetition.

When he returned to Wittenberg, he had a harder task to accomplish: to bring about a positive reformation of faith and discipline. In this work, Luther was as conservative as he had been radical against Rome.

But Luther’s greatest accomplishment for the Reformation was his German Bible. It was a huge help to the Reformation. Hans Lufft at Wittenberg sold 100,000 copies between 1534 and 1574. This was an enormous amount for that day and age. 

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