Should the Church Really Be Always Reforming?

Kevin DeYoung: The Church doesn’t get everything right. Anyone who knows church history will admit that Christians have been wrong before, and they will be wrong again. And yet, to confess our interpretive imperfection is not to open the door to every interpretive innovation. Change is not always good and drifting with the winds of the world is always bad. Whenever there is a push to alter the church’s historic understanding of the faith — regarding sexuality or biblical authority or the historicity of Adam and Eve or whatever — you are bound to hear someone appeal to the Reformation slogan semper reformanda. We are told that the Spirit reveals new truths for a new day, that Jesus is pouring old wine into new wineskins, that the church must be “always reforming.” While it’s true that we all see through a glass dimly and must be open to changing our minds, the Latin phrase semper reformanda was not about reforming the church’s confessions

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Following the Faithful

John MacArthur: Nobody wants to be led off a cliff. But that’s a very real possibility for anyone who follows the wrong leaders. Jesus said as much concerning the religious leaders of His time on earth: “They are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14). Following unfit leaders is a sure road to ruin.  Nowhere is that more apparent than in the church. Scan the evangelical landscape for all the proof you need of the severe damage that unqualified and untrustworthy leaders can do to their congregations. Biblical discernment is nonnegotiable—it is an essential quality for church leaders and critical for those of us who sit under their teaching. Believers need to follow and emulate those who demonstrate godly discernment, and carefully avoid the leadership of people who are themselves “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians

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Why Church History?

Stephen Nichols: The bombing of Britain during World War II leveled most of the area known as “Elephant & Castle” in the city of London. A row of pillars stood defiantly among the piles of rubble. These pillars belonged to the Metropolitan Tabernacle, the church that housed the larger-than-life preacher of the nineteenth century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Those pillars well represent Spurgeon. He was solid. He stood tall in his own day, and like the pillars, his legacy still stands. Spurgeon has friends across many pews. Baptists like Spurgeon because he was a Baptist. Presbyterians like Spurgeon because he was so Reformed. Even Lutherans like Spurgeon because he was very nearly a nineteenth-century version of Martin Luther. While Spurgeon held forth at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Londoners would flock to hear him preach. In fact, people even traveled the Atlantic to hear him preach. He wrote many sermons, of course, while he was at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. And Spurgeon also wrote many books. In one of his many

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The History of the Reformation

R.C. Sproul: “A cesspool of heresies.” This was the judgment rendered by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V on May 26, 1521, shortly after Martin Luther took a stand at the Diet of Worms. Earlier, in the bull Exsurge Domine, Pope Leo X described Luther as a wild boar loose in the vineyard of Christ and as a stiff-necked, notorious, damned heretic. On May 4, 1521, Luther was “kidnapped” by friends and whisked off to Wartburg castle, where he was kept secretly hidden, disguised as a knight. There Luther immediately undertook the task of translating the Bible into the vernacular. Frequently the Reformation is described as a movement that revolved around two pivotal issues. The so-called “material” cause was the debate over sola fide(“justification by faith alone”). The “formal” cause was the issue of sola Scriptura, that the Bible and the Bible alone has the authority to bind the conscience of the believer. Church tradition was regarded with respect by the Reformers but not as a

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13 Reasons We Need Church History

  Matthew J. Hall I love teaching on a wide range of historical subjects. Get me lecturing to undergraduate American history students on the Cold War and the emergence of political conservatism, and I’m in my scholarly happy place. Step into my world history class and you’ll find me fired up to explain how colonization reshaped the entire world. But teaching church history is different. While I bring some basic assumptions (and standards of historical research) to any historical study, studying and teaching church history is a profoundly theological enterprise. Here are 13 principles for why studying church history is crucial. 1. Remembering is vital. Throughout Scripture, rightly remembering is critical to faithfulness. As early as Eden, Eve listens to the serpent, succumbing to faulty interpretations of the past and of God’s revelation in particular. Throughout the Old Testament, God calls his people to recall and retell his gracious saving acts. Yet Israel repeatedly forgets, fails, and strays. The New Testament is also clear:

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7 Ways Christian History Benefits You

  Matt Smethurst: Christian history. Some of you already may be tempted to stop reading. History, after all, is a subject that can feel distant, boring, irrelevant. But I’m convinced you should care about the history of the church. In fact, I believe it’s essential. And for your good. Christianity is a history-anchored faith. We don’t teach a set of abstract principles or philosophical ideas; we teach the truth of a historical event. As Francis Schaeffer liked to say, if you were there 2,000 years ago you could have run your hand down the cross and gotten a splinter. How silly would it be for us to conclude, “Well, I believe Jesus lived and died and rose in historical time, and that without those historical events I’d be lost forever, but I don’t really care about history.” Further, if you’re a Christian, then church history is your family history. Think about that. Studying church history is like opening a photo album

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The Will of God Expressed in Christ

  Now the will of God is what Christ both did and taught: Humility in conversation steadfastness in faith modesty in words justice in deeds mercifulness in works discipline in morals to be unable to do a wrong and to be able to bear a wrong when done to keep peace with the brethren to love God with all one’s heart to love Him because He is a Father to fear Him because He is God to prefer nothing whatever to Christ because He did not prefer anything to us to adhere inseparably to His love to stand by His cross bravely and faithfully when there is any challenge on behalf of His name and honor to exhibit in our speech a consistent confession in torture, that confidence with which we do battle in death, that patience whereby we are crowned. This is the desire to be fellow-heirs with Christ. This is to do the commandment of God. This is to fulfill the will

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William Tyndale’s New Testament

By Tim Challies: The moment Martin Luther nailed his “Ninety-Five Theses” to the door of the university chapel at Wittenberg, he set into motion a series of events that brought about a great Reformation. This Reformation would soon spread beyond Germany and as it did so, it would forever transform the Christian faith. One of the jewels of that Reformation is now in the collection of the British Library: William Tyndale’s New Testament. It is the next of the twenty-five objects through which we are telling the history of Christianity. William Tyndale was born in 1494 in Gloucestershire, England. Born into a wealthy family he had the privilege of studying at Magdalen Hall, Oxford and at Cambridge. He was a brilliant scholar who was soon fluent in eight languages. At Cambridge he studied theology, but remarked later that the study of theology had involved little study of the Bible. Also at Cambridge he encountered the teachings of Desiderius Erasmus and became

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“Chronological Snobbery”

  Todd Pruitt: I believe it was C.S. Lewis who wrote about “chronological snobbery”: the tendency to think that your time, your methods, your generation, etc are somehow worthy of greater esteem than that of the past. This has been tragically true within evangelicalism. The irony, of course, is that we are a people whose entire existence depends upon events 2,000 years ago and beyond. What is more, we have two millennia of church history from which to draw. Unfortunately, in our preaching, praise, and education we seem to prefer the cheap porridge of contemporary trends over the rich and thoughtful deposits of our forebears. The finest historians on the planet ought to be Christians. Our churches ought to be filled with historical referents. Not that our buildings would be museums and our gatherings exercises in nostalgia. A thousand times no! However it seems to me, to quote one of my co-laborers, “We are sowing the seeds of our own demise.” Read the

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Why understanding church history is important

Andy Naselli pens 8 very good reasons for reading church history: I often tell people that I majored in history in college because I like stories. I still like stories, but I have pursued an ongoing study of church history because I think it makes me a better Christian and a better pastor. Here are some reasons I think you should read church history, too. 1. Theological Millard Erickson is right, “History is theology’s laboratory, in which it can assess the ideas that it espouses or considers espousing.” (Christian Theology, 28). Church history shows us our theological blind spots, reminds us of crucial topics our era ignores, provides confessional guiderails, and gives us the writings of Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Edwards–among others. 2. Inspirational If you are like me, ministry is often hard work and the fruit sometimes seems slow growing. Reading stories of God’s work in revivals and awakenings stretches my faith and rouses me to pray bigger prayers. Also,

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New Free Online Magazine: Credo

The first issue of Credo is now available online: The October issue of Credo seeks to affirm the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture as doctrines that are faithful to the testimony of Scripture itself. Contributors include: Gregg Allison, John Frame, Timothy George, Fred Zaspel, Michael A.G. Haykin, Tim Challies, Matthew Barrett, Thomas Schreiner, Tony Merida, Owen Strachan, J. V. Fesko, Robert Saucy, and many others. (HT: Justin Taylor)

The Revolutionary Reformers

“What was revolutionary about the Protestant Reformers was their insistence that God is not savingly known through created nature as paganism had proposed, or through human nature as the medieval mystics had thought (and some evangelicals now think), or through the Church and its sacraments as the Roman Catholic Church taught, but directly, by the work of the Holy Spirit and the truth of the biblical Word, the internal and supernatural work of the Spirit creating the spiritual climate in which Scripture might be received. The Reformers rejected all assertions that there are channels of saving grace in nature, human nature, or the Church. They held that there are no intermediaries between God and the sinner save for Christ himself, and they insisted that this unique role could not be usurped without destroying the faith that claimed his name. Christ’s role is a sine qua non, they argued, because the judgment of God on the one side and human corruption

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Taking a stand for Monergism

“It is wrong to suppose that the doctrine of justification by faith alone, that storm center of the Reformation, was the crucial question in the minds of such theologians as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Bucer, and John Calvin. This doctrine was important to the Reformers because it helped to express and to safeguard their answer to another, more vital, question, namely, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ’s sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith.” – Michael Haykin

RC Spoul on Reformed Theology

“At the heart of Reformed Theology, at the heart of Luther and Calvin’s struggle, and in Knox and Jonathan Edwards, were men who were awakened to the greatness, to the majesty, to the holiness, and the sovereignty of God. By contemplating the holiness and sovereignty of God, they were driven to develop their doctrines of the grace of God. Because until you meet a God who is holy and is sovereign, you don’t know what grace means. I don’t think we are ever going to see a healthy evangelical church until the evangelical church is solidly Reformed, where it takes biblical Christianity seriously with a right concept of a sovereign God. That’s because unreformed Christianity has failed in our culture. It has been pervasively antinomian (no law, no Lordship), and has been pervasively liberal in it’s trends and tendencies away from Scripture, because there’s been no real basis in the sovereignty of God. Today’s evangelicals are never amazed by grace,

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“fossilized” theology?

My thanks to Martin Downes for these excellent quotes: A. A. Hodge once said to a Yale teacher who was making fun of the “fossilized” theology of Princeton: “The trouble with you Yale theological professors is that you only teach your students to think…In Princeton we let God do the thinking and teach the students to believe.” From David Calhoun’s wonderful book Princeton Seminary Volume 2: The Majestic Testimony, 1869-1929, p. 408-9

Preaching includes felt struggles for people

“I began to speak, as the Lord gave me utterance. At first, the people seemed unaffected, but in the midst of my discourse the power of the Lord Jesus came upon me, and I felt such a struggling within myself for the people as I scarce ever felt before. The hearers began to be melted down immediately and to cry much, and we had good reason to hope the Lord intended good for many.” George Whitefield, quoted in Archibald Alexander, The Log College, page 19. (HT: Christ is deeper still)

Amid The Dazzling Confusion

Can you believe Bonnar wrote this in 1883? He could be describing the 21st century Church. Why don’t we learn from Church history? My thanks to Darrin R. Brooker for this. The religious atmosphere of the present time is much changed from what it was in my younger days; and I may be allowed to note the difference. The theological crisis through which we are passing is a peculiar one, such as the men of fifty years ago would have thought very unlikely; and I wish to mark some of its more important characteristics. These are becoming more and more distinct in outline and pronounced in character every year. A quarter of a century ago, it was not quite evident what they meant or whither they were tending. Now there is less of reserve, and the repulsion between Revelation and much of modern thought is expressing itself in many ways, and through many channels. Man is now thinking out a

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Give Me the Cross of Christ

. JC Ryle (cited by CH Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes, p259) “The cross is the strength of a minister. I, for one, would not be without it for the world. I should feel like a soldier without weapons, like an artist without his pencil, like a pilot without his compass, like a labourer without his tools. Let others, if they will, preach the law and morality. Let others hold forth the terrors of hell and the joys of heaven. Let others drench their congregations with teachings about the sacraments and the church. Give me the cross of Christ. This is the only lever which has ever turned the world upside down hitherto, and made men forsake their sins. And if this will not do it, nothing will. A man may begin preaching with a perfect knowledge of Latin, Greek and Hebrew; but he will do little or no good among his hearers unless he knows something of the cross. Never

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