Thinking Out Loud

November 3, 2017

Was the Reformation a Mistake?

This recently-released book from Zondervan deserves an award for “Provocative Title of the Year” and I felt that while Reformation Day is still fresh in our minds, I would mention it here. Plus, this is, to the best of my knowledge anyway, a rather unique Christian publication.

The full title is: Was the Reformation a Mistake? Why Catholic Doctrine is not Unbiblical. The author is Matthew Levering, a theology professor at Mundelein Seminary, University of Saint Mary of the Lake. In the interest of equal time, there is a Protestant response from theologian Kevin J. Vanhoozer who does research and teaches at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

The book’s 9 chapters look at:

  • Scripture and its interpretation
  • Devotion to Mary
  • The Mass / Eucharist / Lord’s Supper
  • Origin of The Seven Sacraments
  • Monasticism and the Gospel
  • Merit and Justification; God’s mercy
  • Purgatory / Prayers for the dead / Penance
  • The conferring of Sainthood
  • The papacy

Each section begins with a simple one paragraph introduction which sets out the issue and also refers readers with less familiarity with what the Roman Catholic Church teaches to some primary documents. Following this is a summary of what the author views as Luther’s primary concern. The balance of each chapter is headed “Biblical Reflections” which aims to set out Biblical origins for the teachings which concerned Luther and concern many non-Catholics today.

Of the book’s 241 pages (in the pre-publication version) Levering’s main text comprises 166 pages and Vanhoozer is given 41 pages for rebuttal. The latter sees the conflict existing not between Protestants and Catholics but between “catholicism and one particular tradition (Romanism)” which he seems to view as a theological pattern in which carefully vetted scripture passages are chosen because they lend credence to a pre-determined, Vatican issued theology. But the tone of his rebuttal is cordial.

Full disclosure: I did not read every word. (Up to a certain point in writing his response, neither had Vanhoozer.) Some of this was above my pay grade, though it was published by Zondervan, not Zondervan Academic. I do not purport that this was written in my normal book review modus operandi. Rather, I intend to keep this on the shelf and refer to specific items in the list of nine as needed in discussions I have with Roman Catholics.

I understand why the publisher issued the book under this particular title in this particular year, but I still found the title needlessly provocative. The book itself, I find fascinating.


For publisher marketing info at Zondervan, Click this link.

Thanks to Mark at HarperCollins Christian Publishing in Canada for an opportunity to examine this interesting book.

 

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October 31, 2017

#Reformation500

At the very, very least; acting on his convictions Martin Luther started conversations which reverberate thousands of times each day, got people re-searching the scriptures for themselves, and paved the way for other reformations which would follow. Of greater significance, his bold courage was a challenge to the absolute authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

Evangelicalism isn’t marked by a single date, though modern Pentecostalism traces back to a specific time and even a location, Azuza Street. The more recent Charismatic movement was well documented by John and Elizabeth Sherril in the book, They Speak With Other Tongues.

But the reformation is marked by a specific date, 500 years ago today, and much will be posted online today on the subject. Basically, Luther followed the money and found the sale of indulgences — certificates of afterlife exemptions — particularly grievous; but in 2017, many preachers continue to offer the faithful a variety of spiritual promises if they will phone in “their best ministry gift;” which usually involves a credit card number. Operators are standing by.

At the History Learning Site there is a version of the 95 Theses posted to the door of the Wittenberg Chapel in modern English by C.N. Trueman. Apparently the original went viral, as only a single-copy document could in a pre-internet age. All surround the single issue of the sale of indulgences. Some include:

1. When Jesus said “repent” he meant that believers should live a whole life repenting
2. Only God can give salvation – not a priest.
3. Inwards penitence must be accompanied with a suitable change in lifestyle.
6. Only God can forgive -the pope can only reassure people that God will do this.
20. Even the pope – who can offer forgiveness – cannot totally forgive sins held within.
27. It is nonsense to teach that a dead soul in Purgatory can be saved by money.
29. Do we know if the souls in Purgatory want to be saved ?
43. A Christian who gives to the poor or lends to those in need is doing better in God’s eyes than one who buys ‘forgiveness’.
45. A person who passes by a beggar but buys an indulgence will gain the anger and disappointment of God.
46. A Christian should buy what is necessary for life not waste money on an indulgence.
54. It is blasphemy that the word of God is preached less than that of indulgences.
58. Relics are not the relics of Christ, although they may seem to be. They are, in fact, evil in concept.
60. Salvation can be sought for through the church as it has been granted this by Christ.
61. It is clear that the power of the church is adequate, by itself, for the forgiveness of sins.
62. The main treasure of the church should be the Gospels and the grace of God.
77. Not even St. Peter could remove guilt.
79. It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross is of equal value with the cross of Christ.
84. Evil men must not buy their salvation when a poor man, who is a friend of God, cannot.
86. The pope should re-build St. Peter’s with his own money.
94. Christians must follow Christ at all cost.
95. Let Christians experience problems if they must – and overcome them – rather than live a false life based on present Catholic teaching.

Until today, I had never actually read all 95 and did not realize how they were single-focused. Sometimes it only takes one issue; the proverbial straw which breaks the camel’s back.

Luther’s greater contribution was to advance the idea of salvation by grace, not by works; and to offer Germans a Bible translation in their own language. Of his many hymns, the best known is “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Far from perfect, his later anti-Semitic writing has been widely condemned. But his written rant on that October day 500 years ago is seen as the Ground Zero in the birth of Protestantism.


Other sources consulted:

October 31, 2016

Luther and the Lion – The Totally True Story of Halloween

I know I ran one of Aaron’s posts just 9 days ago, but this one seemed so timely. Click this link to read at source.

It all started almost 500 years ago. Once upon a time there was a little boy named Martin Luther.

wittenberg

Martin was very poor, as were all the boys in his village. They were poor because every year a scary Lion from Rome would visit and take all the village’s money. Lion would go into All Saints’ Church (or All Hallows’ Church), stand at the top of the bell tower, and mightily roar,

“I am Lion! Hear me roar!
Give your gold! Give me more!
I won’t stop until you do!
You won’t sleep until I’m through!”

This scared Martin and all the children very much. So every year the families would go to All Hallows’ Church one by one and knock on the door. Lion would make them say “Purgatory or treat,” because if the village did not give Lion his treats, he would not give them indulgences.

Martin decided that he had had enough of this. He decided that he would stop Lion. That year, Lion came at the time of the harvest and locked himself in the church and demanded his treats, roaring,

“I am Lion! Hear me roar!
Give your food! Give me more!
I hold the Keys, I stand on the Rock!
Until you admit it, I won’t stop!”

Martin knew he would need help to stop Lion, so he went to visit his friend Calvin. Calvin was a sad and lonely boy who spent most of his day reading books, but he was very smart and clever.

calvin

Martin knocked on Calvin’s door and said, “I am going to stop Lion and kick him out of our village! You are so very clever. What shall we do?”

Calvin opened the door and said,
“Silly Martin. You can’t stop Lion.
He’s so very strong, it’s not even worth tryin’.
If God wants to do it then in time He will,
And if He does not then I won’t waste my skill.”
For Calvin was clever and very well read,
But also quite lazy, and left not his bed.

Martin needed someone else to help him to stop Lion, so he went to visit his other friend Wycliffe. Wycliffe was clever but moreover quite active. Wycliffe had learned to speak Lion’s language and secretly shared Lion’s books with the villagers. Surely he would help!

wycliffe

Martin knocked on the door and said, “I am going to stop Lion and kick him out of our village! You are so very clever and active! What shall we do?”

zwingli

But it was not Wycliffe who came to the door.
“I’m so very sorry, but please stay outside.
I’m sorry to say that my brother has died.
We did not pay Lion so he’ll come for us,
But it was nice to meet you. My name is Jan Hus.”
Wycliffe and Jan – They were both bold and smart.
But sadly for them, Lion’s teeth were too sharp.

Martin started off, but before he could go
Jan Hus said, “There’s one little thing you should know
My brother found out, before he got sick,
The Lion is lying – Purgatory’s a trick!”

Martin was very sad. He simply had to stop Lion but Wycliffe was gone, Jan would be soon, and Calvin was just too lazy. Martin almost gave up but then, on the last day in October, he had a brilliant idea!

“I can’t outsmart Lion. He can’t be out-dared.
But what if, I wonder, he were to be scared?”

So Martin went to visit his last friend, Zwingli. He knocked on the door and said, “Zwingli! I am going to stop Lion and scare him out of our village!”

zwingli-not-hus

Zwingli opened the door and asked, “How?”
Martin explained how they’d chase out the Lion.
Martin would dress up and then terrify him!
They took to the kitchen and chopped up his hair
And made him look sickly, his head’s top was bare.
Lion would run, thinking Martin a nut,
For no one is sane who has that hair cut.
Lion would tremble and Lion would flee
And the people of Wittenberg would then be free!

Dressed up as a complete lunatic,  Martin went to All Hallows’ Church. Lion roared from the tower,

“I am Lion! Hear me roar!
Give your soul! Give me more!
I don’t care if there’s a recession!
I have apostolic succession!”

luther

Martin knocked on the door, refusing to stop
Until Lion arrived on the 95th knock.
The doors opened wide with an ominous creak.
And Lion growled out, “Purgatory or treat!”
“Trick or treat!” The bald boy said,
Yelling quite loudly and showing his head.
The Lion was frightened, his eyes filled with dread.
“What is wrong with your hair!?” He shouted and fled.

Then Martin called out to the people nearby,
“Good news, everyone! Purgatory’s a lie!
We’re saved from our sins only by grace
And the Righteous, from this day on, shall live by faith!”

The people of Wittenberg shouted and applauded and that winter was the most joyful winter in years! Lion tried to come back every year, but the people of Wittenberg would knock on All Hallows’ Church’s door dressed as monsters to scare Lion away. They named the day “Hollowe’en,” after Lion’s hollow doctrine. In later years, they discovered they could scare Lion using images carved into hollowed-out pumpkins. Calvin always left his house a mess of pumpkin guts, but his brother Jacob was always there to clean up Calvin’s messes.

Wycliffe and Jan were gone, but the village built a library in their honour and filled it with all kinds of books! Martin and Zwingli remained good friends, but occasionally disagreed over the health benefits of juice and crackers.

And for the next 499 years, the village was free and happy and peaceful, apart from the occasional party on Azusa Street which the village was mostly okay with it. And that’s the true story of Halloween.

door

Happy 499th birthday, Protestantism!

 

 

July 30, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Amish Gone Wild T-Shirt Design from Kaboodle dot com

By the look of it, this “internet” thing could be really big someday. Here’s this week’s highlights:

Remember, every time you share the link list on Twitter or Facebook, an angel gets its wings.

Paul Wilkinson hunts for devotional writing each day at C201, rants at Thinking Out Loud and tweets to a vast army of followers. (They keep leaving the “K” out after the number.)

February 26, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Chocolate Pope - NBC News Photo

The link list knows no borders, so you won’t find any gloating about Canada’s Olympic hockey wins here. Click anything below and you’ll be redirected to PARSE, the blog of Leadership Journal, a ministry of Christianity Today; then click each link there.

If you’re not busy this week snapping up Son of God movie tickets, you can check out Paul Wilkinson’s other writing at Thinking Out Loud.

"Jonah Leaving the Whale" by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1600

“Jonah Leaving the Whale” by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1600

November 2, 2011

Wednesday Link List

The link you won’t see here today concerns the announcement that Christian publishing giant Thomas Nelson is in the process of being acquired by HarperCollins, which already owns Zondervan.  The story bears on so many other issues in Christian publishing, that I decided an additional day’s worth of reflection would bring something substantial to say about the news.  So you’ll have to tune back in tomorrow!

  • The Genesis Code, a faith-based, creation science focused movie opens Friday in theaters in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.  More at Christian News Wire.
  • More on the Mars Hill trademark issue from David Fitch, who feels that branding is “the ultimate anti-missional act.”
  • Francis Chan tells young pastors, “You’re teaching way better than we did…;” but then gives some advice.
  • Pete Wilson wants to know what your greatest concern is about a world with a population now exceeding seven billion.
  • Video discovery of the week: Check out this contemporary version of the very old hymn, My Anchor Holds by Katie and Jacob who call themselves… wait for it… My Anchor Holds. More at their webpage.
  • Our above Venn diagram is from This Is Indexed by Jessica Hagy.
  • The picture at right is from a set taken at Occupy Wellington (New Zealand) by Penelope Lattey who went to the protest with a whiteboard, a marker and an idea.
  • If you thought Monday was merely Halloween, and don’t know why it was also Reformation Day, this short music video might teach ya a little church history.
  • What does it mean to bring a Christian vision or perspective into a public setting; into a pluralistic world? Miraslav Volf previews his new book, A Public Faith in this video preview.
  • Eric Douglas has a great set of four questions that you can use when meeting up with people of other faiths or no faith.  He calls it Talking to an Atheistic Huffalump.
  • How do you feel about the therapeutic (aka healing) power of house pets and animals?  Author Neil Abramson uses this as the topic for his recent book, Unsaid.  For Neil, the story becomes intensely personal. While not a Christian book, a handful of Christian booksellers carry this title.
  • We close with this item from Mike Gilbart-Smith: “Spurgeon came across someone who claimed to have reached sinless perfection. When Spurgeon trod heavily on his foot his perfection dissolved!”  Mike then adds this:
There once was a man from Tangiers
Who said he’d not sinned in ten years.
So I poked his right eye
And his foul mouthed reply
Shows he’s worse than he sometimes appears

November 10, 2010

Wednesday Link List

One of the more interesting lists of lynx links I’ve posted in a long time…

  • Starting out, here’s the ultimate list of stats comparing the NIV 2011 with previous NIV editions.    Lots of changes in Ruth, Ezra, Amos and Jonah.  And III John.   But nothing like the 32% new content in Galatians.   The least renovated is Song of Solomon, with other low change rates in II Kings and Esther.
  • Very shocked to learn recently about the accident involving Ruth Graham’s husband Greg, who was in a major automobile accident.  (Ruth is a daughter of Ruth Bell Graham and Billy Graham.)   Pray for Ruth, Greg and their three sons.  You can follow some of the story by clicking on the ministry website, selecting Ruth’s blog, and scrolling back to September 30th’s entry.   Really, really try to remember to pray for this family.
  • Barry Simmons has embedded a film clip dramatizing a critical moment in Martin Luther’s trial before the Diet of Worms, where he is given a chance to renounce his beliefs.     Where would we be today if Luther hadn’t stood up the doctrinal corruption that was taking place at the time?  (No, this Diet isn’t a weight-loss program.   Click here and here to learn more.)
  • Speaking of film clips, a regular reader — and one-time guest contributor to this blog — Simon Fraser University film student Nathan Douglas scored an opportunity to do a film review for Christianity Today magazine of a Finnish movie releasing on DVD in February, Letters to Father Jacob.
  • Here’s a link to last night’s story on ABC World News about pastors who have lost their faith but can’t afford to lose their jobs. “…When speaking to parishioners, they tried to stick to the sections of the Bible that they still believed in — the parts about being a good person. Both said that they would like to leave their jobs though they can’t afford to.
  • Timmy Brister at the blog, Provocations and Paintings has been busy reading AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, and highlights two videos that were used to open the AND Conference.   I really like these videos, which help make the point of encouraging the blending the missional and the attractional approaches to church.
  • And speaking of Calvinist bloggers, Phil Johnson at Pyromaniacs seems to take great delight in pouring gasoline on this fire, in a post entitled The Problem For Arminians.    I’m not 100% sure what — other than intense pain — this particular line of discussion is serving, but I’m not alone, as the 200-odd comments clearly indicate.
  • Mike Gilbart-Smith posts some fairly extensive notes from a lecture by Stuart Townend on Leading Corporate Worship.    He also summarizes them here at 9 Marks.    Don’t know who Townend is?  Then click here.
  • The author of Heaven almost got there at an earlier stage of life.  Randy Alcorn talks about working at a 7-11 and being robbed at gunpoint.  Well, actually he kinda glosses over it.
  • Adam Young aka Owl City performs In Christ Alone with a couple of interesting key changes.   He ends the blog post related to the song with this:  “When He comes for His own, He will have no trouble recognizing me… because my banner will be clear.”
  • And then, at the other end of the musical spectrum, we have the bluegrass sounds of The Franz Family kicking off the Christmas season early with O Come, O Come Emmanuel.     I’ve always like this song; I like the simple harmonies on this, but I was really struck by the production of the video itself.
  • Guess I’m going nuts with video links this week.   If you were part of the Jesus Music scene in the late ’70s and early ’80s; you’ll remember an early worship song from the Maranatha! Five album by Bill Sprouse and the Road Home based on Psalm 5.
  • Our cartoon this week is a bit of a mystery.  I clicked on Church People at Baptist Press by Frank Lengel and ended up with a string of Friends cartoons by Franko.  Same person?  Beats me.  I haven’t seen this one before among the seven different cartoons available there.  The way I see it, the “news” value of telling that story makes up for my ignoring the copyright notice.

March 6, 2010

Those Who Don’t Learn The Lessons of History…

…are doomed to make fools of themselves.

Once and for all, the difference between Martin Luther, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m always astounded how often this confusion appears, as though out of nowhere, in the middle of conversations. But it is especially lamentable when it takes place among Christian people. I mean the 16th Century reformer doesn’t really look a thing like the 20th Century civil rights activist.  Both were revolutionaries; you could get a high-school term paper out of some similarities, I suppose.

Things could be worse, however:  The last time this came up, later in the discussion, the person thought my reference to Jehovah’s Witnesses using the term “JW” was actually my way of saying “Jew.”

I’m thinking of starting a website as an alternative to TotallyLooksLike.com, that will be called TotallyDoesn’tEvenResemble.com (the domain is available…)

November 25, 2009

On the Links

Here’s some places a mouse click or two took me this week:

  • I really hesitate to post another link to Pete Wilson because every time I do, he writes a personal note of thanks, and he’s a busy guy.  But I couldn’t ignore this one.   Pete had the thrill of baptizing his son Jett last week, and wrote him a note on the blog.    Here’s the part I don’t want you to miss:  God has an amazing adventure planned for you and I want to encourage you to trust Him at every turn. Over and over again you’ll face situations where you’ll be tempted to give into fear but I pray you’ll choose faith. You’ll be temped to control but remember freedom comes in letting go. You’ll be drawn toward comfort but I pray you’ll choose sacrifice. You will feel all alone but remember God promises that He will never leave you nor forsake you. Read it all here.
  • This video has been up for a year now, but if you missed the Protestant Reformation and want to catch up, this rap video, 95 Theses, should fill you in.   (Click on more info below the advert to see the full lyrics.)  Also available at this homepage.
  • Sadly, Philip Yancey marks his final regular column with Christianity Today this week with a look at the Evangelical movement.   “Perhaps we should present an alternative to the prevailing culture rather than simply adopt it. What would a church look like that created space for quietness, that bucked the celebrity trend and unplugged from surrounding media, that actively resisted consumerist culture? What would worship look like if it were directed more toward God than toward our entertainment preferences?”
  • Jim Henderson, of Jim and Caspar Go To Church fame, has an excellent article on his site, “What The Black Church Has That The White Church Needs.”   He writes, They’ve never had power or influence over the majority culture; They’ve always had to do more with less;  They have experience with being ignored; They’ve developed practical gospel that brings heaven to humans (as well as humans to heaven); They produced the most significant Christian leader of the 20th Century Martin Luther King Jr… ” You might find it hard to see the first few of those as being things they have.   Read and comment at Off The Map.
  • A long time acquaintance of ours, Brian McAuley, has written a book on an encouragement celebration that parents can do with their children.   The Family Gold Plate meal is similar to other red plate rituals some families have, but adds a lot of extra details.   It’s sold as a book only, or with the gold plate itself.    I don’t endorse a lot of commercial ventures on this blog, but am making an exception for this one.   To learn more, click here.   (It’s also linked in this blog’s sidebar from now to year-end.)
  • USAToday’s religion page notes the proliferation of student atheist groups on college campuses in this article. “At Iowa State, most of the club’s roughly 30 members are “former” somethings, mostly Christians. Many stress that their lives are guided not by anti-religiousness, but belief in science, logic and reason.”
  • In a 7-minute video, author Stephen K. Scott, author of The Greatest Words Ever Spoken, discusses The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived.   Scott went from failing in nine jobs to starting over a dozen multi-million dollar companies.   Read the book promotional vid here.
  • Time Magazine discusses the “helicopter parent” syndrome in a 4-page online article titled “The Growing Backlash Against Over-parenting.”   Strongly recommended for parents, grandparents, daycare workers, educators, etc.   Click here to read.
  • This one’s a bit dangerous, since the website WTFDIB stands for ‘What the Flippity-Flop Do I Believe?’  I know that when most of you see WTF in an acronymn, that’s not the first thing that comes to mind.   That may explain the rather slow traffic on this doctrinal discussion site.  Maybe you can spark a few of the discussions.

HT re. Time Magazine article goes to Zach Neilsen at Take Your Vitamin Z

They’re golfing.  On the Links.   Get it?   Okay, I’ll just put the cat up again next week like we usually do.

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