Monthly Archives: October 2010

Happy Reformation Day, 2010!

from Between Two Worlds blog:

Here I Stand!

Happy Reformation Day!

Chris Castaldo helpfully explains what happened when Luther was asked to recant before the Diet of Worms in 1521.

And here’s the scene from the contemporary Luther film:

The following is an hour-long PBS documentary (caveat emptor!) that includes commentary by Alister McGrath (Reformation scholar and author of Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First). It appears to have some nice reconstructions:

Pastors: Governors of the House of God

For a bishop ought to be blameless, as a governor of the house of God He again repeats, that they who aspire to the office of a bishop ought to retain an unspotted reputation; and he confirms it by this argument, that, because the Church is the house of God, every person who is appointed to govern it — is constituted, as it were, governor of the house of God. Now, he would be ill spoken of among men, who should take a scandalous and infamous person, and make him his steward; and therefore it would be far more base and intolerable to appoint such persons to be rulers of the household of God. The Latin word dispensator (steward or manager) — employed in the old translation, and retained by Erasmus — does not at all express Paul’s meaning; for, in order that greater care may be exercised in the election, he adorns the office of a bishop within this honorable eulogy, that it is a government of the house of God, as he says to Timothy,

“That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to conduct thyself in the house of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.”
(1 Timothy 3:15.) This passage plainly shows that there is no distinction between a presbyter and a bishop; for he now calls indiscriminately, by the latter name, those whom he formerly he employs both names in the same sense, without any distinction; as Jerome has remarked, both in his Commentary on this passage, and in his Epistle to Evagrius. And hence we may perceive how much greater deference has been paid to the opinions of men than ought to have been paid to them; for the language of the Holy Spirit, has been set aside, and the custom introduced by the arbitrary will of man has prevailed. For my own part, I do not find fault with the custom which has existed from the very beginning of the Church, that each assembly of bishops shall have one moderator; but that the name of office which God has given to all, shall be conveyed to one alone, and that all the rest shall be deprived of it, is both unreasonable and absurd. Besides, to pervert the language of the Holy Spirit — in such a manner that the same words shall have a different meaning from what he intended — is excessive and profane hardihood.

John Calvin, Commentary on Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, CCEL version, comments on Titus 1:7.

Entrusted with the Gospel: Give your pastor some encouragement

From deisringgod.org (with my endorsement graciously included):

The messages on 2 Timothy delivered at The Gospel Coalition’s 2009 National Conference, “Entrusted with the Gospel,” have been edited and made into a book, Entrusted with the Gospel: Pastoral Expositions of 2 Timothy.

Here’s the description:

Stemming from the Coalition’s 2009 National Conference and edited by D. A. Carson, this book explores the great responsibility of being entrusted with the gospel.

Through six sermons expositing 2 Timothy, John Piper, Phil Ryken, Mark Driscoll, Edward Copeland, Bryan Chapell, and Ligon Duncan model faithful preaching rooted in Scripture.

These pastors take up themes such as unashamed courage in gospel preaching, rightly dividing the word of truth, pitfalls and parodies of ministry, and finishing well.

A great resource for pastors, church leaders, and others in ministry, this volume will help readers better live the vision of 2 Timothy.

Purchase the book in our online store.

Here’s what a few folks have to say about it:

These authors delight in the realistic, uncompromising gospel ministry, which beautifully accents every page of this book. Entrusted with the Gospel abounds with ancient, biblical wisdom for every generation. It isn’t just a book for pastors but for everyone who needs, knows, loves, and proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ. God has entrusted every Christian with the glorious ministry of his abundant life-giving gospel, but like Timothy, many Christians are timid and lack confidence and wisdom in their efforts to herald the gospel entrusted to them. This book offers a much needed clarion call to gospel-established ministry for the church at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Burk Parsons, Editor, Tabletalk magazine; Minister of Congregational Life, Saint Andrew’s Chapel, Sanford, Florida

Every minister of the gospel would be wise to reflect carefully and prayerfully on 2 Timothy. The esteemed contributors to this volume will help you do just that with insightful biblical exegesis, discernment of pressing contemporary challenges, and love for Christ and his church.

Collin Hansen, Editorial Director, The Gospel Coalition; author, Young, Restless, Reformed

There are seasons of pastoral work in which the faithful shepherd faces serious challenges, and at these times he longs for words of refreshment, wisdom, encouragement, power, and endurance. These six expositions of Paul’s last charge to his suffering protégé provide a shot in the arm to stir both weary and strong shepherds to greater faithfulness in the ministry trust given to them by Christ. They are sober and sound catharses for the overseer’s soul. Through these sermons you hear the Spirit reminding you with joy, ‘Rely on me so that you can stay in the game with diligence until the end!’

Eric C. Redmond, author, Where Are All the Brothers? Straight Answers to Men’s Questions about the Church

Piper, Ryken, Driscoll, Copeland, Chapell, and Duncan are very different people, but they are all proven champions of the unchanging gospel of Jesus. This book will help all Christians study to be faithful to the task we have been entrusted with to spread that same message. Paul’s advice to his young apprentice Timothy is ably explained in these pages. Do your family, friends, and fellow church members a favor—read this book and apply it.

Adrian Warnock, author, Raised With Christ: How the Resurrection Changes Everything

What you hold in your hands is a diversity of approaches to expositional preaching by some of today’s most capable expositors who model the unity of the one gospel, applied by one man (Paul), in one context (the church in Ephesus), written to one pastor (Timothy). And because all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable, I am certain that you will profit from these expositions as you apply this one gospel, presented in 2 Timothy, to your own ministry context and your personal life.

Juan R. Sanchez Jr., Preaching Pastor, High Pointe Baptist Church, Austin, Texas

For preachers still wrestling with the place biblical exposition should have in ministry, Entrusted with the Gospel speaks with one voice—‘Preach the Word!’ The proclamation of God’s Word is God’s way of accomplishing his work in the world. These messages will encourage you to keep God’s Word at the center.

David R. Helm, Pastor, Holy Trinity Church, Chicago; Chairman, The Charles Simeon Trust

John Piper’s Romans Series in 11 Messages

From desiringgod.org:

Want to hear John Piper’s teachings on the Book of Romans but can’t commit to the 224 messages in his Romans sermon series?

Reformation Day: Today Only – Get “The Reformation Study Bible” for a Donation of Any Amount

From lignoier.org:

Today only, you can get a hardcover Reformation Study Bible for a donation of any amount. 

Widely considered one of the best tools available for Bible study and previously only available in the New King James translation, The Reformation Study Bible has been updated to the readable and accurate English Standard Version (ESV). This foundational resource was created by more than fifty scholars and features thousands of in-depth study notes, 96 theological articles, 19 in-text maps, colored maps, a presentation page, and 12 charts to help you understand the Bible better. 

Get your copy of The Reformation Study Bible for a donation of any amount (US only, 1 per household)

Reformation Day: Martin Luther in his own words – download Free!

From christianaudio.com:

Martin Luther: In His Own Words
by Martin Luther and read by David Cochran Heath

This compilation of many of Luther’s most important writings serves as an excellent introduction to those new to Luther. It also provides a fresh medium for people familiar with his writing. Included in this volume is: The Small Catechism, 95 Theses, On Faith and Coming to Christ, On Confession and the Lord’s Supper, Of the Office of Preaching, Excerpt from Luther’s Tower Experience, The Last Written Words of Luther, and more!

No coupon code necessary!

Discount Price: FREE
Normal Price: $9.98

Instructions: Order the entire audiobook for free until October 31st, no coupon code required.
This free download is available in MP3, M4B, and One-Click Zip!

Don’t forget to leave a starred review with your thoughts, after listening!

 

Reformation Day: Between Two Worlds interview with Carl Trueman

From Between Two Worlds:

Luther’s 95 Theses: An Interview with Carl Trueman

This Sunday is Halloween. But more importantly, it’s Reformation Day—when the church celebrates and commemorates October 31, 1517. It was on this day (a Saturday) that a 33-year-old theology professor at Wittenberg University walked over to the Castle Church in Wittenberg and nailed a paper of 95 theses to the door, hoping to spark an academic discussion about their contents. In God’s providence and unbeknownst to anyone else that day, it would become a key event in igniting the Reformation.

I thought it might be helpful to ask a few questions of Carl Trueman, Professor of Historical Theology and Church History, and Academic Dean, at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Dr. Trueman wrote his dissertation on Luther’s Legacy, teaches on Luther’s life and theology, and is writing the volume on Luther for the Theologians on the Christian Life series, forthcoming from Crossway, edited by Steve Nichols and me.

Had Luther ever done this before—nail a set of theses to the Wittenberg door? If so, did previous attempts have any impact?

I am not sure if he had ever nailed up theses before, but he had certainly proposed sets of such for academic debate, which was all he was really doing on October 31, 1517. In fact, in September of that same year, he had led a debate on scholastic theology where he said far more radical things than were in the Ninety-Five Theses. Ironically, this earlier debate, now often considered the first major public adumbration of his later theology, caused no real stir in the church at all.

What was the point of nailing something to the Wittenberg door? Was this a common practice?

It was simply a convenient public place to advertise a debate, and not an unusual or uncommon practice. In itself, it was no more radical than putting up an announcement on a public notice board.

What precisely is a “thesis” in this context?

A thesis is simply a statement being brought forward for debate.

What was an “indulgence”?

An indulgence was a piece of paper, a certificate, which guaranteed the purchaser (or the person for whom the indulgence was purchased) that a certain amount of time in purgatory would be remitted as a result of the financial transaction.

At this point did Luther have a problem with indulgences per se, or was he merely critiquing the abuse of indulgences?

This is actually quite a complicated question to answer.

First, Luther was definitely critiquing what he believes to be an abuse of indulgences. For him, an indulgence could have a positive function; the problem with those being sold by Johann Tetzel in 1517 is that remission of sin’s penalty has been radically separated from the actual repentance and humility of the individual receiving the same.

Second, it would appear that the Church herself was not clear on where the boundaries were relative to indulgences, and so Luther’s protest actually provoked the Church into having to reflect upon her practices, to establish what was and was not legitimate practice.

Was Luther trying to start a major debate by nailing these to the door?

The matter was certainly one of pressing pastoral concern for him. Tetzel was not actually allowed to sell his indulgences in Electoral Saxony (the territory where Wittenberg was located) because Frederick the Wise, Luther’s later protector, had his own trade in relics. Many of his parishioners, however, were crossing over into the neighboring territory of Ducal Saxony, where Tetzel was plying his trade.

Luther had been concerned about the matter of indulgences for some time. Thus, earlier in 1517, he had preached on the matter and consulted others for their opinions on the issue. By October, he was forced by the pastoral situation to act.

Having said all that, Luther was certainly not intending to split the church at this point or precipitate the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy into conflict and crisis. He was simply trying to address a deep pastoral concern.

Was Luther a “Protestant” at this point? Was he a Lutheran?

No, on both counts. He himself tells us in 1545 that, in 1517, he was a committed Catholic who would have murdered—or at least been willing to see murder committed—in the name of the Pope. There is some typical Luther hyperbole there, but the theology of the Ninety-Five Theses is not particularly radical, and key Lutheran doctrines, such as justification by grace through faith alone, are not yet present. He was an angry Catholic, hoping that, when the Pope heard about Teztel, he would intervene to stop the abuse.

How did that act of nailing these theses to the door ignite the Reformation?

On one level, I am inclined to say “Goodness only knows.” As a pamphlet of popular revolution, it is, with the exception of the occasional rhetorical flourish, a remarkably dull piece of work which requires a reasonably sound knowledge of late medieval Catholic theology and practice even to understand many of its statements. Nevertheless, it seems to have struck a popular chord, being rapidly translated into German and becoming a bestseller within weeks. The easy answer is, therefore, “By the providence of God”; but, as a historian, I always like to try to tie things down to some set of secondary or more material causes.

Certainly, it was used in a way that appealed to popular anti-clericalism, resentment of the Roman curia, and a desire to stop money flowing out of German speaking territories to Rome. Yet, even so, the revolutionary power of such a technical composition is, in retrospect, still quite surprising.

For those today who want to read the 95 Theses, what would you recommend?

The place to start is probably Stephen Nichols’s edition (with an introduction and notes).

Nevertheless, if you really want to understand Luther’s theology, and why it is important, you will need to look beyond the Ninety-Five Theses. Probably the best place to start would be Robert Kolb and Charles P. Arand, The Genius of Luther’s Theology.

The illustrations above, painted by Greg Copeland, are used by permission of Concordia Publishing House and found in Paul Maier’s excellent book for older kids, Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World.

Reformation Day is Coming! Get Nichols’ Monk and Mallet

In light of  Reformation Day coming on Sunday, October 31, 2010, I want to make a few posts this week to encourage both thanksgiving for the Lord’s sovereign work in the Reformation, and increasing in our understanding of the Reformation. This first post is to point out a resource that is a very accessible introduction to the Refromation: The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World (Crossway).

Mention history and some might struggle to stifle a yawn. But when presented as a narrative it can often be compelling reading. Stephen J. Nichols takes a key period in time, the Reformation, and presents its major players in a fresh way. From Martin Luther, a simple monk who wielded the mallet, to kings and queens, this book goes behind the scenes to uncover the human side of these larger-than-life Reformers. Along the way readers meet Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, Kings Henry VIII and Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, Anne Bradstreet, and many others.

For those wanting to see history in its context, Nichols also provides a sampling of primary source materials. It is an engaging read that will remind readers of the foundational truths that can never be taken for granted by the church in any age. Includes numerous illustrations. (Summary from Ligonier Ministries.)

False teachers are closer to your congregation than you think: A challenge to pastors and laymen for 2011

SOME YEARS AGO I RECEIVED a letter from someone who told me that he had read one of my books and was upset that I had often referred to the Lord Jesus Christ as “Jesus.” He quoted several passages about confessing Jesus as Lord (e.g., Rom. 10:9), and how such confession is the mark of having the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3). I wrote back, explaining that when I refer to the Lord Jesus Christ as Jesus, I am not thereby denying his lordship. Rather, I am not at that point affirming it. Further, the book he had read dealt with one of the synoptic Gospels. In the Gospels, the Lord Jesus is most commonly referred to simply as “Jesus.” So since I was commenting on one of the Gospels, I tended to refer to Jesus in the same way that Scripture does. When expounding some passage from, say, Paul, I tend to use, predominantly, the forms for addressing or referring to Jesus that the apostle uses.

I received back from him a multi-page document giving most of the passages that refer to Jesus as Lord, offering many reasons for the importance of such a confession, and much more of the same. He did not respond to a single point in my letter: I was merely fodder for his tirade.

It was not worth answering. From his vantage point, he was upholding the Gospel. To me, he was more than a little like people to whom Paul refers: “They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm” (1 Tim. 1:7).

Of course, Paul has particular opponents in mind, and their profile does not exactly match that of my letter writer. Nevertheless, in every generation there are people circulating in and around the church who teach “false doctrines” (1 Tim. 1:3) and devote themselves to peripheral matters. One chap I taught in an evening school became convinced he had the key to the Scriptures by some elaborate typology of circumcision. Another has written me from Australia, offering a massive synthesis that is remarkably silly, and condemning all the publishers because they are so narrow-minded and heterodox they won’t give his views the airing he thinks they deserve. Yet another has written voluminous and repeated letters insisting I should publish his manuscript because the entire world needs to read it.

What these people have in common is false doctrine, a focus on peripheral matters (even if not genealogies, 1 Tim. 1:4) that distort what is central, and an arrogance that discloses itself in endless “meaningless talk” (1 Tim. 1:6). What they lack is the goal of the gospel command, which is love, and sincere faith promoting God’s work (1 Tim. 1:4–5).

D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word, vol. 1 (Crossway, 1998). Reading for October 23. (For the last two years, I have encouraged many in our congregation to use volume 2 daily. We have found these readings to be food for fueling more love for Christ and greater obedience to him. They also help you think your way through many indidividual passages of the Bible. Carson’s The God Who is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story [Baker, 2010] – which I am using as a required text in one course this semester  - helps you think your way through the One Story behind each of the individual passages of Scripture. All three texts make great Christmas gifts. Pastors, why not challenge your leaders to read with you through one of the devotional texts through 2011? Laypeople, why not pick up The God Who is There and gain a greater sense of how the parts and whole of Scripture inform your walk with God, fear of him, and zeal for him? Learning the Word of God and increasing in our knowledge of Him is part of the work of  how we gain discernment to identify false teachers–people who can shipwreck our lives.)

Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family

Last week I received an NYT notice on Condoleezza Rice’s new book, Extraordinary, OrdinaryPeople: A Memoir of Family (Crown Archetype); see the NYT review. Yes, I am a Condi fan, so I rubbed together a bn.com Membership Card with a coupon, a few pennies, and free shipping, and convinced Barnes & Noble to send me the book. But I had to put the recent works by Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela on an amazon.com Wish List for post-New Year reading, which means I will look at them for the first time sometime around March 2011.