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White Horse Inn: The Radical Reformation

On this program, the hosts continue their discussion which began last week on the influence of the Radical Reformation. How did the theology of the Anabaptist and Pietist movements end up influencing so many forms of Protestantism, both here in America and around the world? And more specifically, how did these views shape the founders of the Enlightenment and help create what we know today as Protestant Liberalism? Join us on this edition of White Horse Inn.

Christianity & LiberalismHost Quote:

“We are continuing our discussion of the impact of the other reformation we hardly ever talk about, the Radical Reformation, on liberal Protestantism. Radicalism didn’t come from the Reformation. It’s often called the ‘leftwing reformation’ but it actually came from the late Middle Ages. A movement that came to be known as radical Anabaptism was millennial and utopian, expecting a radical age of the Spirit that would wash away all history and tradition and all external authority.

“This radical impulse has been part of Protestantism down to the present day. And if you look at Protestant Liberalism today, it looks very similar to this radical Anabaptist movement, as do many evangelical movements. And so, in a really profound way, even though evangelicals and liberals are at each other’s throats, they are more engaged in a sibling rivalry than they are successors of Luther and Calvin. In this program, we want to look at the ongoing influence of this radical element in Protestantism that is totally different from the 16th century Reformation led by Martin Luther and other reformers.” – Michael Horton

Term to Learn:

“Liberalism”

In the sphere of religion, in particular, the present time is a time of conflict; the great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only the more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology. This modern non-redemptive religion is called “liberalism.”

This movement is so various in its manifestations that one may almost despair of finding any common name which will apply to all its forms. But manifold as are the forms in which the movement appears, the root of the movement is one; the many varieties of modern liberal religion are rooted in naturalism—that is, in the denial of any entrance of the creative power of God (as distinguished from the ordinary course of nature) in connection with the origin of Christianity. (Adapted from J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism)

(This podcast is by White Horse Inn. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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The Radical Reformation

According to a recent Pew study, 53% of American Protestants couldn’t identify Martin Luther as the one who started the Reformation, and fewer than 30% of white Evangelicals were unable to identify Protestantism as the faith which embraces the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

On this program, the hosts will attempt to show that contemporary Christians, whether liberal or conservative, have more in common with the theology of the Anabaptist reformers than they do with the views of Luther and Calvin expressed in the great Reformation solas. Join us as we continue to think about the Reformation on this edition of White Horse Inn.

Host Quote:

“Much of the hoopla surrounding the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this year has been, well, let’s just say, blather.  At a joint service in Lund, Sweden, on October 31st, 2016, Pope Francis and the president of the World Lutheran Federation exchanged warm feelings. Reverend Martin Junge, general secretary of the mainline Lutheran body said in a press release from the joint service, ‘I’m carried by the profound conviction that by working towards reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics, we’re working towards justice, peace and reconciliation in a world torn by conflict and violence.’  Clearly, the focus wasn’t on truth.

“Acknowledging Luther’s positive contributions, the Pope spoke of how important Christian unity is to bring healing and reconciliation to a world divided by violence.  But he added, ‘We have no intention of correcting what took place, but to tell that history differently.’ Perhaps the most evident example of missing the point is the statement by Swiss Pastor and President of an ecumenical church convention in Berlin last year, Christina Aus der Au.  She said, ‘Reformation means courageously seeking what is new and turning away from old familiar customs.’ That’s what the reformation was all about, why average lay people and archbishops gave their bodies to be burned and the western church was divided – a lot people just got really tired of the same old thing.

“The Wall Street Journal reports a Pew study showing that 53 percent of U.S. Protestants couldn’t identify Martin Luther as the one who started the Reformation.  Oddly, Jews, atheists and Mormons were more familiar with Luther than Protestants. In fact, fewer than three in ten white evangelicals correctly identify Protestantism as the faith that believes in the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Three in ten. Many today who claim the Reformation as their heritage are more likely heirs of the radical Anabaptists.  It might sound crazy, but here is my thesis. The Reformation isn’t over because it hasn’t begun in America. Protestantism is definitely over and the radicals won.” – Michael Horton

Term to Learn:

“Inner Light”

The “Inner Light,” also called “Inward Light,” is often thought to be a distinctive theme of the Society of Friends (Quakers). This Inner Light is understood to be a direct awareness of God that allows a person to know God’s will for him or her. This expression is often attributed to the teachings of George Fox in the 17th century, founder of the Society of Friends, who had failed to find spiritual truth in the English churches. He experienced an inner light and voice within, “that of God in every man.” The Inner Light should not simply be a mystical experience, but should also result in a person’s working for the good of others.

The practice of Inner Light is believed to be the direct path of ascension towards the divine nature within man. The theme of Inner Light appears in various spiritual traditions as well as in the main religions of the world. Buddhism believes that the one experiences the highest nature of the mind, reaches enlightenment and liberation from the Wheel of Samsara (i.e. bodily existence).

The Society of Friends was influenced by a pivotal figure, Jakob Böhme (1575-1624), a German mystic who was raised in Lutheranism. Böhme had considerable influence on Pietism and various mystical sects including Rosicrucianism and theosophy. Böhme sought a melding of various alchemical and Kabbalistic traditions that focused on the inner path to God, which finds parallels with the ancient heresy known as Gnosticism.  Böhme was also an important source for German Romantic philosophy, influencing F.W. Schelling. Böhme is also an important influence on the ideas of the English Romantic poet, artist, and mystic William Blake. The German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was profoundly influenced by him as well. The tradition of the Inner Light reaches back into ancient mystical philosophies which have come to profoundly shape modern thinking. (Adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. “Inner Light;” “Jakob Böhme”)

(This podcast is by White Horse Inn. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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On today’s episode, Dr. Stephen Nichols takes time to reflect on the legacy of the Reformation and how it shapes the task of the church today.

The Next Day

The year 2017, of course, was the five-hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, and October 31 was marked by commemorations of that movement and of Martin Luther’s nailing the Ninety-Five Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg. But after October 31 is November 1—the day after. It is worth asking what comes next. It is a good time to pause and reflect on what we can learn from the legacy of the Reformation and also to think about our legacy. Church history is a book that is still being written, and chapters are still being added to it.

We have a lot to be thankful for as we look back to the Reformers. We think not only of Luther; it wasn’t just his Reformation in Wittenberg. It was across the German lands. But we can go down to the Swiss city-states and see the Reformation there. And what a great legacy those places have left for us. We could go over to England and the legacy of the British Reformation under Henry VIII and we could also go a generation ahead of that and see the Puritans and what a great legacy they’ve left us. We have the Scottish Reformation and John Knox. And as all of these different branches of the Reformation made their way to the New World and settled into America, the landscape of American Christianity took shape. Ultimately, we can trace our roots back to the Lutheran church in Germany.

Scripture talks about how we drink from wells that we did not dig and we eat from vineyards that we did not plant (Deut. 6:11). We have to think of that when we think of the Reformers: they dug the wells, they planted the vineyards, they’ve helped us think through theology, they’ve helped us think through how to function as a church, and above all they’ve helped us think biblically about what we do and how we live. We drink from their wells and we eat from their vineyards.

But if Christ does not come back, there will be centuries still to come and many will come after us. What kind of wells are we digging for them? What kind of vineyards are we planting for them? Are they going to enjoy the same wells and the same vineyards that we’re enjoying from the Reformers? As we think through these questions, there is a monument to Luther at Eisenach that is worth contemplating. On the back of the statue are the words from his hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Above all, the Reformers reminded us of the importance and the primacy of knowing who God is. From there, we understand who we are. From there, we understand who Christ is and our relationship to God. It all flows from this knowledge of God.

Another thing about this monument that we need to note is that Luther is holding a Bible. This captures the essence of the Reformation. The Reformation was a movement that had tremendous reach and staying power; it impacted not just the church but also the culture. It was not simply a church history event; it was a world history event. And it happened because the Reformers knew they had to stand on the timeless, eternal, abiding truth of the Word of God. And if we want to leave a legacy for those who come after us, we need to realize that we too must stand upon the solid and sure foundation of God’s Word. That’s our task in our moment of church history: to be timeless by appealing to the eternal and living and the abiding Word of God.

Stay connected with 5 Minutes in Church History by getting the weekly podcast on iTunesSoundCloud, or via RSS. You can also subscribe to the blog via RSS and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

 (This podcast is by Ligonier Ministries. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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If someone bangs on your door tonight, they probably want candy. Five hundred years ago, someone banged on a door for a very different reason.

The Reformation Turns 500: How Luther Shaped Our World

On this day in 1517—at least according to tradition—a German monk-turned-Bible-professor nailed a list of debate topics to a church door, altering the course of history.

The Reformation Turns 500 - How Luther Shaped Our WorldNow, we don’t know the exact date when Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses, although he did submit them to his archbishop on October 31. What we do know is that Luther never intended to defy the church or split Western Christendom. When he challenged all comers to a debate on the sale of indulgences—which were essentially a way to buy into Heaven—he wanted to call God’s ministers back to Scripture.

But those ministers resisted. Luther wouldn’t budge, and the result was what we now know as the Protestant Reformation.

Historian Philip Schaff writes that next to the beginning of Christianity, the Reformation was “the greatest event in history.” That may be hyperbole, but not by much. If you worship in a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, non-denominational, or—of course—Lutheran congregation, you’re directly affected by Martin Luther. Anglicans have been affected too, and even Roman Catholics saw reforms within that communion that came about because of Martin Luther.

And the Reformation’s influence goes far beyond the church doors. Luther’s appearance before the Diet of Worms—that famous moment when he reportedly said, “Here I stand, I can do no other,” has been called “the trial that led to the birth of the modern world.”

Our ideas about free inquiry, democracy, education, and capitalism can all ultimately be traced back to the Reformation.

And the Reformation also reemphasized ideas like the sacredness of all callings, and spheres of authority in human society. In Luther’s mind, individuals and civil magistrates, as well as the clergy, were responsible to read, understand, and obey the Bible.

As Eric Metaxas and I discuss on this week’s BreakPoint podcast, Luther came to personify the power of Scripture. In his outstanding new biography on Luther, Eric tells how this bold reformer stood at the intersection of the Middle Ages and the modern world, insisting that there is “daylight between truth and power.”

And it was this idea—that God’s written word is the highest authority in the Christian faith, available to everyone—that birthed a still more revolutionary idea: that God Himself admits us into His kingdom by grace alone.

“The Reformation,” wrote the late Episcopal priest Robert Capon, “was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof Grace—bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us singlehandedly.”

Now the fallout of the Reformation wasn’t all good, and even today Christianity is plagued with divisions, disagreements, and distortions of Luther’s project. Luther, himself, was far from perfect.

But I’m a mentee of Chuck Colson, who together with Father Richard John Neuhaus brought evangelicals and Catholics together over common cause. I pray and believe that the divisions of the 1500s—which remain real and significant to this day—can be addressed without sacrificing truth, and yet in the meantime, we can treat each other with love and grace, and should work together whenever and wherever we can.

As we mark 500 years since Luther’s initial protest, it’s clear there’s more reforming to be done on both sides of the Wittenberg door. But that’s why Reformation is not just a moment in history. It’s a posture. During the next 500 years, the sound of Luther’s hammer should call us as the people of God to conform ourselves to the Word of God, and ultimately to the Person of God in Jesus Christ.

The Reformation Turns 500: How Luther Shaped Our World

Delve further into the history of the Protestant Reformation by checking out the resources at the Colson Center online bookstore. One great suggestion is Eric Metaxas’s latest book “Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World.” Get your copy now. And listen to the podcast of John talking with Eric about Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the modern world by clicking here.

Resources

Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet on Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Birth of the Modern World

  • Breakpoint.org | October 30, 2017

Top 10 Trials That Shook The World: Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms

  • Kayla Webley| Time.com | April 8, 2011 

Visit Breakpoint.org to get further information about the many great books and other resources available there and you can link up to our social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

By Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.

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Why the Reformation Remains Relevant After 500 Years

Welcome back to the Ask Pastor John podcast. We have an amazing episode this week related to the Reformation from a listener named David. “Hello, Pastor John! The ‘big’ anniversary of the Reformation is coming up at the end of this month, so this question is pressing to me. Which of the five solas is the heart of the Reformation? Which one is most important? Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), or soli Deo gloria (to the glory of God alone)?”

Why the Reformation Remains Relevant After 500 YearsI can’t answer this question any more than I can answer, Which wing of an airplane is most important? Or, What’s most important, the wings or the jet engines? If a wing goes, the plane crashes. If one of the solas goes, salvation crashes.

This is, I think, why the Reformation was and remains such a huge issue. It’s not as though a person can cherry-pick parts of God’s plan to save sinners while neglecting the others or distorting the others and still hope to see sinners saved. I think the most helpful thing to do would be to explain why these solas are needed, what they are, and why they are so connected that if one goes, the rest can’t save.

The Problem

The reason they’re so needed is the issue of salvation. All human beings are sinners (Romans 3:23). That means two things about each of us that we can’t fix by our own initiative.

First, we are spiritually dead in our trespasses (Ephesians 2:1–3). We have to have spiritual life, and we can’t make that life happen. We’re dead. We have to be born again.

Second, we’re under God’s wrath (John 3:36). God is just and hates sin, and in his justice, he aims to deal justly with sinners and punish us. So one, we need life, which we can’t create, and two, we need God’s wrath to be turned away. We need him to be one hundred percent for us and not against us, and in our guilt, we can’t make that happen.

That’s the double problem that God himself has solved through the gospel. The Reformation was reclaiming how God solves those two problems. The five solas explain how we get saved. The answer of the Protestant Reformation is this: our being made alive in Christ, and God’s being one hundred percent for us forever, is by God’s grace alone; on the basis of Christ alone; received through faith alone; so that all things lead ultimately to the glory of God alone; with Scripture alone as the only final, decisive authority for discerning, teaching, and defending those truths. That’s the way the alones go together.

The Solution

The word grace implies free gift — not earned, not merited, not deserved — which means that our new birth, our being given life, was God’s doing freely, as a gift. We did not make it happen. We were dead. Our new life, our desire, our ability to believe and love, is all of grace, which is exactly what Paul says in Ephesians 2:5 — namely, that he made us alive by grace. You have been saved.

It’s the same with God’s removal of his own wrath. He says in Romans 3:24, “[We] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation” (Romans 3:24–25). That happens by a removal of wrath by his blood, so God himself, without any of our doing or acting, completely canceled our debt on the cross.

He bought that deliverance for us. He propitiated his own wrath by his grace as a gift. We added nothing to this transaction on the cross. It was grace alone. Not grace plus some of our merit, or some of the saints’ merits, or some of Mary’s merits. It was Christ and grace alone.

So there’s the key. What I could not do (I could not contribute anything at all) God did, paying for my sins, propitiating his wrath at the cross, and then raising me from the dead. All by grace alone, meaning the free gift cannot be added to by my merit or effort, or anybody else’s merit or effort.

Stand or Fall Together

Now here’s why they all stand and fall together. It’s amazing how the Bible gives us explicit answers to this, so let me go through it quickly.

First, grace alone and Christ alone. Galatians 2:21 says, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” Therefore, as Galatians 5:2 says, “If you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.” In other words, Christ alone is the ground of God’s being one hundred percent for us, not Christ plus circumcision, or any other human act or merit. If you add to Christ as the ground of God’s being one hundred percent for you, Paul says grace is nullified. So in Paul’s mind, Christ alone and grace alone stand and fall together.

Second, grace alone and faith alone. Romans 4:14 states, “If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null” — nullified, just like grace was — “and the promise is void.” Here’s the key: “It depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace” (Romans 4:16). In other words, if God’s blessings of new life and no wrath are free gifts of grace, the only way a human may enjoy them is by receiving the gift, not doing. Faith, not law keeping, is key. If you add to faith as a means of receiving new birth and justification, you nullify grace. Paul says in Romans 4:16 that faith alone and grace alone stand and fall together.

Third, grace alone and the glory of God alone. Ephesians 1:5–6 says that the entire design of salvation by grace, from before the foundation of the world, was that the “glory of grace” would be praised: “He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.” In other words, if adding to Christ as the ground of God’s being one hundred percent for us nullifies grace, and if adding to faith as the means of enjoying the gift of God being one hundred percent for us nullifies grace, then the great aim of it all — the praise of the glory of that grace — will be nullified as well.

The reason God gives life and justifies this way — by grace alone on the ground of Christ alone, through faith alone — is because he aims for the final and ultimate glory for it all to go to himself alone. That’s what Paul says in Romans 11:36: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” And all of this can only be known and believed and enjoyed and taught, with final and decisive authority, from the Scripture alone.

So here’s my conclusion. Therefore, for the sake of the gospel of new life and justification — by God’s grace alone, on the basis of Christ alone, received by faith alone, so that all things lead ultimately to the glory of God alone — we take our stand with confidence and joy on the final, decisive authority of Scripture alone. All the solas stand or fall together.

Find other recent and popular Ask Pastor John episodes here.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.

(By Desiring God. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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When it comes to the Reformation, one of the most important topics to discuss is Martin Luther on Scripture. Recorded on location in Germany, Dr. Stephen Nichols looks at Luther’s teaching on Scripture and his three steps for reading and studying the Bible.

Martin Luther and the Bible

When it comes to the Reformation, one of the most important topics to discuss is Martin Luther on Scripture. There are a number of things that we could say about this topic, but let’s look at just a few.

The first is the authority of Scripture. We see this in Luther at the Leipzig Debate in 1519. One of the monuments to Luther, in Eisleben, has an etching on the side of a very angry-looking Roman Catholic official. That angry-looking official is Johann Eck. On the other side of Eck is Luther, and Eck is holding in his hand some bound-up documents, while Luther is holding a book—the Bible—and that tells it all. Eck at Leipzig appealed to the teachings of the councils, the teachings of the church, and those rolled-up documents represent that. He came at Luther and the Wittenberg Reformers from the context of the church and the church’s authority. And Luther said to Eck, “I have an authority that is older than yours,” and, of course, this astounded Eck and he said, “Name them.” Luther said, “Paul and Peter and John.” He appealed directly to the authority of Scripture at Leipzig and, of course, he did the same thing at Worms. So, at Worms he said, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God.” When he said, “Here I stand,” he was standing on Scripture and standing firm on the foundation of Scripture. And because Scripture is authoritative, we should read it and we should study it.

Among the many things Luther said about the Bible, he offered a lot of counsel about how to read it and study it. One text in particular that helps us is a preface to a collection of his writings in German. He gives three steps for reading and studying the Bible. The first step is oratio, or “prayer.” The Psalms are especially helpful here. Luther was very familiar with the Psalms. As a monk, he would have been in the Psalms seven times a day. They took Psalm 119:164 very literally: “Seven times in the day I will praise Thee,” that text says. So Luther and his fellow monks would take seven periods out of their day to spend in the Psalms. Luther loved the Psalms. Some contend that Luther had the Psalter memorized, and he often had the Hebrew Psalter with him, and after that he would also have the Latin Psalter with him as a monk. This was a book he lived in, and it was a book that taught him not only that he should learn Scripture but that he should pray Scripture. So, the Psalms can be very helpful for us as we think about Scripture and as we seek to approach it prayerfully.

The second step is meditatio. Luther says the temptation is to push on, to rush on, to just simply read the text. Luther cautions us, he counsels us, he encourages us to simply pause, to meditate on God’s Word. And again, the Psalms are helpful here because the psalmists often call on us to meditate on God’s Word.

The third step in studying the Bible is tentatio, or “struggle.” Just as Jacob wrestled with the angel, we wrestle and struggle with Scripture. The struggle, Luther says, comes from our unbelief, our doubt, our stubbornness; ultimately, it comes from our sin, and the Word of God confronts it all.

That’s Luther on Scripture, the authority of Scripture, and how to read and study and learn and labor in and even love this Word that God has given us.

Stay connected with 5 Minutes in Church History by getting the weekly podcast on iTunesSoundCloud, or via RSS. You can also subscribe to the blog via RSS and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

 (This podcast is by Ligonier Ministries. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Martin Luther on Vocation with Michael Horton

On today’s episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Drs. Stephen Nichols and Michael Horton discuss Martin Luther’s recovery of the doctrine of vocation.

Stephen Nichols (SN): Recently we had our good friend Dr. Michael Horton here. I had left him on a deserted island. He’s tanned, rested, and he’s back, and we have him again. Dr. Horton, good to have you back.

Michael Horton (MH): Thank you, Steve. Great to be back.

SN: Did you enjoy your time?

MH: It was restful. Amazingly restful for five minutes.

SN: Well, I’m going to put you back to work for another five minutes. You recently joined us at the Ligonier National Conference, which, of course, focused on the Reformation, and you spoke on the doctrine of vocation. Now, when we think of Martin Luther, we think of thesolas, we think of the authority of Scripture, we think of the necessity of justification by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone. But one of the crucial doctrines of Luther is vocation. Could you expand on that a little for us?

Martin Luther on Vocation with Michael Horton

Image: David Schrock

MH: You know, a lot of people think of justification as the material principle of the Reformation, with Scripture alone as the formal principle, but one historian has said, actually, that in terms of the greatest impact on the culture, it was the doctrine of vocation that made the biggest difference long term. And you can sort of see why because people who aren’t Christians, who aren’t going to church, who aren’t hearing the gospel proclaimed week after week, have still been touched by Christians who are. And there were so many Christians who were revolutionized by the gospel that it changed their whole outlook on Monday morning. Were they just happier because they understood they were justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? That’s part of it. But there was more to it. They had categories for thinking about Monday through Friday. They weren’t just working for the weekend. They had a transcendent view of things. R.C. Sproul has been saying for years, “Right now counts forever,” and they had a real sense of that. Even when a milkmaid is milking a cow, Luther said, she is glorifying God just as much as a preacher in a pulpit preaching a sermon.

SN: So, this is one of the things Luther helped us with. He recovered the word vocation, which, by the time of Luther, really was applied only to the priests.

MH: Ordained ministry, yeah.

SN: To the monks, the nuns, who had given their life to the church. Everyone else was just putting in time. So, Luther comes along and calls these ordinary roles—fathers or sons or daughters or wives—a calling, and our work is a calling.

MH: You sometimes hear in Christian circles that someone received a call. But really, everyone is called. Even non-Christians. That is another revolutionary thing about it. The Reformers believed that Scripture taught that everyone is called. Even people who don’t believe in God receive a calling because they are created in the image of God, and in His common grace God actually causes non-Christians to serve Christians even. You don’t have to buy Christian milk . . .

SN: From a Christian cow . . .

MH: From a Christian cow with “John 3:16” on the cup. Our vocation is one of those things that we share with everyone around us. When I am loving and serving my neighbors, when I am changing diapers, when I’m cleaning the car, all of these things are callings. And we don’t have just one; we have a bunch of callings, Luther said. And it really makes a big difference. And the gospel wasn’t just, “Let’s all go to work with a greater sense of the grandeur of what we are doing,” but really a sense of, “You have no one to pacify anymore.” Everyone was so anxious and spent all their energy, if they cared about it at all, on climbing their way to heaven. Well, we don’t have to. God has climbed down to us. Now what do we do? We love and serve Him by loving and serving our neighbors. And I love Luther’s line: “God doesn’t need our good works; our neighbors do.” God doesn’t need them, we don’t need them, but our neighbors do.

SN
: Thank you, Dr. Horton, and thank you for reminding us of another piece of the great legacy of the Reformation—vocation.

MH: Thank you, Dr. Nichols. Great to be with you.

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In today’s episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Dr. Stephen Nichols takes us to Wartburg Castle and Martin Luther’s remarkable work there.

What Luther Expects

In a short text from 1522, Martin Luther told his readers what to expect to read when they read the Gospels. Now, this was an important moment in Luther’s life. In April 1521, Luther appeared before the Diet at Worms and had his famous “Here I stand!” moment. In the aftermath of that council, Luther was spirited away to Wartburg Castle, overlooking the town of Eisenach. And there, in what is truly a modest study, Luther wrote three texts.

One of them was very significant: it was a translation of the Greek New Testament into German. It’s a remarkable feat when you think that Luther was able to do that in such a short amount of time. It shows us that not only was Luther bold but he was also quite a scholar.

Another thing that Luther wrote while he was in the Wartburg was a series of sermons. These are called the Church Postils or the Kirchenpostille. They were sermons that expound upon the gospel and the main theme of the New Testament. With the Bible having been out of the reach of the church for so long, preaching had also been out of the reach of the church for so long. Luther was not only concerned with putting the Word of God in the hands of the people—hence his translation of the New Testament—but he also wanted them to understand what they were reading. So, he wrote these sermons, not so much so that they would be preached verbatim, but that these sermons would model how the Word of God should be handled from the pulpit.What Luther Expects

As a forward to the Church Postils, Luther wrote a third text called A Brief Instruction on What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels. In it, Luther starts off by saying in effect, “Well, there’s four Gospels, right? Wrong. That is the wrong way to approach this. You have to come at this as one gospel. In fact, not only do you have to come at the four Gospels as telling the one story of the one gospel, you have to look at the Epistles as an exposition of this one gospel. What you look for when you read the Bible is the gospel.” This is what Luther says: “So, you see that the Gospel is really not a book of laws and commandments that requires deeds of us, but a book of divine promises in which God promises, offers, and gives us all His possessions and benefits in Christ.”

At another point, Luther says this about what the gospel is and about what the essence of the Bible is: “For at its briefest, the Gospel is a discourse about Christ, that He is the Son of God and became a human being for us, that He died and was raised, that He has been established as a Lord over all things.” He goes on: “This is the sum of which Paul took away from his understanding of the four Gospels and the historical Jesus,” and further, “Paul takes this in hand and spins it out in his epistles.” And then Luther also says, “The Gospel is a story about Christ—God’s and David’s Son—who died and was raised and is established as Lord. This is the Gospel in a nutshell. Just as there is no more than one Christ, so there is and may be no more than one Gospel. Since Paul and Peter, too, teach nothing but Christ in the way we have just described, so their epistles can be nothing but the Gospel.”

What do you look for and what do you expect? Well, you should look for and expect the gospel.

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In this 200th-anniversery episode, Dr. Stephen Nichols is joined by a special guest to celebrate 5 Minutes in Church History.

Stephen Nichols: For our two-hundredth installment, we have a very special guest, Dr. R.C. Sproul. Welcome back.R.C. Sproul discusses Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses

R.C. Sproul: Thank you very much, Steve. It’s a delight to be with you.

Stephen: Well, not only are we celebrating the two-hundredth installment, it happens to fall in the year 2017. Now, why is this an important year, Dr. Sproul?

RC: It’s the five-hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation as dated from Martin Luther’s posting of the Ninety-Five Theses at the church door at Wittenberg.

Stephen: It is indeed. You know, as you stop and think about that moment—and I know it’s a moment you’ve thought about often—you cannot overestimate the value of what happened on October 31, 1517.

RC: I quite agree on that. That’s a watershed moment in the history of the church.

Stephen: So, as you think of Luther and his influence not only on the church, but even on Western history and culture, just talk for a little bit about the influence of Luther in your own life.

RC: When I became a Christian in a sudden conversion in my freshman year of college, I assumed and adopted the basic standard Arminian position on theology. Roger Nicole used to say that we were by nature Pelagian in our thinking. And it wasn’t until I really started studying the Reformers that I came to an understanding of the doctrines of grace and really understood justification by faith alone. Now, obviously, as a new convert I had no concept of theology. I wasn’t involved in debates about the how and the why and the where of justification; I just knew I was a sinner who had been forgiven of his sin. But when I began to study the doctrine of sola fide—justification by faith alone—which was so central to Luther’s protest, then my eyes were opened and I realized, yes, this is exactly what happened to me. I didn’t do anything to earn it; I didn’t do anything to achieve it. It was solely by the grace of God.

Stephen: I’ve heard you refer many times to the last sermon that Luther preached at Wittenberg. In that sermon, Luther gives a stern warning to his congregation about this very doctrine and its place and its prominence in the life of the church.

RC: Yes, he said that in every generation, the gospel has to be understood anew; it has to be preached with vigor and urgency, because as quickly as we receive it and understand it, like the ancient Galatians, we are fast to move away from it and try to interject some additive that we give to secure our own justification. It is always faith plus something rather than faith alone.

Stephen: We smuggle works in.

RC: Yes, we do.

Stephen: You know, Paul warned Timothy, “Guard the good deposit.” We see how God raised up men through church. That is why study church history: to remind us of these men God raised up to guard that good deposit, and that’s even the task in our own day. We continue this great legacy we’ve been handed and guard the good deposit of faith.

RC: Yes indeed.

Stephen: Dr. Sproul, I’d like to thank you for joining us on this moment—a little opportunity to step back in time and remember our good friend Martin Luther and how God used him to bring about reformation in the church. And here we are, five hundred years later, still enjoying the benefits and the fruits of his labors. We only pray that God would use this generation to make its mark, so that five hundred years from now we might be talking about the legacy that the church of today leaves behind.

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What are Christians known for in our day? If you ask people on the street this question, you’re likely to get answers that relate to particular moral or political concerns, but though they may be important, do these issues get to the heart of our faith?

No creed but Christ?In her book Creed or Chaos (1940), Dorothy Sayers observed that “it is worse than useless for Christians to talk about the importance of Christian morality, unless they are prepared to take their stand upon the fundamentals of Christian theology.” On this program the hosts will discuss Sayer’s profound observations as they begin a new series on the importance of recovering creeds and confessions in contemporary Christianity. Join us for this edition of the White Horse Inn.

Host Quote:

This is the thing that troubles me about a lot of evangelical engagement in the public square. ‘The really important thing for us to stand for that people should know us for is our position on…’ — and then you go down the list of the public moral issues. The latest report that I saw from Pew said that evangelicals are the only group in America that went significantly up in the level of dislike in the American public. All other religious groups kind of either stayed the same or had a higher approval rating than they’ve had in the past. Only evangelicals went down in their approval rating. You don’t get the sense that it’s because CNN figured out that, wow, these people believe in the two natures of Christ united in one person. They’re crazy. Rather, it’s because there’s something about the moral campaign that has just turned people off. You ask people what is an evangelical and the first thing you hear out there is not the articles of the Nicene Creed. This is what Dorothy Sayers means by it being worse than useless to talk about morality without the theology that undergirds it. – Michael Horton

Term to Learn:

“Creeds and Confessions”

A creed is a confession of faith; put into concise form, endowed with authority, and intended for general use in religious rites, a creed summarizes the essential beliefs of a particular religion. According to this definition, there are three Christian creeds: the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian. The Protestant confessions of the Reformation era were intended to restore to the church its true image and identity, which, it was widely agreed, had been obscured by the abuses of the later Middle Ages. The heart of the Reformation creeds is the rediscovery of the Gospel as, in Luther’s memorable phrase, “the real treasure of the church.” The church, Luther held, is the creation of the gospel; it is the word of God in Jesus Christ that makes the church the church.

Lutheran Confessions: The Book of Concord containing Luther’s Large and Small Catechisms, the Augsburg Confession, Melanchthon’s “Apology for the Augsburg Confession,” Luther’s Smalcald Articles, Melanchthon’s “Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope,” and the Formula of Concord.

Reformed Confessions: The Westminster Standards containing The Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism, and the Smaller Catechism (primarily used in Presbyterian Churches). The Three Forms of Unity containing The Belgic Confession of Faith, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of the Synod of Dort (primarily used in Reformed Churches).

Reformed Baptist Confession: The London Baptist Confession of 1689. (Adapted from The Encyclopedia of Religion s.v. “Creeds.”)

(This podcast is by White Horse Inn. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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