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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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In the Roman Empire, a person who was given the power to speak on behalf of the Emperor was called Apostolos, or Apostle, meaning “sent one”. Likewise, an apostle of Jesus Christ was given the authority to speak the very words of God. To disobey the word of an apostle was to disobey God. And that’s still true today.

When we read the New Testament, we are reading the words of the Apostles as given by God, just as we read in Galatians:

“For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:11-12)

 And as is written in Ephesians:

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:19-20)

An Apostle had the power to speak in other languages, heal diseases, and cast out evil spirits, as we see in Matthew 10:8, Luke 9:1-2, and Acts 2:1-6. The were also given prophetic visions (Acts 11:1-17, Acts 16:9-10, 2Corinthians 12:1-10). Additionally, the word of an Apostle was from the Lord, was equal in authority to the Old Testament writings, and considered to be Scripture. (Galatians 1:11-12, 2 Peter 3:15-16). Along with all this, the Apostles established and governed the church, under Christ (Ephesians 2:20).

To be called an Apostle, one had to meet two qualifications: They had to have been a witness to the risen Lord (Acts 1:22, Acts 10:38-41, 1 Corinthians 9:1, 1 Corinthians 15:7-9) and they had to be personally appointed as an Apostle by Christ Himself (Matthew 10:1-7, Mark 3:14, Acts 1:24-26, Galatians 1:1).

Today, many false teachers will claim to be Apostles or that God will appoint new Apostles. They’ll say they have seen the risen Lord and were personally appointed by God, just as Mike Bickle of the International House of Prayer once said:

“Paul was anxious to talk to the end-times Apostles and Prophets more than the end-times Apostles and Prophets would have been to talk to Paul… the saints in the New Testament [will] wait in line to greet the apostles coming from this generation”

Bickle has also claimed to have been to heaven and had a personal audience with God.

Others might not use the word apostle, but they claim to have seen Christ and have been given new revelation you won’t find in the Scriptures. Avoid such liars and heretics!

“Such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:13)

The office of Apostleship is closed.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:8,

“Last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared also to me.”

Therefore, Paul was the last Apostle to be appointed. No others would come after him. When the Apostle John died at the end of the first century, the apostolic age came to an end. (Some scholars have argued that the end of the apostolic age came with the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. Either way, it wouldn’t have extended past the first century.)

But, the authority of the Apostles remains, having given us the Word of God.

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When I hear the word “judge”, I think of a short-circuited party scene. You know, where everyone is dancing and having a good time until the mom comes in, turns off the music and everything stops prematurely. A fun time is ruined and everyone has to go home.

That’s how I fell when I’m being judged, when I’m watching someone being judged, or when I’m judging somebody myself.

It’s like sitting on a ball of fun and popping it. There just really isn’t room for judgment.

Which is why it was so refreshing when Pope Francis, regarding homosexuality, said, “If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized.”

And it’s true. We, as humans, shouldn’t be marginalized. We shouldn’t marginalize.  It’s not our job.

So, why do we do it?

We could dance around it and say, “It’s a narcissistic, navel gazing, ego tripping, comparative culture. I mean, have you seen what we tweet about?

“O.M.G! Making cinnamon rolls for breakfast! #delish!”

Have you seen what we judge people for tweeting about?

But if we cut to the root of it, I think you’ll find that pride is the root of our vain ego and entitlement to compare ourselves to those around us. And as long as our pride is inflated, as long as we’re doing better than the next person, we’re okay. So we feed this comparative hubris with our ability to judge and discern who we are against someone else. We denote who is “lesser than”, and why, and we expel them from our ranks.

That’s not our job.

It reminds me of John, chapter eight when Jesus faced a mob that was eager to execute a woman caught in adultery. He put a stop to it with a simple challenge, saying, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” So of course, no one could.

Similarly, in C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”, he concludes in his chapter on pride saying, “If you think you are not conceited, you are very conceited indeed.”

It really makes me stop and wonder who are we to judge?

When we come from a simple place and are in desperate need of a Savior – and everyone comes from this place – we have nothing to compare ourselves to. We have no one to be “greater than”.

When I look at the gay community with my younger pair of eyes, I see an array of Christ-like people. Sometimes they seem more “Christ-like” than the actual Christian community, itself.

I think that the rift between the two communities exist because both parties feel judged, excluded, and hated by the other.

But it’s not our job to judge, compare or accuse each other. We don’t have the authority to do that.

In fact, Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore, encourage one another and build eachother up…”

That’s what we’re asked to do. That’s who we’re asked to be.

THAT’S our job.

So maybe everyone needs to ask, “Who are we to judge?”

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Stand up comic, comedy club owner and long-time friend Vinnie Brand stops by to discuss his early days doing stand up and so much more.

Vinnie has a unique technique in that he doesn’t write anything down – not a premise to a joke nor a structure to a story nor a blueprint to a routine – before hitting the stage.  It helps him feel and stay “in the moment”.

So, how does this translate into real life?

It’s been said that God can only be experienced “in the moment”.  Consider a young child – they are never upset about yesterday’s bottle, nor are they concerned about what they’re going to wear tomorrow.  They are perpetually, “in the moment”.  That’s so tough for us adults.

For Vinnie, he says that so long as he is better today than he was yesterday, he’s on the right track.  And typically, it’s not difficult at all to do better than whatever happened yesterday… especially compared to the yesterdays of his 20’s.

Today, however, one of Vinnie’s great joys is leading his kids in prayer.  He makes prayer time fun – because God is fun!  They pray for non-selfish things (friends or family who may be sick, global issues, etc.) as well as selfish things (to be a better person, do well on a test, etc.), all the while keeping prayers filled with fun and laughter.

Some might say this approach to prayer runs against Vinnie’s Catholic upbringing and convictions, but from liturgy and ritual to praise and prayer, Vinnie keeps his relationship with God on a level filled with laughter.

Now, as a practicing Catholic, Vinnie’s views on the Pope are interesting.  Knowing that Pope Francis will probably offend some of the older faithful around the world, Vinnie feels that he is working to reinvigorate the institution of the Catholic Church at large.

All that to say that, even as a Catholic, most of Vinnie’s encounters with God have less to do with Pope Francis as they are personal and intimate.

It’s this personal nature of his relationship with God that makes defending his faith incredibly simple – even in the face of Atheism.

Vinnie feels that he has an obligation to make the world a little better everyday.  Sometimes that happens by simply not overreacting when someone cuts him off on the freeway, sometimes it’s through positively influencing the kids on the soccer team he coaches, and of course, there’s his calling on stage.

It’s very important to Vinnie that whenever anyone sees his show, they walk away feeling great!  Sometimes that want to laugh, sometimes they need to laugh.  Either way, Vinnie’s goal is always to positively impact peoples’ lives.

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