Luther’s “Glowing Discovery” by Roland Bainton

“But he did feel constrained to declare himself more fully to the general public. The Ninety-Five Theses had been given by the printer to all Germany, though intended only for professional theologians. The many bald assertions called for explanation and clarification, but Luther could never confine himself to a mere reproduction or explication of what he had said previously. The sermons written out by request on Monday do not correspond to the notes taken by hearers on Sunday. Ideas were so churning within him that new butter always came out of the vat. The Resolutions Concerning the Ninety-Five Theses contain some new points. Luther had made the discovery that the biblical text from the Latin Vulgate, used to support the sacrament of penance, was a mistranslation. The Latin for Matt. 4:17 read penitentiam agite, ‘do penance,’ but from the Greek New Testament of Erasmus, Luther had learned that the original meant simply ‘be penitent.’ The literal sense was ‘change your mind.’ ‘Fortified with this passage,’ wrote Luther to Staupitz in the dedication of the Resolutions, ‘I venture to say they are wrong who make more of the act in Latin than of the change of heart in Greek.’ This was what Luther himself called a ‘glowing’ discovery. In this crucial instance a sacrament of the Church did not rest on the institution of Scripture.”

Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther

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Theology, Heresy, and Orthodoxy by Bruce L. Shelley

Theology comes from two Greek words: theos, meaning God, and logos, meaning word or rational thought. So theology is rational thought about God. It is not identical with religion. Religion is our belief in God and our effort to live by that belief. Theology is the attempt to give a rational explanation of our belief: it is thinking about religion.

When we err in our thinking we call it Heresy or bad theology. Heresy is not necessarily bad religion, but like all wrong thinking, it may lead to bad religion.

Heretics, in fact, served the church in an unintended way. Their pioneering attempts to state the truth forced the church to shape ‘good theology’ — a rounded, systematic statement of biblical revelation.

Good theology we call orthodox–a term that always seems to stir emotions. As William Hordern has said, some people hate the thought of being unorthodox. ‘For them, orthodoxy, whether in politics, religion, or table manners, is the first necessity of life. To others, it is the most deplorable state into which a man can fall. It is equivalent to being stale, unoriginal, or just plain dull.’ In church history, however, orthodox Christianity is something purely denotative–referring simply to the majority opinion. It is that form of Christianity which won the support of the overwhelming majority of Christians and which is expressed by most of the official proclamations or creeds of the church. So catholic Christianity is orthodox.

Church history shows us that Christian theology is not primarily a philosophical system invented by men in the quiet of an academic study. Doctrines were hammered out by men who were on the work crew of the church. Every plank in the platform of orthodoxy was laid because some heresy had arisen that threatened to change the nature of Christianity and to destroy its central faith.”

-Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plain Language

Elders and the Dereliction of Theological Duty by Phil A. Newton

“Perhaps even more dangerous is the disappearance of theology in evangelical churches while spiritual leaders–in dereliction of their duties–ignore that it is happening. David Wells has pointed out, ‘No one has abducted theology,’ as in the abduction of a child. Rather, ‘The disappearance is closer to what happens in homes where the children are ignored and, to all intents and purposes, abandoned. They remain in the home, but they have no place in the family. So it is with theology in the church. It remains on the edges of evangelical life, but it has been dislodged from its center. Watchfulness of a congregation demands attentiveness to the church’s theological understanding. Neglect of theology cracks the church’s foundation, and ultimately affects its practice. In our day, one of the chief results of such neglect is the rise of pragmatism, which has moved the church away from a biblically centered ministry that effectively changes the church to a church structure that more resembles the world than the New Testament pattern. Wells adds, ‘It is evangelical practice rather than evangelical profession that reveals the change.’ As evangelicals, we still profess to believe the confessions and creeds of the church, but our practice reveals that we often do not understand the theological implications of what we profess. Spiritual leaders must remain alert and watchful for this kind of neglect.”

-Phil A. Newton, Elders in Congregational Life: Rediscovering the Biblical Model for Church Leadership

“The heart sings unbidden…” by C.S. Lewis

“For my own part I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that ‘nothing happens’ when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.”

-C.S. Lewis, Introduction to St. Athanasius on the Incarnation

 

“Christians of the past were no less concerned with being faithful to God than we are, and they sought to fit together all that Scripture has to say about the mysteries of Christianity…” by Justin S. Holcomb

“The fact that Christianity developed – that the sixteenth century, for instance, looked very different from the third, and that both looked very different from the twenty-first – can sometimes lead us to wonder what the essential core of Christianity is. As a result, some people decide to ignore history altogether and try to reconstruct ‘real Christianity’ with nothing more than a Bible. But this approach misses a great deal. Christians of the past were no less concerned with being faithful to God than we are, and they sought to fit together all that Scripture has to say about the mysteries of Christianity – the incarnation, the Trinity, predestination, and more – with all the intellectual power of their times. To ignore these insights is to attempt to reinvent the wheel, and to risk reinventing it badly.”

-Justin S. Holcomb Know the Creeds and Councils

“This is the flood tide that drowns legalism in its tracks.” by Sinclair Ferguson

“What, then, is the remedy for legalism?

At the stage we have reached in reflecting on the Marrow, it scarcely needs to be said.

It is grace. But it is not ‘grace’ as commodity, grace as substance. It is grace in Christ. For God’s grace to us is Christ.

Yes, it is the atonement; but not atonement as theory, or as an abstract reality, something that has an identity of its own outside of and apart from the Lord Jesus. For Christ himself, clothed as he is in his gospel work, is the atonement—’He is the propitiation for our sins.’

The remedy therefore is the one that healed Paul of the deep disease of legalism. It is not difficult to imagine that he too knew what it was to be beaten by Moses. He was after all ‘the chief of sinners.’ But here is what he discovered:

Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes though faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.

The remedy is that prescribed by Charles Wesley, discovering that these words are true:

‘O Jesus, full of truth and grace,—More full of grace than I of sin . . .’

Where sin abounds, where the law condemns, there grace abounds all the more even to the chief of sinners. Indeed especially to the chief of them, for the more sin there has been, the more God’s grace has abounded. This is the flood tide that drowns legalism in its tracks.”

-Sinclair Ferguson The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters

“Wherever you read LORD in your English Old Testament as the name of God remember it is his special personal name…” by Graeme Goldsworthy

“Exodus begins with the story of Moses’ birth, preservation and preparation for his mission. These events are not only favourite subjects in Bible teaching programmes for children but are also frequently mishandled. The story of Moses in the rushes must be related to the declared purpose of God in Exodus 2: 23-25, which shows us that Moses is to be the mediator of God’s acts in fulfilling the covenant promises made to the patriarchs. Notice the stress given to the identification of the God who sends Moses to be Israel’s leader. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exodus 2: 24, 3: 6, 13, 15 and 16, 4: 5, 6:2-5).

That the God of Israel is the God who is faithful to the covenant with Abraham is a fact now associated with the personal name of God. In most English versions of the Bible this holy name is translated LORD. Wherever you read LORD in your English Old Testament as the name of God remember it is his special personal name, and not merely a title – it expresses the character of God which has been revealed in his acts to redeem his people. The act and the knowledge of the name are frequently related: I will take you for my people.., and you shall know that I am Jehovah (the LORD) your God (Exodus 6: 7, compare 7: 5).”

-Graeme Goldsworthy Gospel and Kingdom

“Every man is born outside the garden; every man is born an active rebel…” by Graeme Goldsworthy

“The judgement involves firstly the disruption of the relationship between man and God. This is most clearly seen in the ejection of man from the Garden. Secondly there is the disruption of the relationship between man and woman, as the perfect harmony of male and female gives way to rivalry and accusation (Genesis 3: 12, 16). Thirdly there is a disruption of the relationship of man to his environment as the physical creation is no longer seen to be under the dominion of man (Genesis 3: 17-19). The word ‘disruption’ is not intended to detract from the seriousness of the sentence of death. Man outside the Kingdom is not merely under the sentence of death, but he is dead. The real meaning of death lies in the separation of man from the willing relationship of the Kingdom. Autonomous man is God-denying and therefore life-denying as well. Fallen man is dead spiritually. Outside of Eden there is no return. Man has made his choice to be a rebel and he is bound by his decision. Nor is there any free choice for the posterity of Adam. Adam’s fall from the Garden Kingdom is a fall of the whole human race. Every man is born outside the garden; every man is born an active rebel asserting autonomy and independence of the God of life. Human history and Scripture will show that man’s death state means that he infallibly chooses to hate God, for that is his ‘outside Eden’ nature. It is no longer a question of freedom to choose right or wrong, for man is free now only to be what he is- a sinner who hates God (cf. Romans 3: 9-18, 8: 6-8). Man has become a slave to sin- a slavery that is death.”

-Graeme Goldsworthy Gospel and Kingdom

Creation, God’s Sovereignty, and His Word by Graeme Goldsworthy

“The creation story must never be regarded merely as a sort of biblical ‘once-upon-a-time’. The fact that God is Creator and that man is his creature establishes at the outset the basis for understanding the Kingdom of God. When we speak of the sovereignty of God, we use a word which means his kingship, a kingship which is absolute and uncompromised. The creature is ruled and belongs, as a creature, within the sphere of God’s perfect rule. In making all things by the power of his word (II Peter 3: 5), God shows the right he has as Creator to rule all things. The only perfect existence for the creature is that which is found within the framework of the rule of God.

The creatorship of God tells us that all reality is God’s reality; all truth is God’s truth. Nothing exists except by the will and word of God. One could write whole books on the implication of creation for a Christian approach to education, politics, economics, family life, moral values, or scientific research. If we believe in God as Creator, we may not divide the world into spiritual and secular. The fact that all reality depends upon the creative word of God means that the word of God must judge the ideas of men about truth and error, not the other way round. Thus the Christian doctrine of the authority of Scripture has its roots in the Creation. The famous comment about the Bible’s authority made by the nineteenth century preacher C.H. Spurgeon (‘Defend the Bible? I’d as soon defend a lion!’) is wellknown and appropriate. But we also need to be reminded of the relationship of God’s word to the reasoning of man the creature about what is true- one does not take a pocket flashlight and shine it on the sun to see if the sun is real! The truth of God’s word cannot be subject to the puny light of man’s self-centred reason. God’s word created what is and must interpret what is.”

-Graeme Goldsworthy Gospel and Kingdom

“The danger in the ‘character study’ approach” to Bible Study by Graeme Goldsworthy

“The danger in the ‘character study’ approach is that it so easily leads to the use of the Old Testament characters and events as mere illustrations of New Testament truths, while at the same time giving the appearance of being a correct exposition of the meaning of the Word of God. But if the real substance is drawn from the New Testament, and it alone, we may well ask what is the point of applying ourselves to the Old Testament; why we may not just as well use non-biblical material to illustrate the New Testament. To make this criticism is not to deny the value of Old Testament narrative in illustrating New Testament principles; but we should not assume that such an approach uncovers the primary meaning of the text.

To press this point even – it should be recognized that the ‘character study’ approach is frequently used in a way that implies quite wrongly that the reader today may identify with the character in question. But we must reckon with both the historical and theological uniqueness of the characters and events if we are not to misapply them. Is it in fact true that if God took care of baby Moses, God will take care of me? Such application simply assumes that what applied to the unique figure of Moses in a unique situation applies to all of us, and presumably all the time. But why should our children be privileged to identify with Moses rather than with other Hebrew children at the time who may not have escaped Pharaoh’s wrath? The theological significance of Moses and of his preservation is all but ignored in this case.

With whom may the Christian identify in the narrative of David and Goliath- with the soldiers of Israel or with David? (Certainly not with Goliath!) But, someone will say, there is a lesson for us in both the soldiers and in David. The former show us the Christian who lacks faith, and the latter exemplifies the man who truly trusts God and overcomes against great odds (never mind the ingenious bit with the stones!). To a point this is true; the soldiers are afraid and David is a man who trusts God. But is that all? It certainly is not all when we read the narrative in its context, for then we find that there is something unique about David which cannot apply to us. David is the one who, immediately prior to the Goliath episode (I Samuel 17), is shown to be God’s anointed king. He receives the Spirit of God to do mighty deeds for the saving of Israel, according to the patmm of saviours already established in the book of Judges. So when it comes to his slaying of Goliath it is as the unique anointed one of God that he wins the battle.

The application of this truth to the believer is somewhat different from a simple identification of the believer with David. Rather we should identify with the ordinary people of God, the soldiers, who stand and watch the battle fought on their behalf. The same point may be made about the lives of all the biblical characters who have some distinct office bestowed on them by God. If their achievement is that of any godly man the lesson is clear, but if it is the achievement of a prophet, a judge or the messianic king, then to that extent it no more applies to the people of God in general than does the unique work of Jesus as the Christ.”

-Graeme Goldsworthy Gospel and Kingdom