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Reformation and Scripture
When Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenburg Door, he threw the first punch in a doctrinal fight. It was not Luther’s objective to split the church. He only wanted to correct the ship’s doctrinal course, and to return the Church to her most fundamental truths such as justification by faith and the authority of Scripture.
This triggered an epic brawl scholars call the Protestant Reformation.
It is Protestant because it flowed out of Luther’s protest against the false teaching and excesses of the church.
It is a Reformation because it unburied important theological structures from an avalanche of ecclesiastical, political, and theological debris.
Reformation has to do mainly with theology and doctrine. The Protestant Reformation also happened to trigger a Revival, but let’s save that for the final chapters.
The first urgent requirement to deliver the church from her chaotic condition is a thoroughgoing theological Reformation. We stand in desperate need of a penitent return to the Bible and our first principles
Chief among these principles would be: a) the authority of Scripture, and b) justification by faith. Ironic, isn’t it. I would like to devote this chapter to the first principle and the next to the second.
The Authority of Scripture
For Luther, the tug of war was between the Authority of Scripture vs. the Teaching Magisterium of the Catholic Church. “A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or a council without it.”1 Fighting words.
Today’s tug of war is different. On one side stands the Authority of Scripture. On the other stand all the forces that would topple Scripture from its epistemological throne. These would include empiricism, rationalism, irrationalism, nihilism, emotionalism, subjectivism, hedonism, pragmatism, and a diabolical host of other -isms.
These boil down to a ceaseless tug of war between two possible sources of ultimate truth. Source one: ME. Source two: NOT ME.
When we take our stand on the authority of Scripture, we are saying that the source of Ultimate Truth is found, not by looking within, but by looking to an external authority, i.e., the pages of Scripture.
When we take our stand on any other source, we are saying that we find truth by looking within and deciding what structure of reality best comports with our subjective opinion. This, in effect, makes us our own gods. “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).
That must have been a very weird time to be alive.
So it is today. It’s a very weird time to be alive.
Post-modernism has made truth into a choose-your-own buffet. Look within for what resonates. Put that on your plate. Enjoy.
The first reformation must be epistemological.
Where do we get our truth? I know I am only echoing a thousand other voices, but for some reason the echo keeps fading.
How can we shout this to a church caught in a maelstrom of conflicting ideologies?
• In a culture built on Reason, the church could make the case for Scripture based on reason. Logic. Presuppositions. Apologetics.
• In a culture built on Emotion, the church might make its case based on emotion — that there has never been a more life-giving, emotionally healthy worldview than biblical Christianity. Jesus Christ and his message radiate a beauty and social goodness unparalleled in the annals of human thought.
• In a culture built on Empiricism, we might argue that the five senses had to come from somewhere, and that the whole house of science is built on a leap of faith that our observations are telling us the truth.
• In a culture built on Irrationality, we probably need a combination of joy, sarcasm, good stories, and pithy aphorisms, joined to a sacrificial love. A lot like Jesus. In the end, irrationality is a painful way to live, and its adherents will soon be looking for a better way.
I am saying that, viewed from the standpoint of any ideology, a decent apologetic can still make the case for the supremacy of Scripture. Biblical Epistemology wins.
The Power of the Gospel
In any event, the main thing remains that we proclaim Christ. We are called to teach, preach, share, and gossip the gospel. The good news is that the Holy Spirit goes wherever the gospel goes, no matter what kind of audience we’re talking to.
Scripture packs its own power. If we put it out there wisely, and frame it lovingly, it can still blast through the devil’s deceptions with ease.
Sadly, however, from the modernism of the twentieth century, to the seekerism/consumerism of the twenty-first, to the subjectivism of today, the doctrinal package called the gospel has largely warmed the bench, waiting to be called into the game. “You’re just basing all that on the Bible. Who says that is true?”
I am not surprised when the world says this. I am almost crushed when the church says it.
Consider the problem of “theological drift” at some of our more influential evangelical colleges and university. I am not saying that these institutions are losing the battle for the Bible. I am just saying the battle is raging in places a previous generation considered immune. Thankfully, most, if not all, of these schools are doing their best to stand strong.
1 Cited in Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2010), 180.
To read the rest of Chaos, please pick up the book!
[Please click here to be notified when the book is released.]
You might have caught some changes in file names, podcasts episode names and titles, because I have basically changed the numbering system to make the whole structure of the book more clear, it’s a work in progress. I’m also changing chapter titles…
With this episode Bill continues giving away most of this book, as he shares it with you on the podcast. The message is urgent. The message is timely. If it strikes a chord with you, please share it with your friends. I appreciate your prayers.
There has never been a more important moment in the life of the modern church. It is time for us to return to our roots and seek God as never before.
Here’s the Table of Contents (subject to change)
CHAOS: AS GOES THE CHURCH SO GOES THE WORLD
Preface: Fire on the Horizon
Intro: As Goes the Church
Part One: Disturbing Trends in Today’s Church
1. The Giants Have Perished
2. Cheap Epistemology
3. The Song that Never Ends
4. For the Love of All That’s Holy
5. Whatever Happened to Hell?
6. Modern Day Pharisees
7. Kingdom Mania
8. The Discipleship Captivity of the Church
9. The Whole Bible for the Whole Church
10. The Leadership Captivity of the Church
11. How the Church Murdered Grace
Part Two: The Revival We Need
12. Reformation and Scripture
13. Reformation and Justification by Faith
14. Some Theology Concerning Revival
15. Some History Concerning Revival
16. Proclaim Christ
Afterword: What’s an Evangelical?
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Please click here to be notified when the book is released.
1 Michael J. Kruger, “Why We Can’t Unhitch from the Old Testament” from the Gospel Coalition, retrieved June 19, 2020 from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/irresistible-andy-stanley/.
2 Stanley, Andy. Irresistible (p. 103). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
3 Ironside was the popular pastor of Chicago’s historic Moody Church. You can find his booklet in the public domain here: https://www.wholesomewords.org/etexts/ironside/wrongly.pdf
4 Stanley, Andy. Irresistible (p. 97). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
5 From a personal conversation reported at https://www.michaelrydelnik.org/hitched-old-testament/ and relieved, June 28, 2020.
6 In the Gospel Coalition podcast for December 18, 2018 retrieved June 19, 2020 from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/podcasts/tgc-podcast/need-jesus-need-old-testament/.
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