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Archive for the ‘Reformation’ Category

The necessity of reforming the churchThe necessity of reforming the church by John Calvin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a good little read, which has the advantage of being very concise and direct. It was written to Emperor Charles V on the eve of the Diet of Speyer (1544). This tract was written as an apologia for the Reformation. What was going on in the sixteenth century that made reformation necessary? I think Calvin lays out a case that it was quite necessary, and that the only course of action open to the Christian who loved the church of Jesus Christ was to support the Reformation.

What will be most surprising about this work is how heavily some issues factor into Calvin’s reasoning. You might expect him to focus on sola scriptura or sola fide. These issues simply do not get much attention. Instead, Calvin focuses on the abuses in worship, prayer, and the Sacraments. This, I think, should be quite instructive for us. Too often, we place a great stress on theological purity, but scarcely think about purity in the corporate action of the church. We should have done the one without leaving the other undone. Let us serve our Lord by pressing forward toward excellence in all areas of life.

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I ran across a gorgeous little ditty from John Calvin today. It fits into the discussion about God’s will and the salvation of people. Calvin’s little tract is called “Articles concerning Predestination”; it’s found in a volume translated and edited by J.K.S. Reid entitled Calvin: Theological Treatises. In that the article is short, I will reproduce the whole thing below and then add some comments afterward.

Articles concerning Predestination

Before the first man was created, God in his eternal counsel had determined what he willed to be done with the whole human race.

In the hidden counsel of God it was determined that Adam should fall from the unimpaired condition of his nature, and by his defection should involve all his posterity in sentence of eternal death.

Upon the same decree depends the distinction between elect and reprobate: as he adopted some for himself for salvation, he destined others for eternal ruin. (more…)

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Sacramental Teaching and Practice in the Reformation ChurchesSacramental Teaching and Practice in the Reformation Churches by Geoffrey W. Bromiley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn’t sure what to think when I picked up this little volume. I don’t know too much about Bromiley, but I know he is responsible for translating a whole library of books into English, including works from Karl Barth, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and (if I’m not mistaken) even some Rudolf Bultmann. I therefore had my doubts about Bromiley’s ability to fairly reproduce a summary of the sacramental teaching and practice in the reformation churches. I have found in my studies of the theology of John Calvin that many interpreters who are influenced by so-called Neo-Orthodoxy have a tendency to recast Calvin in their own image. I feared that maybe Bromiley might be cut from that unsavory cloth.

I was happily surprised, then, to find that Bromiley’s handling of the topic was quite faithful to what I have come to understand as Reformation teaching. Now, I’ll own that I didn’t read this book with scrupulous care. (I largely read it at the side of a pool during the kids’ swimming lessons.) Even so, I found the book edifying and informative. It was well-organized and brief, making it an easy entrance into an admittedly difficult subject.

One thing that I thought was odd is that Bromiley essentially did not quote the Reformers. My recollection is that all the footnotes were references to Scripture. In other words, this little work was very much Bromiley’s condensation of Reformation teaching. This book is his summary, and it is a good summary.

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Heidelberg Catechism #44

Q. 44 – Why does the Creed add, “He descended into Hell”?

A. To assure me in times of personal crisis and temptation that Christ my Lord, by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul, especially on the cross but also earlier, has delivered me from the anguish and torment of hell.

Theological: It is interesting to note that the Catechism basically bypasses all the discussion of the harrowing of hell in its answer. The wisdom in this policy is the controversy is not very edifying. (more…)

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Baptism Hawaiian Style

Heidelberg Catechism #43

Q: What further advantage do we receive from Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross?

A: Through Christ’s death our old selves are crucified, put to death, and buried with him, so that the evil desires of the flesh may no longer rule us, but that instead we may dedicate ourselves as an offering of gratitude to him.

Theological: Do you ever find yourself marveling at the way the Bible speaks of our definitive break from sin and darkness? I do. Paul tells us that our old man has been put to death in Christ, that we are new creations. (more…)

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Wittenberg

I wrote a little ditty a while back on how I fancy myself a Protestant who’s self-consciously both catholic and orthodox. That post provoked some good and interesting discussions. In the midst of those discussions, an Eastern Orthodox brother mentioned something along the lines that Roman Catholics would think of themselves as orthodox and the Eastern Orthodox think of themselves as catholic, but that neither think of themselves as Protestants. That had me thinking. What I’ve come up with is that Christianity is, from its origins, inherently and inescapably protestant every bit as much as it catholic and orthodox. Let me see if I can’t sort this out.

First thing is that you’ll want to pay attention to my use of CAPITAL LETTERS (for those of you educated in the state University system [like me], you’ll know these as “upper case” or simply “the big letters”). (more…)

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The Shaping of the Reformed Baptismal Rite in the Sixteenth CenturyThe Shaping of the Reformed Baptismal Rite in the Sixteenth Century by Hughes Oliphant Old

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this book to be fascinating, greatly informative and easily accessible. Old offers a look at the development of the practice of baptism among the Reformers, but in so doing he gives us much more than that. For anytime one studies the Reformers, one necessarily studies all of church history before the Reformers. This book offers a sweeping (but detailed) view of the baptismal rite from NT times into the early Christian centuries, through the long Middle Ages into the Reformation. Old analyzes changes in the rite of baptism in light of historical, political, and theological developments in the church and the culture generally. He demonstrates how the baptismal rite developed through the centuries and what the Reformers had to work with as they set to reforming the baptismal rite in their own churches. I’ve read a good deal about the Reformed doctrine of baptism, but I was blown away by how much I didn’t know about the Reformed practice of baptism. Further, I am impressed at how conversant the Reformers were (generally, but specifically with regard to baptism) with the early and medieval church. The Reformers (and Old’s presentation of their work and thought) should encourage us to read more broadly and be less provincial. This is an excellent book and is highly recommended for anyone interested in the doctrine and practice of baptism in the Reformed churches.

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