Sunday, October 31, 2010

Five Reasons to Celebrate the Reformation!

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg. That event is considered to be the official beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

The controversy between the Reformers and the Church of Rome boiled down to what are often called the Five Solas of the Reformation.

Sola Scriptura, "scripture alone", i.e., the belief that the Bible alone is the infallible rule of faith and life, in opposition to the Catholic advocacy for an equal authority for church tradition.

Solus Christus, "Christ alone," i.e., the belief that salvation is in Christ alone, not in the church, not in Mary, not in the sacraments, and not in any saints.

Sola Gratia, "grace alone," i.e., that salvation is a free gift from God, not the reward for any works on our part, much less the supererogation of the saints or the indulgences from the Pope.

Sola fide, "through faith alone." Our faith is the response created in us by his grace. That is, we aren't saved by faith, per se, but rather through faith.

Soli deo gloria, "for the glory of God alone." God doesn't need to save us. God isn't obligated to save us. In fact there is nothing within us to inspire Him to save us (Isaiah 64:6).

 Also, as a Presbyterian, I celebrate this year as the 450th anniversary of the Reformation of Scotland, under the leadership of John Knox, a converted Catholic priest.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Amos 3:6, Is It the Responsibility of a Sovereign God to Make Us Happy?

"Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?"

Portions like this one are why ignorance of the Old Testament is almost a sign of superiority amongst American Evangelicals. Consider that popular song: "At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away, it was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day!" Charismatics, especially the Prosperity Gospel peddlars, are well-known for claiming that illnesses are "lies from Satan!" But is it biblical to expect to be "happy all the day" or free from illness, simply because one knows Jesus?

Consider another verse, Isaiah 45:7, "I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things." Speaking of Himself, God certainly makes no claims of being the bringer of only sweetness and light.

Or what of the testimony of Job? In 2:10, he says, "But he said to her, 'You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?' In all this Job did not sin with his lips." And the text even makes explicit that it was no sin for him to say this!

God does indeed bring suffering into the lives of even the strongest Christians. the reasons are many. It may be to expose hidden sin or overblown pride (consider Paul's thorn in the flesh, (II Corinthians 12:7-10). Suffering also helps us to loosen our grasp on material things in this life and to focus on the life to come. But the issue is his sovereignty: He does, because He can. It is our place to receive His purposes in our lives. To put it simply: we must learn more and more that He is God and we are not!

The reason American evangelicals avoid passages such as these is that evangelism and worship in most churches have changed God from our sovereign king to Santa Claus, lifestyle guru, or the candyman. Do you remember the Candyman in "Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang"? He was a wicked man who enslaved children with promises of sweets from a pretty wagon. However, when the children responded to his charms, the candy wagon was suddenly revealed as a cage, as the children were carted away to enslavement. I think that provides an excellent analogy for Satan in the deceptions of American popular evangelicalism!

Monday, October 18, 2010

For the Hypocrite, Even Easy Religion Is Just Too Hard!

"[They] say to the seers, 'Do not see,' and to the prophets, 'Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions...'"
- Isaiah 30:10

The hypocritical believer continues his attachment to the Covenant of Works, believing that his own righteousness will carry him to heaven. Yet, such persons clamor for a lowering of God's standards. Picture the pole-vaulter in the Olympics, assuring everyone that he can overleap the bar at its competitive height, yet still begging to have it lowered.

I think this is part of what Paul talks about in Romans 2:15. From the rankest unbeliever to the purest hypocritical professor, a man's conscience knows that he has not lived without sin. But the fallen man seeks that righteousness which was forfeited by Adam in the Garden. Finding that he cannot live that righteousness, he seeks to have the standard lowered to his own level. And he rebels against that true believer who testifies against his unrighteousness, whether by word or just by contrasting lifestyle. We have all heard the codewords: "puritanical," "intolerant." He is inventive in exalting himself over the believer, because the truths that he hears from the believer prick his conscience and trip up his self-righteousness.

The Covenant of Grace holds forth God's way of salvation by free grace alone: "Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." (Isaiah 55:1) How hard it is for fallen man to receive what is free, because he has deceived himself into believing that he has wealth. It is as Jesus said to the Church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:17, "You say, 'I am rich. I have everything I want. I don't need a thing!' And you don't realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Speedy Gonzales Ain't Got Nuthin' on This Universe!

According to astronomers, the Big Bang happened 15 billion years ago. However, the matter of the universe stretches 156 billion light years across. In order for the matter at the edge to have reached its current position, i.e., a radius of 78 billion light years, it would have had to travel at five times the speed of light. According to the accepted physical laws, as explained by Einstein, it is impossible for anything to exceed the speed of light. So, how did that happen?