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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What is the first indication of turning away from God?

Romans 1:21 - murmurings

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Fight for Recognition of the Lutheran Faith (The Reformation of the 16th Century by Ronald H. Bainton)

The struggles, the wars, the abortive attempts and the permanent residues in the meeting of the problem call for a review country by country and confession by confession. Broadly speaking the struggle in Germany and Scandinavia was for the recognition of Lutheranism; in France, the Netherlands, and Scotland primarily of Calvinism; in England of a middle way with a Calvinist tinge; in Italy and Spain there was a serious possibility of any competitor to Catholicism. In the eastern lands, Poland, Hungary, Moravia, and Transylvania, a number of sects contended on well-nigh equal footing.

The Struggle for Religious Liberty (The Reformation of the Sixthteenth Century by Ronald H. Bainton)

The execution of Servetus filled [Sebastian Castellio] with profound indignation, and he set himself to examine and refute the grounds on which [burning Servetus to death] was justified. [Thus Castellio had this to say] "Who made Calvin arbiter of all the sects that he alone should kill? He has the word of God, but so have they. If the matter is so certain to whom is it certain? To Calvin? There is nothing unkown to him. He talks as if he might be in Paradise. But why then does he write so many books about manifrest truth, and such huge tomes to explain what he says is absolutely clear?"

Protestantestism on the other hand in its dominant branches became at first more dogmatic in the 17th century but in the 18th went so far beyond Erasmus that the Deistic movement reduced Christianity to little more than that which it had in common with Confucianism.

The greatest persecutors in the history of Christianity have not been hypocrytes or monsters, but the devotees of an ideal which they believed to be of supreme importance for mankind.

For the liberals, deeds were to be esteemed as more important in God's eyes than creeds.

We must be extremely careful, argued Acontius [an Italian Prostestant Refugee], not to force men over points which God has not declared to be necessary.

The liberals commonly argued that the doctrine of predestination should preclude persecution, since if salvation is predetermined no amount of force can alter the situation.

[In his book On the Wiles of Satan Acontius says] "The greatest hindrances to clear sight are passion, pride and prejudice, and these are only accentuated by vainglory and arrogrance on the part of the one who is seeking to persuade. Humility and manifest devotion to truth are the prime requisites for winning converts."

If the contention is that persecution is good for the Church, the reply is that the number may be increased but the quality will not be  improved.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

On Calvinism (16th Century Reformation by Ronald Bainton)

[T]he deepest reason for the activism of Calvinism lay in the realm of idea, and the idea originated with the man, John Calvin.

He [John Calvin] was schooled as a humanist, and the orderliness of his thinking and the clarity of his diction may well be traceable to the influence of his classical studies.

The drive of Calvinism stems from optimism as to God despite pessimism as to man.

Calvin's view of man was just as gloomy, and if anything, even more devastating than that of Luther and the Anabaptists.

Though the world without Christ need not be a pigsty, it will never be a paradise. From a similar analysis the Anabaptists deduced a necessary withdrawal of the Church from the world, and Luther allowed only a resigned participation. But Calvin came out with a resolute summons to action within the sphere of scoiety.

The great text for Luther was, "Thy sins are forgiven, " but for Calvin it was "If God is for us who can be against us?"

Both Calvin and Luther had an overwhelming sense of the majesty of God, but whereas for Luther this served to point up the miracle of forgiveness, for Calvin it gave rather the assurance of the impregnability of God's purpose. Consequently the Institutes treat first of the sovereignty of God ahead of the section on justification by faith.

[The dream to erect the Holy Commonwealth in the terrestrial sphere (e.g. Geneva)] depended upon human agents, God's chosen instruments, the elect.

[According to John Calvin] the people of Israel failed in this great commission [to build a Kingdom of priests and a holy nation] and in their stead God had selected the new Israel of God, the Christian Church.

[On the question of the tests by which the elect could be known]:

- Luther did not pretend to know.
- Muentzer said, "by the spirit."
- Zwingli said, "by faith."
- The Anabaptists said, "by life."
- Calvin, like Luther, disclaimed absolute knowledge and did not aspire like the Anabaptists to compose the church of wheat and tares. Neverthless Calvin posited certain presumptive tests, in number three: 1) profession of faith, 2) an upright life, and 3) participation in the sacraments.

A denial of predestination meant banishment [from the city of Geneva].

A denial of immortality and the Trinity meant death. Gruet was beheaded and Servetus [for saying, the word 'trinity' is not found in the Bible] was burned [to death].

The Reformation of the 16th Century (by Ronald H. Bainton)

The Renaissance shifted interest from heaven to earth.

Nationalism enfeebled the Holy Roman Empire and weakened the papal theocracy.

The essential note [of the Reformation movement] was the recovery of the uncorrupted Christianity.

Three periods are discernable in midieval history: dissimination, domination, and disintegration.

Prosperity itself corrupts.

A medieval monk formulated the law of monastic cycle: "Discipline begets abundance, and abundance, unless we take the utmost care, destroys discipline; and discipline in its fall, pulls down abundance."

The ground on which [the papal theocracy] rested was the sacramental system.

Thomas Aquinas ... gathered up the threads from Christian and classical antiquity, from the wisdom of the Abrabs and the philosphy of the medieval Jews into an integrated theological system.

The underlying theory (of "indulgencies") was that Christ and the saints had more merits than were needful for their own salvation. The superfluous credits were stored in a treasury placed by God at the disposal of the popes and capable of transfer to those whose sins were in arrears.

The pope [John XXII] spent 63% of his enrmous income [three times thatof the king of France] on wars for recovery of his lost Italian estates.

The pope often could not make up his own mind whether he was the successor of Peter or of Caesar.

The Renaissance invaided the Vatican.

To hold the Reformation responsible for the destruction of the great papal theocracy of the 13th century is to forget the condition into which it had already fallen.

Indignant reformers concluded that if correction on a universal scale were no more successful, the attempt must be renewed with select units of those personally committed.

The very concept of the end of the age was subversive to the security of a great ongoing institution like the medieval Church.

[I]f morality be the touchstone [of the elect] the inference is obvious that an immoral pope is neither the head of the Church nor even a member. Predestination and millenarianism were sometimes combined and the Church as an earthly institution was then undercut both from before and from behind.

The most devastting attack on the structure of the Church came from a denial of the efficacy of the sacraments of priestly power to dispense them.