Is the Reformation Over?

Right Now Counts Forever
by R.C. Sproul

  Is the Reformation over? There have been several observations rendered on this subject by those I would call "erstwhile evangelicals." One of them wrote, "Luther was right in the sixteenth century, but the question of justification is not an issue now." A second self-confessed evangelical made a comment in a press conference I attended that "the sixteenth-century Reformation debate over justification by faith alone was a tempest in a teapot." Still another noted European theologian has argued in print that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is no longer a significant issue in the church. We are faced with a host of people who are defined as Protestants but who have evidently forgotten altogether what it is they are protesting.

Contrary to some of these contemporary assessments of the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, we recall a different perspective by the sixteenth-century magisterial Reformers. Luther made his famous comment that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is the article upon which the church stands or falls. John Calvin added a different metaphor, saying that justification is the hinge upon which everything turns. In the twentieth century, J.I. Packer used a metaphor indicating that justification by faith alone is the "Atlas upon whose shoulder every other doctrine stands." Later Packer moved away from that strong metaphor and retreated to a much weaker one, saying that justification by faith alone is "the fine print of the gospel."

The question we have to face in light of these discussions is, what has changed since the sixteenth century? Well, there is good news and there is bad news. The good news is that people have become much more civil and tolerant in theological disputes. We don’t see people being burned at the stake or tortured on the rack over doctrinal differences. We’ve also seen in the past years that the Roman communion has remained solidly steadfast on other key issues of Christian orthodoxy, such as the deity of Christ, His substitutionary atonement, and the inspiration of the Bible, while many Protestant liberals have abandoned these particular doctrines wholesale. We also see that Rome has remained steadfast on critical moral issues such as abortion and ethical relativism. In the nineteenth century at Vatican Council I, Rome referred to Protestants as "heretics and schismatics." In the twentieth century at Vatican II, Protestants were referred to as "separated brethren." We see a marked contrast in the tone of the different councils. The bad news, however, is that many doctrines that divided orthodox Protestants from Roman Catholics centuries ago have been declared dogma since the sixteenth century. Virtually all of the significant Mariology decrees have been declared in the last 150 years. The doctrine of papal infallibility, though it de facto functioned long before its formal definition, was nevertheless formally defined and declared de fide (necessary to believe for salvation) in 1870 at Vatican Council I. We also see that in recent years the Roman communion has published a new Catholic catechism, which unequivocally reaffirms the doctrines of the Council of Trent, including Trent’s definition of the doctrine of justification (and thus affirms that council’s anathemas against the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone). Along with the reaffirmations of Trent have come a clear reaffirmation of the Roman doctrine of purgatory, indulgences, and the treasury of merits.

At a discussion among leading theologians over the issue of the continued relevance of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, Michael Horton asked the question: "What is it in the last decades that has made the first-century gospel unimportant?" The dispute over justification was not over a technical point of theology that could be consigned to the fringes of the depository of biblical truth. Nor could it be seen simply as a tempest in a teapot. This tempest extended far beyond the tiny volume of a single teacup. The question, "what must I do to be saved?" is still a critical question for any person who is exposed to the wrath of God.

Even more critical than the question is the answer, because the answer touches the very heart of gospel truth. In the final analysis, the Roman Catholic Church affirmed at Trent and continues to affirm now that the basis by which God will declare a person just or unjust is found in one’s "inherent righteousness." If righteousness does not inhere in the person, that person at worst goes to hell and at best (if any impurities remain in his life) goes to purgatory for a time that may extend to millions of years. In bold contrast to that, the biblical and Protestant view of justification is that the sole grounds of our justification is the righteousness of Christ, which righteousness is imputed to the believer, so that the moment a person has authentic faith in Christ, all that is necessary for salvation becomes theirs by virtue of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. The fundamental issue is this: is the basis by which I am justified a righteousness that is my own? Or is it a righteousness that is, as Luther said, "an alien righteousness," a righteousness that is extra nos, apart from us — the righteousness of another, namely, the righteousness of Christ? From the sixteenth century to the present, Rome has always taught that justification is based upon faith, on Christ, and on grace. The difference, however, is that Rome continues to deny that justification is based on Christ alone, received by faith alone, and given by grace alone. The difference between these two positions is the difference between salvation and its opposite. There is no greater issue facing a person who is alienated from a righteous God.

At the moment the Roman Catholic Church condemned the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone, she denied the gospel and ceased to be a legitimate church, regardless of all the rest of her affirmations of Christian orthodoxy. To embrace her as an authentic church while she continues to repudiate the biblical doctrine of salvation is a fatal attribution. We’re living in a time where theological conflict is considered politically incorrect, but to declare peace when there is no peace is to betray the heart and soul of the gospel.

*****

Dr. R.C. Sproul is founder and president of Ligonier Ministries and senior minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew’s in Sanford, Florida, and he is author of the book Faith Alone.

 

From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.

Reformation or Revival?

A wonderful article by Jim Elliff, written in 1997, and just as relevant today. You read more article by Jim at www.CCWtoday.org

If you have been around me very long, you have heard me emphasize that the crying need, the absolutely desperate need of the hour, is reformation. You have also been aware that for years I have also longed for revival. Recently I was asked what the difference actually is, if any, between revival and reformation. This is an important question worthy of your precious time to think it through.

Though many are blinded to the current dilemma, the fact is that a sound and lively truth-basis has been ejected from the premises of modern evangelicalism. Evangelicalism has been dispossessed of truth to such an extent that it is becoming frightening. In its place experience and mysticism are house-sitting the church or, if not these, then church growth pragmatism or an unhealthy preoccupation with the psychological. But the necessary doctrines of the holiness of God and His just wrath, justification by faith alone, the transforming nature of regeneration, the sovereignty of God over all of creation and in salvation itself, the nature and extent of grace in justification and in sanctification—doctrines upon which the earlier revivals thrived—have been considered unimportant and useful only for wizened old theologs holed up in ivory towers who do not relate to the church’s future. Continue reading Reformation or Revival?

Luther’s 95 Theses

Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther
on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences
by Dr. Martin Luther (1517)

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.

In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

    1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.

    3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers mortifications of the flesh.

    4. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

    5. The pope does not intend to remit, and cannot remit any penalties other than those which he has imposed either by his own authority or by that of the Canons.

    6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring that it has been remitted by God and by assenting to God’s remission; though, to be sure, he may grant remission in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in such cases were despised, the guilt would remain entirely unforgiven. Continue reading Luther’s 95 Theses

Is the Reformation Over?

by Dr. R.C. Sproul

Is the Reformation over? There have been several observations rendered on this subject by those I would call “erstwhile evangelicals.” One of them wrote, “Luther was right in the sixteenth century, but the question of justification is not an issue now.” A second self-confessed evangelical made a comment in a press conference I attended that “the sixteenth-century Reformation debate over justification by faith alone was a tempest in a teapot.” Still another noted European theologian has argued in print that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is no longer a significant issue in the church. We are faced with a host of people who are defined as Protestants but who have evidently forgotten altogether what it is they are protesting.

Contrary to some of these contemporary assessments of the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, we recall a different perspective by the sixteenth-century magisterial Reformers. Luther made his famous comment that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is the article upon which the church stands or falls. John Calvin added a different metaphor, saying that justification is the hinge upon which everything turns. Continue reading Is the Reformation Over?

Truth: The Absolute Necessity for Reformation…recovering sola scriptura in the proclamation of the gospel

by Steve Camp, CamponThis  

Reformation means: to right the wrong; to remedy error; to be returning to a rightful course; to rescue from erroneousness. The Greek word rendered reformation (diorphosis) means emendation, improvement, reform. It refers to putting a thing back in correct or upright condition; making it better; or raising up and restoring that which is fallen down. A “hapax legomenon”, this word is mentioned only once in the N.T. found in Hebrews 9:10 which says, “but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.” This is unmistakably refering to the gospel setting all things right in Christ Jesus–our once for all sacrifice for sins compared to the old covenant (cp, Acts 3:21; Hebrews 8:8-12; 9:23).

There are a few things that historically and biblically mark or accompany true reformation and revival:

  • Conviction, contrition, and confession of sin
  • Repentance that is more notorious than ones transgressions
  • Prayer that is urgent and unceasing
  • Renewed loving of, long for, obedience to, and craving of God’s Word
  • Uncompromised preaching and teaching of God’s Word
  • Recovery of boldness in proclaiming the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ
  • Refutation and correcting of aberrant teaching, skewed doctrine, and theological error
  • Worship that is unfeigned in spirit and truth
  • And finally, authentic evangelism – lasting regeneration, a heavenly work by the Spirit of God

 

Unfortunately, many today that the Scriptures heralded, obeyed, and lived in the power of the Holy Spirit are not enough. They are deficient and inadequate to meet the needs of our comple, postmodern times. Thus, new movements like the emerging/emergent church spring up to try and address the needs of our time; but ultimately find themselves falling woefully short for their emphasis is more on the pragmatic than the eternal.
Read more……

MCP Alert! Thomas Ascol on Tuesday

Should the church seek revival or reformation? That is a question that I have pondered and we will discuss it with Dr. Thomas Ascol, Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida and Executive Director of Founders Ministries and Editor of the Founders Journal.  Dr. Ascol says revival or reformation is something that he has thought a great deal about as well. Don’t miss this program!

You can listen to The Mike Corley Program live at 1pm ET/12noon CT HERE ONLINE, or on delay at OnePlace.com.

Do you really think the SBC can be reformed?

First we have to set a few parameters by asking a couple of questions.

1. Does the Southern Baptist Covention need to be reformed?

2. Are we talking about the entire convention or its leadership and direction?

3. What do we mean by “reform”?

With these questions asked, I refer you to a brief response and an extended article by Dr. Thomas Ascol of Founders Ministries on the subject of reformation within the SBC.

*Do you really think the SBC can be reformed?

*Why Work for Reformation Within the Southern Baptist Convention?

Pastor Jeff Noblit and The True Church

I had the wonderful honor of interviewing Pastor Jeff Noblit on The Mike Corley Program recently. Brother Jeff is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. We discussed the upcoming True Church Conference set for May 3-6 at First Baptist. God is doing some tremendous things through the ministry there and I am looking forward to attending. In fact, we plan on doing the radio broadcast from the church on Thursday May 3. The program airs at 12 noon central time and can be heard live at www.wqbc.net. You can listen to the interview with Pastor Jeff Noblit by CLICKING HERE.