31 October 2008

The bedrock of the Reformation

by Dan Phillips

The crashing juggernaut that Dr. Luther formally (if unintentionally) launched on 10/31/1517 rested on a number of fundamental variances with The Rome Collective.

Of course, one of those central truths was the glorious reality of justification in Christ alone, through faith alone - about which we've written often. But that truth itself, as Luther approached it, could be said to rest on something even more fundamental, and even more shattering to Rome's dreary stranglehold on the souls of men and women.

Note Luther's first of the 95 theses: "When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said 'Repent,' He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."

What does the good doctor do here? He reaches back, not to some father, council, nor church ruling, but to the words of Christ Himself. To demolish Tetzel's blasphemies, Luther reaches for Scripture.

But how does this relate to justification? It relates in that Luther did the same in approaching that truth, as well. Of course you know that the light dawned for Luther through his study of Romans 1:17, that in the Gospel "the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'" But have you read of the struggle that led up to that discovery?
...I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.

At last, by the mercy of God,
meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, "In it righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live." There I began to understand [that] the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which [the] merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live." Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. Here a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory ...

And I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the hatred with which I had before hated the word 'righteousness of God.' Thus that place in Paul was for me truth the gate to paradise
Though a meticulous student of the Fathers and church councils, these studies had not themselves led Luther to truth nor peace. It was Scripture alone that obsessed him, that absorbed his attention. And it was from Scripture alone that Dr. Luther learned the truth that set him - and, through him, countless multitudes of others - free with Gospel liberty.

Sola Scriptura. This is that central truth on which Luther's rediscovery of Gospel grace rested.

You'll recall that this was central to the whole complex of Satan's initial assault. "Oh, really? Has God said...?" Thus Satan infected Eve with the notion that the word of God was unclear and insufficient... when in fact it was both perfectly clear and perfectly sufficient.

When a tactic works well, why abandon it? So Satan evidently reasoned, and he continued this same assault through the millennia. Distractions today, burial under the excrescence of tradition tomorrow, displacement the next day, outright denial the day after that. All aimed at unsettling that one core, central truth: the sufficiency of Scripture.

So today we Pyro's never lack, sadly, for fresh outcroppings to write about. We wish we would run out. We'd love to be able to mark that controversy RESOLVED and move on. But, alas, that day is not yet. Indeed, the apostle says that day will never come, until the Lord Himself does (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

How about Rome? Did Luther's devastating salvo's work the "reform" he hoped would occur? Evangelical creampuffs like to murmur sagely about all the changes and renewals that are (reportedly) happening in Rome. Is it true?

Not so much!

You can read here of "a forceful plea from a key papal advisor to reject the idea of Christianity as a 'Religion of the Book.'" That advisor was Pope Benedict XVI's close and trusted friend, Bishop Salvatore Fisichella, the rector of the Lateran University and President of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Hear Fisichella:
“Many believers, when asked what the phrase ‘Word of God’ means, respond: ‘The Bible,’” Fisichella said. “That response isn’t wrong, but it’s incomplete , or at least it reflects an incomplete perception of the richness present in the expression, and as a consequence it tends to identify Christianity as a ‘Religion of the Book.’”

“In our language, we shouldn’t fall into the ambivalent expression ‘the three religions of the Book,’” Fisichella said, referring to Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Instead, he insisted, Christianity is properly understood as a “religion of the Word.”

“It’s important that we commit ourselves to constructing a culture that sees Scripture as a living word,” Fisichella said. Otherwise, he warned, “we run the risk of humiliating the Word of God by reducing it exclusively to a written text, without the provocative capacity to give meaning to life.”

Fisichella is said to have insisted that "it’s critical to present Scripture in its 'totality' – meaning that it’s part of a living tradition, which is ultimately aimed at salvation." This is an outright denial, in so many words, of the sufficiency of Scripture. Within that denial, unspoken but eloquent, is the recognition that no one would ever get Roman Catholicism out of the Bible itself, no matter how hard they labored.

And this is Rome today, still. Theoretically, the Bible is the Word of God. Actually, it's the word as-explained-by-Rome. I cannot see how an adherent could agree with Luke that the Bereans were "more noble" because they searched the Scriptures for themselves (Acts 17:11). Rome tells us that the noblest thing is to trust the Roman magisterium. Not our lying eyes.

But the insanity is that Rome tries to build this case of the insufficiency of Scripture on Scripture itself. A site titled "Christ did not found a Book. He founded a Teaching Church" tries (and fails miserably) to demote Scripture... by quoting Scripture.

So no, Rome was not reformed.

Nor has Scripture changed: faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Since faith is God's sole instrument of justification, and the Word brings faith, Satan's tactics remain. Roman Catholicism, emerg*** play-times, PoMo meanderings, charismatic excesses - our adversary doesn't care, so long as the Word is displaced.

Because it is the only weapon he fears (Ephesians 6:17).
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.
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30 October 2008

Already . . . Not Yet

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