Saturday, May 26, 2012

Reformers - a few reactionaries?


Over the last week, I have been engaged in a Facebook discussion regarding Bill Maher’s comment that Liberty University “isn’t a real school”; primarily because LU teaches creation, and any “intelligent” human being knows evolution is fact (because its science and eh hum..the assurance of Science never changes).  When some LU graduates semi-agreed with Maher, I entered the discussion as an unapologetic “young earth creationist” subsequently pitting me (a caveman) against the great scholars like Tim Keller, N.T. Wright, and like minded scholars that make up the “new” (I think less than two years old) website biologos.com.   Not to mention some young LU graduates who are excellent writers.      

After an exhausting amount of comments, an LU graduate named Matthew ends the thread with some of the following comments.  It should also be noted he may or may not adhere to Roman Catholic teachings (which I would argue are anti-Christ).  It should also be noted, I do believe there are "Roman Catholics" who are saved despite the church's false teachings.  I told him I would respond here. 

Matthew states:
Mark, you're obviously a sola scriptura guy, and I'm sure others in this thread would say the same of themselves. I affirm that the Bible is inspired word of God, but I question how historically honest this uniquely Protestant position really is. It's a tradition that took full form ~500 years ago and one which I find troubling, as it rejects Apostolic Tradition and the first 1500 years Church history. Add to that the fact that the Canon did not exist for the first 400+ years of the Church, and I wonder just how worthwhile any of your scriptural readings really are. Did the early Church behave like headless chickens because they had no Bible to interpret literally and guide them?

To be fair to Matthew, if I understand him, yes there is indeed a long history of attempts to establish authority whether Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant, on wrong sources.  What Matthew is completing disregarding is the historical fact that God has indeed given us the supreme authority for all matters of faith and practice - His Holy Word, the Bible.  There was never a time in history that the True church (individual body of believers) did not resist the false teachings of “denominations” that derived their authority from outside scripture.  Yes, it was  Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and John Knox who established what would be known as the “Five Solas”, but that does not make the doctrine less authoritative, since they rely and are judged solely upon scriptures.  

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

How one can claim this (the five solas) “rejects the first 1500 years of Church history” is beyond my understanding.  The only thing it rejects – is the unbiblical teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and all likeminded.  In addition, to claim the dating of the “canon” is relevant to its truthfulness is to miss a historical fact - it simply confirmed “officially” what the church had already accepted and believed.  

Did the early Church behave like headless chickens because they had no Bible to interpret literally and guide them?

No Matthew, the early church did not “behave like headless chickens” because they had no scriptures to “interpret literally and guide them” (nor did they need a Pope).  God hadn’t fallen off His sovereign throne to become impotent in getting His word to His people.  In addition, God made sure He spread enough copies around the known world so that NO one group could change them without obvious detection. 
     
I also gather that you embrace the form of Christian fundamentalism that became popular in the U.S. 200 years ago as a rejection of 19th century liberal theology (a la Schleiermacher, etc). My point in raising all of this is that Christian fundamentalism (which as you have demonstrated here, is caustic) only exists because of the Reformation a few hundred years earlier. I'll agree that Reformation needed to happen because of the problems in Rome, but the spiraling-out-of-control effect is not something Luther intended and neither was the creation of a new church body. When it comes to the Church, is it ecclesiastically, theologically and historically acceptable to simply re-create that with which we are unhappy?

The old “fundamentalist” accusation again raises its ugly head.  I must not be putting the “fun” in “fundamentalist” again.  Apparently “my views are caustic” since I will not negotiate with, or give equal weight to teachings (doctrines) that are unbiblical?   You know, like evolution, grace plus works, modern ideologies usurping divine revelation, mythical virgin births, papal infallibility, and dead men have never walked out of their own graves predicted thousands of years beforehand.  Perhaps your biggest misunderstanding is you think the Reformation was some sort of historical anomaly?  I would argue the Reformation simply re-claimed (with divine backing – scripture) the Truth from the decaying cancer of false teachers and teachings.  I think a similar thing happened when Peter preached at Pentecost.     
  
I tend to think that belief stems from tradition. The tradition I'm willing to embrace is that of the apostles and the things which took shape out of their efforts, including the Bible. I guess that my real problem with the beliefs you espouse and which you claim stem from your understanding of the Bible, Mark, is that you condemn others to adhering to Falsehood by erecting the tradition you believe in. The tradition you believe in is a doctrinal-system that a few reactionaries pulled out of a hat 200 years ago.

This comment is utter trash.  All Christians are theologians (whether they realize it or not), and the Christian faith is a faith of “doctrines” – and all “doctrines” have a history, just like man.  You seamlessly weave between the words “tradition” and “doctrine” as if no one will notice or you are indeed Roman Catholic.  The problem I have is not only with your line of logic (reasoning – “belief stems from tradition”), but with you insinuating that “doctrine” shouldn’t divide people.  First, belief stems from God alone.  Second, if those involved in the “five solas” are characterized by you as “a few reactionaries”, you’re either Roman Catholic and or utterly misinformed.   If you and I both “embrace” scripture, then I can only understand your comment to mean either - 1. Scriptures teachings should not divide people or 2. We disagree on hermeneutics or worse and most offensive - Scripture and Tradition together are the Word of God.    

When it comes down to it, I'm more interested in being closer to the source, which comes from both Apostolic and Biblical tradition. If you can find a problem with that, then go right ahead and correct me, but from within Christianity, I think it would be difficult. This isn't a school-yard argument where I'm trying to claim that my tradition is better than yours. This isn't about me as an individual and it's not about 'mine' and 'yours'; this is about the Body of Christ and treating it properly.

If you are truly interested in being close to the source, you would never stand in judgment of God’s word; nor make God’s word (its teachings) subject to modern ideologies.  If I didn’t care about the body of Christ, I would leave false teachings and teachers alone; that just doesn’t come “naturally” to me.       

8 comments:

Matthew Grannell said...

Mark, the title alone (along with your mis-quotations of me) leaves me thinking I shouldn't bother because it indicates that you haven't even taken the time to carefully read my comments. The reactionaries I was referring to were not the reformers. Go back and read my comments.

Here's my response, nevertheless:

1. I'm not Catholic.
1.2.: Bill Maher is not worth anyone's time.

2. I have not disregarded what you say I have. In addition to the scriptures, God gave us apostolic tradition/succession. This is Biblical and is important because it provides structure.

2. Yes, there were problematic teachings coming from Rome during the time Luther reacted.

2.1.- Again, just read the link I included about SS. It's more concise and thorough than I have ability to achieve.

3. "God hadn’t fallen off His sovereign throne to become impotent in getting His word to His people." -- I agree.

4. Again, you're confusing fundamentalism with Reformation. I don't think they're the same thing. You're caustic because you failed to muster more than poorly constructed ad hominems at others in the comment thread (I'm not the only person who identified this).
4.1.- How could you possibly equate a Christian's belief in God-guided evolution with a denial of the Immaculate Conception and Virgin Birth?

5. In your order: First, yes, belief comes from God. Second, once again Mark, I didn't call the reformers reactionaries so it's obvious that you haven't carefully read anything I've written, thus making your point that I'm either RC or misinformed completely moot.

To clarify, here is what I said about the Reformation (much more cordial than any way you have painted me): "I'll agree that Reformation needed to happen because of the problems in Rome, but the spiraling-out-of-control effect is not something Luther intended and neither was the creation of a new church body."

5.2.: I agree that Scriptures divide people (though I'm not sure what you're aiming at here with your use of 'should') and I have not said that apostolic tradition is the Word of God, nor do I affirm that.

6. I do not stand in judgment... and I have not subjected much of anything to modern ideology.

Mark said...

2. – “In addition to the scriptures, God gave us apostolic tradition/succession. This is Biblical and is important because it provides structure.”

And - 5.2.: “I agree that Scriptures divide people (though I'm not sure what you're aiming at here with your use of 'should') and I have not said that apostolic tradition is the Word of God, nor do I affirm that.”


Matthew, you accuse me of not reading your comments carefully – maybe I have and you are still confusing? Just a thought.

Fact – There is not one single verse or hint in scripture, whether by Jesus, the apostles, or any other New Testament writer that puts forth the idea of “apostolic succession.”
I think you confuse the visible church the invisible church because you have demonstrated more than once and in other comments not seen here; you view the Roman Catholic Church as “Christian”. I do not and I clarified my position on this “touchy” subject at the outset of this post.

What is biblical is that the true church will teach what the Scriptures teach, not add to it, and will compare all other teachings and doctrines to Scripture in order to determine what is true and right. Thus my “sola scripture” position which you explicitly questioned as being historically inaccurate – and I quote – Mark, you're obviously a sola scriptura guy, and I'm sure others in this thread would say the same of themselves. I affirm that the Bible is inspired word of God, but I question how historically honest this uniquely Protestant position really is. It's a tradition that took full form ~500 years ago and one which I find troubling, as it rejects Apostolic Tradition and the first 1500 years Church history.“

It’s not a “tradition” unless you view scripture, the historical Christian faith and its foundations (the writings and teachings of the apostles –ie. scripture) tradition as well. I do not – and I would think this would also answer your accusation that I am “caustic” and or confused by your brilliant clarity that my careless reading missed. You weave between “tradition” and “doctrine”, I am bound to get confused.

2. – “Yes, there were problematic teachings coming from Rome during the time Luther reacted.”

“Problematic teachings” is in my less than humble opinion the understatement of the year. :) The invisible church reacted; it was not a one man show. I think scripture teaches the True church will indeed be a minority. Nonetheless, your contention and I quote - “but the spiraling-out-of-control effect is not something Luther intended and neither was the creation of a new church body" - is meaningless simply because the issue was never about “spiraling out of control” nor about creating a “new church” – it was precisely a battle over the Truth.

4.1 How could you possibly equate a Christian's belief in God-guided evolution with a denial of the Immaculate Conception and Virgin Birth?

“Equate”? – No I did not. What I did equate is the notion that the false belief in a “God guided evolution” is no different than believing Satan when he said “hath God really said…?” Why? Because unless you are unfamiliar with modern ideologies (history), Adam, Eve, Jonah, and yes the virgin birth are literal historical facts that only of recent times have become questionable “truths”. Why? – Because a toxic combination of humanism (man is the master of his own destiny), scientism (scientific methods determine truth), religionism (blind groping after God), and higher criticism (deny the authority and authenticity of God’s word) has poisoned undiscerning minds; in and out of the visible church.

6. I do not stand in judgment...

That’s a spiritual problem you may want to address.

…and I have not subjected much of anything to modern ideology.

Oh yes you have, when you welcome false teachings (Roman Catholic teachings) as Christian teachings.

Mark said...

as well as any acceptance of "God guided evolution" that attempt to explain the origins of man / creation; denying Adam and Eve has historical human beings etc...

Mark said...

Immaculate Conception? I just noticed that....explain that please?

Matthew Grannell said...

I wish this blog had a better comment format. Hope this looks okay. Looks like I have to split it up due to length, too.“Fact – There is not one single verse or hint in scripture, whether by Jesus, the apostles, or any other New Testament writer that puts forth the idea of “apostolic succession.”
I think you confuse the visible church the invisible church because you have demonstrated more than once and in other comments not seen here; you view the Roman Catholic Church as “Christian”. I do not and I clarified my position on this “touchy” subject at the outset of this post.”
--- I disagree with you as there are plenty of verses in the NT which present obvious hierarchies which were established with the Apostles. One of the clearest instances is with Peter's speech in Acts 1:15-26.

“What is biblical is that the true church will teach what the Scriptures teach, not add to it, and will compare all other teachings and doctrines to Scripture in order to determine what is true and right. Thus my “sola scripture” position which you explicitly questioned as being historically inaccurate – and I quote[...]”
--- Ok, but this takes you back to the canon problem. The Church existed prior to the Biblical Canon was formed. Do you disregard those first ~400 years? You couldn't be sola scriptura without the scriptura, so they weren't.

It’s not a “tradition” unless you view scripture, the historical Christian faith and its foundations (the writings and teachings of the apostles –ie. scripture) tradition as well. I do not – and I would think this would also answer your accusation that I am “caustic” and or confused by your brilliant clarity that my careless reading missed. You weave between “tradition” and “doctrine”, I am bound to get confused. 
--- You haven't directly responded to how I said you were caustic (which I made clear and it's not that I need a response, it's just that you think I said one thing when I didn't) and you haven't responded to my accusation of your careless reading (those who I referred to as reactionaries, which was also clear), so I still think you're not reading very clearly.

Matthew Grannell said...

“Problematic teachings” is in my less than humble opinion the understatement of the year. :) The invisible church reacted; it was not a one man show. I think scripture teaches the True church will indeed be a minority. Nonetheless, your contention and I quote - “but the spiraling-out-of-control effect is not something Luther intended and neither was the creation of a new church body" - is meaningless simply because the issue was never about “spiraling out of control” nor about creating a “new church” – it was precisely a battle over the Truth.
---- First, Mark, when I'm writing in a semi-professional manner I don't use exclamation points or yell and jump up and down with my words. Problematic is an accurate word, which I think Luther would agree with because he saw those teachings as problems and wanted to change them. Second, I think you're way off base, because brokenness within the Church is also a problem and that is the point of my “meaningless” statement. Yes, it was a battle over truth, but Luther (and me) had a different view of the Chuch than I perceive you do and part of 'Truth' is accepting that the Church is the Body of Christ, something which should not be broken. I know a Lutheran pastor who says that the Lutheran Church is designed to 'go out of business' at some point so as to take part in ridding of the WWC's brokenness. The difference, I suppose, is that you don't think any Church is in 'Truth' but the ones which also subscribe to and teach the ideologies you believe. The bottom line is that no church is perfect in what it expresses in belief. One real problem is that in the West, the Church has turned into a place for philosophizing and psychologizing and it shouldn't be (that's what blogs are for). Scripture and history provide some pretty basic tenants for what Church is and that is where we derive our unity. You like Luther I imagine (so do I), but I also would imagine that you would disagree with many of the tenants of the Lutheran Church, which is still Protestant and Evangelical. So, do you not affirm that the Lutheran Church is doing anything right? Do you disown them because you disagree with a teaching that they adhere to? I don't know what church you go to, and I don't really care, but the fact is that you made a choice to choose that denomination or non-denomination over all the others, but I'm guessing your church has flaws.
Ultimately, I'm with you. There's no reason to add things to Church or Scripture. I'm certainly not trying, and I don't know or care about the RC Church but I'm not with them either so please stop with the association as I don't even know that much about RC, but if someone affirms salvation in Christ, as many Catholics and Protestants do, is that not the point? When you say things like “It should also be noted, I do believe there are "Roman Catholics" who are saved despite the church's false teachings”, I don't know what to make of it because I could turn around and say, 'I do believe there are Baptists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Methodists (etc), who are saved despite the church's false teachings'. What's the point in that statement? All it does is admit that we don't know everything. All we can do is be the Church to the best of our unified ability.

Mark said...

I disagree with you as there are plenty of verses in the NT which present obvious hierarchies which were established with the Apostles. One of the clearest instances is with Peter's speech in Acts 1:15-26.

If this is the clearest scripture verse to support "apostolic succession" - I must be missing it. Yes, While Matthias did indeed “suceed” Judas as an apostle, but in no sense is this a valid argument for continuing apostolic succession. If anything, it supports my "fundamentalist" approach to the True church getting rid of false and ungodly teachers / leaders.


Ok, but this takes you back to the canon problem. The Church existed prior to the Biblical Canon was formed. Do you disregard those first ~400 years? You couldn't be sola scriptura without the scriptura, so they weren't.

Honestly, maybe I am being unclear, but I don't know how to respond to this in any other way than I already have. "Sola scriptura" is taught in scripture, from the OT right thru the NT. It is not an "idea" that human reasoning and or historical circumstances invented. Deal with it.

I guess at this point, I would just like you to understand something very clearly. You read the FB comments that disagreed with me - you ultimately said you also disagreed with me for your own various reasons. Fair enough.

The LU gradates and or professors may also have disagreed with me - none the less, let me set the record straight:

1. Throwing out the label "fundamentalist" might make your peers happy, and it might even suggest you're a man of intelligence (you value human reasoning and you subscribe to the "fact" that are some things men cannot know with absolute assurance.

I'll wear the term "fundamentalist" any-day with honor. Why? Because I am a Christian, and True Christians believe what the Bible says. Christianity teaches there is a truth, and that Truth is certain because it is divinely revealed in His word, and that word must be believed for salvation - all of it, not just the moral teachings which all rank unbelievers are all too happy to rally around.

Mark said...

...continued

Christians (Christianity) rejects any notion that human reasoning is the highest test of truth. It also rejects the idea that we can't know anything for sure (Who created, how man was created, why man was created) as just one example men continue to impose human reasoning over God word.

2. True Christians test everything to God's word. It is the highest standard of Truth.

The bible is literally true to True believers. To unbelievers who like to call themselves Christian, it is always something to overcome; it is an impediment to their human reasoning.

I'll repeat myself so there is no confusion; the Bible teaches logic and reason are valuable; neither sound logic or sound reason contradict the word of God - ever.

I fear the only thing young folks are grabbing hold of today, especially those that identify themselves as Christian - are a bunch of "life principles" and "morality" that they have self righteously pulled from scripture while subjecting the other more controversial topics to human reasoning - usually nothing less than a rank form of "modernism / liberal theology / Socinianism" (a combination of rationalism and Skepticism.

The result is clear, and probably closer to why I was called "caustic". The only thing that matters is God's message of love for humanity and humanity's love for one another - and lets be honest, at this point in a person's system of beliefs - God's word becomes ultimately irrelevant, and soon so will the person of Christ (except his really cool teachings about morality and love).

I hope you agree Matthew. If you do, you might also be a fundamentalist, if not...well time will tell.

So yes Matthew, there are many false teachers in many denominations - my point, weed them out and rebuke them with scripture; the most powerful weapon a Christian has. That is precisely what your example in Acts teaches - not apostolic succession.