Archive for category Reform
Over the last few years I had been attending a Baptist Church. However, due to a recent unnecessary, unorthodox, sectarian practice of ‘re-baptism‘ I have left the Baptist church and have returned to the Church of England.
For some, this decision may seem unhealthy. Liberalism, it seems, has corrupted the Anglican communion. Such views would not be entirely wrong.
However, things are not as simple as that. The Anglican communion is a very complicated establishment, and is deeply divided. Liberalism and a false gospel has indeed corrupted the establishment but it has not corrupted the true conservative evangelical wing of the Church of England. This conservative evangelical branch, I argue, is the true Church of England. The liberal, revisionist branch is a false distortion. I believe it has forsaken the Bible.
Because of changing times, liberalism and church corruption, many churches are closing. Yet the many parishes that remain true to the Gospel, are in fact flourishing. It is to this conservative evangelical wing of the Church of England that I abide.
In the 16th century, many reformed Christians died for the faith. Tyndale, Frith, Latimer, Cranmer, Ridley, Bradford and George Marsh, were all Church of England men. Yet it was a fight even back then. Today, over four hundred years later, there is still a continuous movement to reform the Church of England from within. Organisations such as Reform and Church Society all continue to abide in loyalty to the Bible and the principles of the doctrines of the reformation.
For me, the true Church of England is the way forward. As a churchwarden of Deane once said to me, ‘I truly believe the Church of England is “the best boat to fish from”. I believe this is true. For me, Cathedrals are some of the most inspiring monuments a person can ever visit and I am in the historic presence of some of the greatest men Christianity has ever known. Unlike many independent churches, which are often self governing and separatist, the Congregation Christ spoke of in Matthew 16: 18 was one. It was not divided into denominations. It was simply the Congregation of believers.
I have faith that Christ will continue to build His Congregation, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
Being in the Baptist church, was not all bad. I still have many fond memories and those memories will remain. But the Lord would not leave me there. There is a path that I must take. For me, my Christian journey has simply reached a new era. It is simply unacceptable that the Church of England has been robbed of the Gospel. We ought not to forsake her. Something needs to be done. There must be reformation.
Days before Easter 2018, the Archbishop of Wales John Davies, made some Theological claims that no Archbishop has any business in making.
In an interview the Archbishop expressed doubts concerning the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Stating ‘it is terribly hard for people to grasp the idea of a bodily resurrection‘ and that he doesn’t think any of ‘us’ actually knows what happened.
My question is, so why does he claim to be a Christian?
The Bible is clear that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the core of the faith and if His resurrection was not physical but spiritual, or indeed never happened, or uncertain, then our faith is useless and we are still in our sin (1 Corinthians 15: 12-18). The Scriptures clearly teach that Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily as He Himself said “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” (Luke 24: 39). The resurrected Jesus also ate fish which spirits cannot do (Luke 24: 41-43)
The resurrected Jesus still had the nail holes in His hands and the Spear hole in His side (John 20: 27)
If John Davies isn’t firmly grounded upon these things then why is he an Archbishop?
If an archbishop has such areas of internal unbelief, then it is merely evidence that that person is either not a true Christian or is an apostate or, he has failed to abide in the doctrine of Christ (2 John 1: 9-11).
Doubts about the true meaning of certain Scriptures and doctrines, which are not salvation issues, are acceptable but when it comes to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, their is no doubt whatsoever in any mind that has been transformed.
Clearly the Bishop’s right to hold his title is questionable and he would be better to resign and express his ideas in a university or college, but not as a practising Bishop.
Luther nailing his Thesis to the Church door © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland
This year, 2017, is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
On the 31st October 1517, Augustinian Monk, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Thesis to the Church door at Wittenberg.
The Thesis itself was centralised around his criticism of the Roman Catholic Church, the Papacy, Purgatory, and the selling of indulgences.
Today such a move would not seem all that bold, but in his day, the content of Luther’s thesis was one of the most radical criticisms of the Catholic Church that anyone had ever read. It was the dawn of such a bold and impactful move that Luther’s life between 1517-1546 would suffer a great deal of turmoil and tribulation.
In 1521 Luther stood trial at the Diet of Worms and was told to renounce all of his writings by order of Pope Leo X. Luther refused and was excommunicated by the very Church he sought to defend and reform. The Pope put a bounty on his head and Luther was given shelter by Prince Frederick the wise, at the Wartburg Castle.
Luther had his opponents, but it is always good to have friends in high places!
At the Castle Luther spent his time translating the New Testament from Greek into German. Luther’s New Testament was published and what would follow for Luther would be a life of turmoil, religious intolerance and even war.
Luther wrote: “Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger.”.
Luther was no perfect man, but his reformation was a quest for perfection.
Every generation of Christians from the 16th to the 21st century have been inspired or have benefited in some way from the work that Luther began. There were even men who lived centuries prior to Luther who by the same Spirit sought to bring reform and renewal to the Church of their days.
Each quest has been a struggle. But the Word of God cannot be broken!
The Reformation is far from over.
Reform is not a thing of the past, it is an ongoing future. All of us, whether we be preachers or simply Christians have a part to play in the widespread movement of reform.
It is true that complaining is not always a popular thing. Today in our hyper positive thin world, the masses generally like a more positive, uplifting message rather than doom and gloom. But where would we be today if Luther and the Reformers kept silent and looked at the positives rather than the predominant errors of so many Churches?
The sad truth is that there is much to complain about and logic knows that a light does not come on without the negative too. When God said “Let there be light” He was not speaking about the darkness. But after the darkness came the light.
The 16th century Reformation had a saying: ‘Post Tenebrass Lux‘ It was a Latin phrase meaning ‘Light after darkness‘.
Today, the Christian Church in England is in a dark time. There really is no point in ignoring that. Where would we be today if the Reformers had never recognised that the Church was in an age of darkness because they were stooped up in a weak and crowd pleasing positive message? Where would we be if they had never criticised the errors of the Roman Catholic Church? Where would we be if they had looked at the positives of Rome and failed to judge? They would not have hoped for light.
This year, in 2017 each one of us, wherever we are, can write our ninety-five Thesis and live in hope that the body of Christ is not done for!
Each one of us can stand against the widespread errors and deceitful doctrines of corrupt Churches. Even in the face of danger, excommunication, slander and fear based fundamentalism, each one of us can stand boldly and love our Bibles and say before God and man; ‘my conscience is captive to the Word of God, and to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other God help me.‘
This year my wife and I and our sons spent ‘all hallows’ and ‘Reformation day’ in Oxford remembering the true meaning of the so-called ‘Halloweeen’. Visiting the ancient sites associated with historic Christians such as John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Hugh Latimer, Nicolas Ridley, Thomas Cranmer and Welsh Bible translator William Salesbury.
Oxford is one of those cities where history and the present meet together on every street. If one looks closely, stories and histories can be told on every street corner.
One of those stories which stood out to me on this trip was that of the trial of Hugh Latimer. A great reformer of the 16th century.
Latimer had studied at Cambridge and became a Bishop in the Church of England and for a time served as Chaplain to King Edward V1. However on the Coronation of bloody Mary to the throne, Latimer was brought to trial for his Biblical teachings and would eventually be condemned and burned at the stake with Nicolas Ridley, outside the city walls and Balliol College, on Broad Street where John Wycliffe had been Master.
During our time in Oxford we visited St Mary’s Church where the trial took place. As I stood in the centre of that room Latimer’s words echoed through my mind. Upon being questioned concerning his denial of Transubstantiation, Latimer declared that his memory had “plain gone” and that his teachings were true to Scripture and agreed with the Church fathers, when the Church fathers agreed with Scripture.
Concerning the Eucharist, Latimer was presented with a series of articles of which article 1 said “In the sacrament of the alter, by the virtue of God’s word pronounced by the priest, there is really present the natural body of Christ, conceived of the Virgin Mary, under the kinds of appearance of bread and wine; in like manner His blood.”
To this doctrine, Latimer replied;
“I answer that for the right celebration of the Lord’s Supper, there is none other presence of Christ required than a spiritual presence; and this presence is sufficient for a Christian man, as the presence by which we abide in Christ, and Christ abideth in us, to the obtaining of eternal life, if we persevere therein.”
Note that Latimer held to the very Biblical position that faith in Jesus Christ is ‘past, present, continuous‘ and ‘if’ we abide in Christ, Christ abides in us and by this abiding faith, we obtain eternal life, “if we persevere therein”.
For many Christians, these truth’s are nothing less than exactly what Scripture teaches. But concerning the case of Latimer, the enemies of Biblical truth were the Roman Catholic Priests and the Anabaptists. Of whom he goes on further to say; “And this I here rehearse lest some sycophant or scorner should suppose me, with the Anabaptists, to make nothing else of the sacrament but a bare and naked sign.”
As I stood in the exact location in the Chapel where Latimer stood and the location where Cranmer made his defence, I was reminded of the cost of following Christ and being true to His Word. I know that from my own trials over the years within the Christian Church, my loyalty to Scripture has cost me the pulpit more than once.
Being loyal to Scripture is a battle from start to finish, and the Church is often the one that prevents the Christian loyalty to the Biblical text. So often it is a historic fact that the so-called Christian Church has been one of the major opponents of true Christianity. But in all this I count it all as part of the cost of knowing Christ. We lose in this life, but Christ wins. Even amidst persecution, Christ wins. After all, was it not the so-called Christian Church which persecuted the reformers? Was it not the official legal priests who insulted and accused my Lord Jesus Christ? Was it not the priests who murdered the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament Apostles? How much more then will the hypocrites continue to accuse those who obey Scripture rather than the whims, fictions and fairy tales of men.
Christians, be encouraged, stand with Latimer in the Truth and know that if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and abide in Him, you will never perish.
On that note Christians, I leave you with the echoing words and memory of Hugh Latimer, who, proceeding his trial, on his way to being burned at the stake, declared his salvation to men, saying thus;
“Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”.
Recently I acquired a 19th century scrapbook.
The scrapbook contains a lot of truly interesting things. Newspaper articles, letters, pictures, concert advertisements, and toward the front there is a poem. This poem is called “The Love of Money” and speaks against money preachers and ministers of the 19th century. It begins with a quote from 1 Timothy 6: 10 “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows”.
In that text, Paul was stating that many had been led away from Truth and walked away from Christ and lost what they had and in doing so fell into a life of misery.
The poem is an insightful warning and one that is even still so relevant to our day, where so many people fall away from Truth and into error out of their love of money, and the pursuit of acceptance. As Bob Dylan once wrote; “money doesn’t talk, it swears“.
The old poem reads like so;
“MONEY ! oh money ! thy praises I sing,
Thou art my Savior, my God, and my King;
Tis for thee that I preach, and for thee that I pray, And make a collection twice each sabbath day.
I have candles, and all sorts of dresses to buy,
For I wish you know that my church is called high-
I don’t mean in structure of steeple or wall,
But so high that the Lord cannot reach it at all.
I have poor in my parish who need some relief –
I preach to their poverty, pray for their grief;
I send my box round to them, morning and night,
And hope they’ll remember “the poor widow’s mite.”
I gather my knowledge from wisdom’s great tree,
And the whole of my Trinity is £,s, and d ;
Yes, pounds, shillings, and pence, are all that I crave.
From my first step on earth to the brink of the grave.
When I’m laid low, and my body at rest,
Place a box on my grave, – ’tis my latest request,
That friends may all see who come for reflection,
I can’t rest in peace without a collection.
Money’s my creed, I’ll not pray without it,
My heaven is closed ‘gainst all those who doubt it;
For this is the essence of parson’s religion-
Come regular to church and be plucked like a pigeon.
My pay may be hundreds or thousands a year-
Double it, treble it, still I’ll be here
With my box or my bags, collecting your brass,
For I can’t do as Jesus did -ride on an ass.
I’ll have carriage and horses, and servants, and hall, –
I am not going to foot it, like Peter and Paul;
Neither like John – live on locust and honey, –
So out with your purses, and down with your money.
Fools sometimes ask what I do with this money !
They might just as well ask what bees do with honey !
I answer them all with a wink or a nod;
I keep three-birds myself, and give praises to God.
In the cold silent earth I may soon be laid low,
And sleep with the blest that went long ago;
I shall slumber in peace till the great resurrection,
Then be first to my legs to make a collection.”
Well, it’s that time of the year again here in the UK. Summer is over. Autumn is here. The leaves are falling on the ground. It’ll soon be Christmas.
Festivals are an important part of Britain, they define who we are and were we have come from. Our Country is steeped to the highest hill in Christian history. England is a special place.
It was here on this tiny Island where the very first complete English New Testament was written in the 14th century by Yorkshireman John Wycliffe and possibly the Lollards. Wycliffe was a good man and worked at Oxford and Lutterworth. He is believed to have been “the morning star of the Reformation”.
It was here in the 16th century where that master linguist and translator William Tyndale first began his translation work on the Tyndale New Testament. This translation would become a foundation for the singularly most influential book in the entire world, the 1611 King James Bible.
Research reveals that somewhere between 85-90% of the King James New Testament, is the work of Tyndale.
Tyndale’s dying prayer “Lord, open the eyes of the King of England” was a foundation for the English Reformation and the printing of the English Bible. That Bible Henry V111 gave licence to was the 1536/37 English version by Tyndale’s friend, Myles Coverdale. That version also contained the majority of Tyndale’s work.
Wycliffe, Tyndale and Coverdale were hugely influential in the English Reformation, and although Coverdales Bible would eventually be somewhat concluded 74 years later in the 1611 King James Version, it was the reforms of Henry V111 and Edward V1 that would lay the foundations for the Britain we now live in today.
The 16th century was a violent time. Our freedom has come at a great cost. Our streets are filled with the blood of the martyrs. Protestant Christians are probably one of the most persecuted people on the face of this planet and it was the historical Protestants who stood up for the right of religious freedom in the Country.
Today many of these Protestant martyrs have been forgotten. Yes, Protestants have been guilty a number of times for blood shed, yes they have often turned intolerant, but the root cause of their actions lay with the oppressive authoritarian rule of the historic Roman Catholic Church. It was Rome which started the violence, not the Protestants.
On this day, October 31st 1517, German monk and Catholic Priest Martin Luther nailed his thesis to the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg. His thesis contain 95 points of debate concerning the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church and its forthright denial of the Bible in favor of the laws of the Pope.
Because Luther challenged the position of the Roman Catholic Church, he would eventually find himself standing trial at Worms and by an act of daring defiance and resolute conviction of conscience, in 1522 he stood before the council and declared that he would not recant of his beliefs unless his claims could be proven wrong by Scripture and by plain reason. The established Church could not refute Luther because in reality they had more knowledge of the Church than of Scripture and Luther thus remained true to his convictions. The Pope put a bounty on Luther’s head and he became the most wanted man in Germany. But Luther’s move grew stronger and he hit back with a German Translation of the Bible, which separated the German Church from the rule of Rome forever. Thus, the Reformation had begun.
Today millions of people around the world worship in Churches inspired by his Reformation. Yet for many people, October 31st is little more than a day to dress up what was a Christian festival, into a visual representation of the occult.
Truth be told, Halloween has been hijacked. It was originally a Christian festival.
The truth is that October 31st is Reformation day and it was through the Reformers labouring for Religious freedom, that in the 16th century Reformation founded this Country and even America. It is a historic fact that during the Roman Catholic persecution of staunch Protestants in the years that followed would cause many Protestants to leave England and head to Germany or Geneva. It was clear during the reign of Mary 1 and even the 17th century that the Roman Catholic church was unwilling to give religious freedom to those outside of that establishment.
When the King James Bible was first published in 1611, the Puritans of England were a considerable force for the faith. Yet even they would eventually be forced out of England, Leaving at Plymouth with their Geneva Bibles, they headed for North America where they founded New Plymouth and so forth. Eventually the Puritan movement in 17th century America would go extreme, but the King James Bible prevailed. What is clear when the good works are known, is that both modern England and America are founded upon the Christian faith, the English Bible, and the Reformation. Yet today, it would seem that both England and America are once again turning their backs upon the historical position that has made them. In England we have an official Church which is once again slipping downhill into a hell that repeatedly denies the Truth of Scripture.
If we look back to the pre-reformation era of the Church, it is quite easy to see that the Church of today in England is not far off being an exact parallel to the church back then. We can see a minority of Christians, like the Lollards, speaking out and inwardly and outwardly desiring the Church to be honest to the Bible rather than the opinions of men. We see the Church traditions overriding Scripture, we see the fullness of the Gospel being denied.
We see a majority of ministers, or at least a lot of them, and members of the Church of England in outright denial of the Word of God and in the favour of liberalism and the opinions of mere men. While those loyal to to Scripture are being labelled as either fundamentalist, arrogant or already guilty of “religiosity” being over literal or indeed “fanatics”. Yet the Church of England was founded on so-called ‘fanatics’ and has continued such for many centuries. The problem today is that the reasons why many make such claims against true Christian’s is not necessarily because of Truth itself, but because our foundations differ to their opinions. Thus, it is quite clear that true Christians at the moment are becoming somewhat of a minority in this Country, like the voices of John Wycliffe and the Lollards of the 14th and 15th centuries and when it comes to dates like 31st October, the historic truths are being covered over with deceptions.
When the inspiration for a new reform of the Christian Church in England came to me in 2011, it was somewhat of an inspiring shock. Yet most Christians I shared this with did not understand. However, I knew that signs would follow and they did. On 16th December 2011 David Cameron spoke at Christ Church, Oxford and stated that Britain needs to return back to Christian principles. David Cameron also quite cleverly and deliberately employed the use of the word ‘Revival’ in his political speech concerning a “revival of Christian values”. On Christmas day 2011, the Queen gave one of the most ‘evangelical’ speeches I have ever heard from her. This, and a number of Scriptures bore witness to the reality of what Paul wrote:
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2: 1-4
I do not feel that Christians rightly took on board the opportunity presented by David Cameron and rather wrongly looked to the person of behind the Prime Minister rather than the truth that was spoken. To me, it is somewhat irrelevant who speaks the truth, if indeed the Truth is spoken. Thus, regardless of David Cameron, since I am not going to judge him, he was right, Britain is in need of a ‘Revival of Christian values’.
Since that time we have seen the riots of London, a grim reminder of the so-called ‘Peasants Revolt’ and we have even seen the Roman Catholic Church repeatedly referring to ‘Catholic Reform’ and the notion of ‘Reform’ spreading throughout such areas as ‘Banking reform, welfare reform, and so forth. The problem is, the worldly view of reform is not the reform that the Church needs.
Since 2011, I have been continuously speaking of the need of Church reform. I know that no one man like Luther can reform the Church and I would reform my own self first. The truth is that the historical position of Reformation was centralised around the break from the Roman Catholic Church, yet today the principle of reform is the same, only broader: if only the majority of the established Church would learn to teach the Truth, no true Christian would need to break away from it. However, I realise no Church is perfect, yet I also know that now is the time for me to call upon all my brothers and sisters in Christ to make the stand now for Christ and His Church in this country. It is not a time to sit back and merely complain, it is the time for us to unite in Reforming the Christian Church in Britain.
Although I recognise there is no ‘One official Church’, that such is a thing of the past, there are many denominations which have sprung up as a product of the Reformation, each of them having their own leaders and positions of faith and doctrine. It is the responsibility of all Christian leaders to ensure that what is being taught from the pulpit and from life, is true to Scripture. And that I think, is where a true reform can come. Not through official systems, or Kings and Queens, although such would be helpful, but through the obedience of every Christian man. It is true that some Churches have no need of reform, since they are true to Scripture. But for those Churches that are in desperate need of Reform, reform in Britain is possible, reforming one Church at a time.
In closing, I would like to add that this Country would not be the country it is today if not for the Protestant communities, and it is wrong that Bible believing Christians today are being marginalized for their Faith and beliefs. No man or women has the authority or right to dictate to another how he or she can live or what that person can or cannot believe. It is up to the Scripture itself and the Holy Spirit to make the Truth known. However, Scripture reveals that in times of persecution, now matter how large or how small, the Christian Church is made strong. That God, by His authority, has sent the Holy Spirit with power to convict the world of sin. This will happen regardless of the world and her governors. We need the Holy Spirit to move with power, for without the Holy Spirit, no man or woman can know the Truth and no one will see the Lord.
Simon Peter Sutherland
31st October 2014
Every Christmas I hear John Lennon’s voice singing “And so this is Christmas, and what have you done…” It saddens me almost every time.
Today, I thought of that line and turned things around a little. I was thinking about this tonight, that today is reformation day, 31st October 2013, the religious holiday where some reformed congregations remember that day when Martin Luther posted what is known as “The 95 thesis” on 31st October 1517.
Back then the church was a bit of a mess. People did not believe that salvation was by Gods grace alone, and the essentials of the Christian faith were either not presented or had become muddled up and fuzzy due to the unscriptural claims of church leadership.
Not much has changed. Today in England, 2013, we still see the same old mess and many leaders of the Christian church being the very people who somewhat decronstruct the church and turn it into either a social gathering or a self centred platform for ear pleasing, man made doctrines. The Word of God is so often denied for the word of man.
If it was not for God Himself, His Holy Spirit and His Word of Truth, I would, apart from Christian history, I confess it, be ashamed to be called a Christian and not because of the message or the claims of Christian creeds, but because of what Christianity has become in Britain. And what do Christians do to see things change? Do they even see the need for change? Or are they so busy building their own lives and founding their own careers, being so steeped in that that they see little need for church restoration?
Luther did not nail his thesis to the church door so that this statement could be trodden under foot. Jesus did not say He would build His church so that Christians could sit back and let Him do all the work. No. He said He would build His church upon His chosen people and does that exclude you in this very generation?
If Jesus Christ was truly God and truly man, and He was born of a virgin and truly raised the dead to life and was crucified, dead and buried and rose from the dead, then He is the singularly most important person this world has ever known or will know. And if He said, “I will build my church”then the church is the singular most important establishment on the face of the earth.
Thus, with this in mind, I ask you all, what is more important; your own lives, your own wealth, your own homes and careers or the church of Christ?
Thus, I say it again, and so this is reformation day, and what have you done? Are you going to sit and watch the church fall and fail and say ‘it is not my calling’ and leave the work for other men to do or are you going to do something about it?
The choice is yours, but from this day forwards, you can never again say that you were unaware of this urgent need!