Archive for category Reform

2017: A year of hope of renewal and Reformation!

Luther nailing his Thesis to the Church door © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

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.

Martin Luther's opponents © 2017 Simon Peter SutherlandLuther 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.

Luther nailing his Thesis to the Church door at Wittenberg © 2017 Simon Peter SutherlandThis 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.

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‘All Hallows’and ‘Reformation day’ in Oxford

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St Mary’s Oxford © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

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.

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The exact spot where the Oxford Martyrs were burned © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

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.

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The location in St Mary’s where Cranmer stood trial © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

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.”.

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“The love of money”a 19th century poem against money preachers

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The Love of Money © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

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.”

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The Love of Money © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

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Reformation day

Church door © 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

Church door © 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

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.

York Minster © 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

York Minster © 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

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

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And so this is ‘Reformation Day’, and what have you done?

Church cross © 2013 Simon Peter Sutherland

Church cross © 2013 Simon Peter Sutherland

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!

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Transformation from “bigots” to ‘Dinousaurs’ Nick Clegg dig’s at opponents of redefining marriage

DSCF2260Yesterday Nick Clegg giving a speech at his Liberal Democrats Conference and in it he referred to those who stood for the traditional view of marriage as “dinosaur opponents”.

This comment was not made in any context on his part or historic reference to dinosaurs as creatures of importance or anything like that, but a very childish and immature insult on his part toward those people who are genuinely concerned about upholding a historic and proper view of marriage and freedom. Clearly Mr Clegg likens people who uphold to traditional views of marriage as ancient obscure beings who are from the past.

The immature and childish insult given by Nick Clegg offer the people of Britain a further insight into just how childish British Politicians can be at times. Perhaps it just goes to show how much a mess Britain is in, when its apparent leaders embrace such immaturity that they have to insult people who do not agree with them, while at the same time profess to be Liberal in the name of democracy? Clearly liberalism is just another word for a default position, which embraces anyone but those who do not fit in with their worldview.

As if the people of Britain do not tire enough at seeing the leaders of this country arguing week after week like teenagers in the house of Lords, Mr Clegg feels now to insult millions of people in a childish non-intellectual way because they do not agree with his world-view.

Is it not enough that people who stand up for their right to defend traditional marriage have to put up with being labelled ‘bigots’ as victims of some kind of stupid game which uses fear based words to accomplish its aim rather than plain reason?

Is that democracy? Well, in order to find out the answer to that, we Protestants should be consulted, after all democracy in Britain came from us in the first place.

Nick Clegg should really be more careful with what he says and he should remember that the wind of the air and the tide of the sea can change direction very quickly. People are generally like fish, they swim in shoals with the tide, and when the tide changes, they go with the flow.

Mr Clegg should remember that time is only but a moment and what is present now will later be past and what is seen as modern now, will later be history.

The times will change Mr Clegg, and they are changing, and when the time of this generation is over, a new generation will come and when all our bones are in the ground, a new people will rise up and the winds of change will fill the streets.

Mr Clegg should really have a care, for come election day he will find, he may need these dinosaurs.

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Why we need another ‘Reformation’

“For the time is come that the judgement must begin at the house of God”
1 Peter 4: 17

St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh  © 2013 Simon Peter Sutherland

St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh
© 2013 Simon Peter Sutherland

In the immediate context of the given passage of 1 Peter 4: 17, we can derive from the text that Peter is addressing the now historical Temple in ancient Jerusalem and the destruction which Jesus prophesied would come about upon the temple, as recorded for us in Matthew 24: 2.

This prophecy was fulfilled in AD 66-70 when prince Titus by order of Vespasian destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem with his army and not one stone of the historical Temple complext was left standing upon another. Yet, aside from the historical aspect and literal reading of the text, we can derive from the following text of 1 Peter 4 and verse 17 “and if it first begin with us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” that the Lord’s aim of rebuking and judging His church is that the church might be restored so that judgement might begin upon the world so that they too may come to Him and repent. This initial context of this passage being the Jews who did not obey the gospel, but rejected Jesus as Messiah. But on a broader and wider application of the text, this can also apply to judgement falling upon Christ’s church who so often fall, as did the ancient Jews by either denying Jesus, continuing in sin or denying what is written in favour of their traditions. Jesus is the Word of God, so deny the Word, you deny Christ. Thus, Christ so often calls out for His people to repent that safe territory and good teaching may be offered them who are new to the faith. But how can this come, when the much of the church is fallen and those who stand are not teaching accurate doctrines?

We see that in the days when Jesus walked upon the earth, the established Jewish church was in an ungodly condition, they were very prosperous, critical scholars, arrogant, believing that they were chosen and others not, the pharisees were ruling by their own authority, they were wealthy and they were ‘to speak in modern terms’ the head professors of the scriptures, the literal interpreters of the scriptures, yet as common with powers up at the top, they were the ones who were actually denying the scriptures and leading others away with them in their errors.

CHRISTIANITY IN ENGLAND TODAY

Kendal Parish Church © 2013 Simon Peter Sutherland

Kendal Parish Church
© 2013 Simon Peter Sutherland

Now, today within the body of Christ there is much confusion and division. From a perspective viewed from England, some Protestant congregations within the UK are falling in numbers, and the many evangelical congregations who are holding to Biblical truth are forced to separate themselves and form independent gatherings of their own, these gatherings often happen in houses and other venues such as public halls and rented rooms. The churches which succeed in these areas are often flourishing in numbers.

The more established official state church such as the Church of England are largely divided and many are liberal in thinking and hold to modern ideologies and theologies and I certainly would argue are re-interpreting the Bible in favour of evolutionary science, feminism, varying times, passing winds, popular cultures and so forth.

The Church of England today certainly does not hold to its foundations and the likes of Pilkington and Cranmer would turn in their graves if they could. There can be little doubt that the Church of England is in desperate need of reform, a reform which may be happening from within. However, I fear that unless the Church of England is reformed, then Christianity in Britain will be reduced to a powder within the next 200 years and a less tolerant religion will take its place in an England that will never be the same again.

Yet, unlike the Church of England and its attempts to re-interpret Biblical truth with modern evolutionary science and feminism and so forth, some Baptist churches which are loyal to the Bible and have a good grasp of Biblical Theology are growing in numbers and God is with them. Whereas, independent Congregational and reformed gatherings in England are largely stuck in the puritan past and lack the Biblical movement and the presence of the Holy Spirit and more modern visual presentation. All too many reformed gatherings in England are greatly lacking and will not move from 20th century presentation to 21st century. Many even fail basic evangelism due to some form of hyper Calvinism.

In short and with all these denominations and people in mind, to sum the situation up with a few lines: one congregation follows one doctrine and another follows another doctrine. One Christian believes one doctrine and another believes another doctrine, both being faithful to the Biblical narrative in one way or another.

Yet many evangelical churches within England are influenced by the more leading figures of Christian teaching which is coming out of America. Today however in contrast to England, in America cults are fast growing and many Christian denominations are also popular and spreading. However, research reveals that many of the more faithful larger and modern American churches, from denominations such as Baptist, reformed and even Arminian Churches, many are moving and growing fast, much of them being reformed or Arminian in doctrine and young in their approach are multiplying. Celebrity pastors are on the rise.

Yet much division can still be seen amongst the people, and far too many genuine Christians are all too often at war with each other, un-reasonable, often slanderous and yet both sides are part of the same coin. Many being faithful in some way to what they see in the Biblical narrative.

Yet Modern Reformed Christianity, often linked with so-called ‘Calvinism’ particularly in America claims to hold firm to the ideals of the 16th century Reformation, yet many within that denomination are so systematised by their own interpretation of the scriptures that they make a heretic out of anyone who does not agree with their theology. When all the time, it may be they who need reforming!

It is my opinion that Reformed doctrine in its 16th century form is very Biblical, yet much modern reformed doctrine has moved away from its 16th century stand point, but even still, I think modern reformed doctrine is much more Biblical than the Arminian view, and I hold to much Reformed doctrine as good doctrine and agree a great deal with the principles and Theology of the 16th century reformation. However, I believe with the authority of scripture, that some modern Reformers do greatly err on doctrines such as double predestination and limited atonement. However, modern Reformers believe they are correct and often present themselves as almost exclusive to the truth and often claim that ‘Arminians do not worship the God of the Bible’. Yet at the same time many embrace John Wesley and sing Weslyan hymns. Thus, the claim that Arminians worship another God is pathetic, since some of the greatest revivals in church history came through the likes of John Wesley, so how can anyone claim that God stand not with Arminians? Likewise Arminians also fall into this pathetic argument when they battle against Calvinists and believe they are more Biblically accurate and often refer to Calvinists as worshipping another ‘god’ which is not the God of the Bible. (Note: I use the lower case ‘g’ in referrence to both arguements) However, this arguement of Calvinists and Arminians worshipping two gods, is pathetic and untrue. Differing on interpretation of certain doctrines such as predestination, election, universal offering of salvation, limited or un-limited atonement is one thing, but worshipping another god is another matter.

The question I ask is this: Is not possible that both Calvinists and Arminians could be correct in some way and what the areas which lack in Arminianism can be answered in Calvinism? And the areas which lack in Calvinism can be answered in Arminianism?

Many may laugh or hate my asking that question, yet if we look at the original Reformation teaching of Wycliffe and Tyndale, many modern Calvinistic reformers who limit the Bible to their systems would say that both Wycliffe and Tyndale were Arminians, and although Wycliffe, Tyndale and Luther believed in predestination, neither believed that anyone was predestined to hell. So which doctine is truly reformed?

It seems to me that what is said to be reformed doctrine in the 21st century, is not 100% reformed, but 5 point Calvinism, a system of thought which Calvin himself may not have actually taught and dates back to the 17th century and not 100% accurate to the original 16th century Reformation teachings which were held in 16th century England by Tyndale, Cranmer, Pilkington, Hooker and so forth. This can also be said of Luthers reformation which certainly did not agree with 5 point Calvinism.

One problem is, that many today think of the word reformed as implying Calvinism, which is untrue. That is just one branch of reformed thinking, made popular by our American brothers and the revival of Puritan books.

DIVISION

“If a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”
Mark 3: 24-25

Jesus said a house divided cannot stand, yet Christianity today is massively divided and much of this division comes through a wide number of issues, some are loyal to the Biblical narrative, some are not. Some are honest, some are lying. Who then is correct?
Thus, I must ask: Where is the Bible and the Holy Spirit in all this muddle? Is the Holy Spirit who leads a man into all truth as found in the Biblical text itself not what the heart of the reformation was all about? That the Bible was to be in the hands of everyman, and that the Holy Spirit who reveals all truth would guide a man into the truth of God? Thus, the Spirit and the Word, the Word and the Spirit. If yes, then why is there so much doctrinal and personal division within Christianity today?

Thus, division is nothing new, we can find it throughout church history, and if we look at today’s church, we will see that many of the same errors happening in our time as what we saw during the time of the reformation.

CONCLUSION

There is little doubt to me that the church has gone around in circles and needs to return back once again to what the Bible actually teaches, and to cease from denying what is actually written in favour of personal bias, traditions, established creeds, confessions and ideas of men both from history and from the moderns.

Thus, if the church is to ever move forwards and be truly united in Christ and in His truth, then the leading sides of Arminians and Calvinists, need to cease from denying texts in re-interpreting them, to fit their doctrines and many of today’s major leaders within Christianity, who’s influence upon Christendom is vast and, must return to the actual Biblical narrative once again.

Thus, this is not a call out to dismiss all that has gone before or what God has done throughout the history of His church, but more a call out for the leaders to move on and return to the future.

In total contrast to the desire many have for revival, it will not come until the house of God is put in order first. It is reformation we need, not revival.
For, I believe the time is now that God by His Spirit is calling out for a fresh reformation of His church and her doctrine and is calling for the leaders in both England and America to whom He has given great authority and power to lead His people, to seek Him more now than ever before, and to awake and prepare for the reality of a coming reformation of Christ’s Holy Church.

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