Archive for category Reform
“For the time is come that the judgement must begin at the house of God”
1 Peter 4: 17
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
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.
“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.
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.
“What a trade is that of the priests. They want money for every thing: money for baptism, money for churchings, for weddings, for buryings, for images, brotherhoods, penances, soul-masses, bells, organs, chalices, copes, surplices, ewers, censors, and all manner of ornaments. Poor sheep! The parson shears, the vicar shaves, the parish priest polls, the friar scrapes, the indulgence seller pares ….. all that you want is a butcher to flay you and take away your skin”
(Obedience of a Christian Man)
It was published and printed by Robert Barker, the official printer of the King James Bible in 1631. However, a massive error was made in the print and one word was missed out from the 7th commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20: 14)
The word in question which was missed out was the word “Not“. Thus the text read, “Thou shalt commit adultery” for which the printer was fined £300 and the run of prints were destroyed and the printers license was taken from him.
Only a few of these Bibles exist today, since they were destroyed. But as I stood looking at this surviving witness to such a massive error, it came to me of how valuable every word of scripture truly is. That if “one dot or tittle” be removed, then it will have devastating eternal effects.
I prayed for the church in England and America while thinking of how far she has fallen today, when the Bibles that so many Christians hold and regard as worthy of being called a Bible, actually have edits and large numbers of texts and words missing from them. And thus so much of today’s church has gotten into bed with a harlot and has committed adultery with her, by embracing many ‘wicked Bibles’.
Seems to me that we not only have individual leaders within the Christian church who are likewise guilty of this sin by accepting edited Bibles, but she is also guilty of adultery too. It is she who so often accepts sins and re-interprets the Bible to comply with modern blasts of wind and thus so often makes herself look like a people pleasing coward in the eyes the world and an adulterous bride through the eyes of her Husband.
David Cameron while giving a speech at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford has attacked the moral decline of Britain and has openly called for a revival of Christian values in England and stated that people should openly proclaim explicit values of Christianity.
He also presented critique of the ideas that claim that by standing up for Christian values, we do somehow put down other “faiths”.
He also hailed the King James Bible.
Despite the distinctive observation that the word “faiths” is a historical fallacy concocted by political minds, the word ‘Religions’ is a better description, Cameron rightly spoke against Islamic extremism and claimed that an “almost fearful, passive tolerance of religious extremism” has resulted in Islamic Extremism to remain unchallenged.
One of the things which stands out regarding Cameron’s speech is that he spoke of a “revival” of Christian values and England certainly needs reform and a Christian awakening.
England is forgetting her own history.
Reform is certainly in the air and would involve a new Reformation and a restoration of Truth. But before a reformation of this nature could begin, the Church must get her own house in order first. And since Cameron said this to the Church of England, that is the context and this would call for reform within the Church of England, who has neglected the Bible in favour of passing trends, cultural pursuasions and theological windrushes.
It would be hypocrisy and a burying of ones head in the sand to imagine that the Church of England is in a good way, but there is always hope of reform.
Likewise there is always hope of a Christian awakening within the hearts of the people, but the Church and Parliament must get their own house in order first and remove the plank of wood that is in their own eye, before they can attempt to even suggest that their are splinters within anothers eye. In other words, you cannot expect the people to respect or embrace Christianity and Parliament, if much of Christianity and Parliament has become a harlot. People will not listen to anyone if they do not practice what they preach and the Church and the houses of Parliament of today have not presented themselves without fault.
However there is hope that things can change and it is out of hope that charity is born for without love and charity, ministers and politicians can give speeches all day long, but if they have not charity, they “become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13: 1
And as Paul says, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth” 1 Corinthians 13: 1-8
Will Parliament be willing to seek a restoration of Christian values within England while at the same time feeding the poor of England? Or will it offer a restoration of certain morals only? Is Cameron being genuine at all, or is he just playing a voting game, using Christianity to gain popularity?
If he is being genuine in then I humbly suggest that we must go all the way with this or not at all.
However, regarding Camerons speech, it is interesting to note that in this very same Cathedral that he gave this speech, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was publicly “degraded” in 1556 and in the 1720’s John and Charles Wesley were ordained as Priests in the Church of England.
Thus, just as great awakenings and reform did come in times past through the church, they can also do so once again in the future.
Thus, these three remain, “Faith, hope and charity” 1 Corinthians 13: 13.
Simon Peter Sutherland
17th December 2011