Posts Tagged “Reformed Theology”
In only a few days now the actual 500th anniversary of the Reformation will be upon us.
31 October for me is a time that can inspire things to be straightened out. A time that inspires misconceptions to be challenged and for the voices of the people to be heard.
At this time of such a momentous anniversary, there is a common misunderstanding today that I have noticed for sometime, where popular preachers from America often associate the labelling of ‘reformed Theology’ as somewhat exclusive to Calvinism.
There are a lot of brothers in America who claim ‘reformed Theology’ is little more than Calvinism in a nutshell.
Calvinism they say, is nothing more than the pure Gospel.
These claims however are highly speculative and cannot be verified beyond doubt in the face of history and Scripture.
The facts remain that reformed theology can be divided into about four branches or positions.
The facts remain that when Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg in 1517, John Calvin was only eight years old.
Calvin was born 10 July 1509 in Noyon, France, which is nearly 600 miles from Wittenberg. When Luther stood at the Diet of Worms in 1521 and the outbreak of the Reformation spread, Calvin was an 11 year old boy who went on to study Philosophy in Paris. He went on to study and pursue a career in law and would not experience a conversion to Christ until 1533 when he was about 24 years old.
By that time Luther had already been excommunicated, translated the New Testament into German and his complete German translation of the Bible was close to being published. The following year Tyndale’s New Testament was in its final revision and the majority of key reformation books had been published and distributed.
By 1536 Calvin was working hard to reform the Church in Geneva and his publication of ‘the Institutes of the Christian Religion’ was in its 1st edition. And through his preaching and influence in Geneva, Calvin’s branch of the reformation spread throughout Geneva and the reformation reached its peak by 1545 and by influence continued on till about 1620. By 1545, many publications had been published and the majority position of the Reformation was Lutheran. Calvinism mainly taking root in France, Netherlands, and Scotland and remaining until after the counter reformation of 1648.
From the mid 16th century – the mid 17th century, Calvinism had taken root in England, Scotland, Greece, and Wales during the Puritan era, while Lutheranism held a majority throughout Europe, even making its way back to Rome itself. Thus, the simple facts remain that although Calvin’s influence had branches within the Reformation, it was probably not referred to as Calvinism until the 18th or 19th centuries, the majority of Calvinistic thought process at that time being the development and spread of the doctrines proclaimed in 1618 at the Synod of Dort and the Puritans who left England during the 17th century for America.
John Calvin’s steadfast work and devotion to the faith is to be admired and admonished, and I value his contribution to the reformation. I regard Calvin’s commentaries on Scripture among the best available. But, I am less favourable concerning the common claims that reformed theology is nothing more than Calvinism. On the contrary, the claim is little more than a fictitious propagation of this centuries favourite American Calvinist preachers, who because of their position on believers baptism, would probably have been either imprisoned or drowned by the very same people they claim to revere.
Surely it is time now for this fallacious claim to be amended!
If one were to test and oppose and speak against certain doctrines now preached commonly within Christian circles, often the one or ones who speak out are closed off and rejected by congregations and those in authority of the pulpit. It can be supposed a stepladder towards heresy to question the doctrines and teachings that man has set alongside the teachings of the Bible? But what can every man do but be obedient to God rather than the ministry that is expected of him by the ideals of man and the Orthodox pigeonholed Church? So who are we to obey? Should Christians obey the God of the Bible and the teaching that stands by His word or should we obey man and his interpretations of scripture? The answer is, at least I would like it to be that Christians obey the written word of God and not the impressions of God in the mind. Wishful thinking?
If we do not test all things, we are liable to be led astray and brainwashed into all things. Indeed every singular individual in the Bible is commanded to judge and test all things. At no time is any individual in the Bible commanded to obey the doctrines of the established church regarding interpretations of the scriptures. In 1 Thessalonians 5: 21 we are commanded to “prove all things”. It is with this text that Paul employed the Greek word translated “prove” ‘dokimazō’ meaning to test, approve, discern, and examine (G1384. Strongs). Now if we do not fulfil this commandment for fear of moving away from Orthodox and established doctrines, we are not following God but Vatican type dogma, as many have done so in our past and still do to their own peril. Therefore it is not arrogant or none-humble to test the established teachings of the Church and to refute them, but it is in obedience to the God of the Bible and the love of His commandments.
If we look at the Bible openly and honestly, we can see that God is in control of salvation and the affairs of men. He gives salvation to whomever He wishes and refuses no one who comes to Him, but gives man the ability to come to Him (John 6: 44. 12: 32). Now if man were capable of sanctifying himself, in other-words making himself holy, there would be no need of Christ. But since Christ has come, we are in need of Gods sanctification. This is a basic Biblical truth. Now, one rather common teaching I seek to mention is based around the doctrine that claims that Disciples of Christ or commonly named ‘Christians’ are not yet completely sanctified but are “being sanctified.” This teaching taught by many is not what the Bible proclaims. For such teachings are based around theological arguments and doctrines which so often today are based upon modern translations of the scriptures in which the translators may have included the teachings of men into the Bible? These teachings are not contained within the authorised King James Version and the best Hebrew and Greek texts. Translations such the NIV, NKJ, NASV all contain the teaching of “being sanctified”. This wording is inaccurate to the original Greek text of Hebrews 10: 14. The teaching of ‘being sanctified’ is an attempt, ‘in my opinion’, to moderate what Christ has done in His people and to deny the Biblical doctrine on ongoing perfection, not sanctification. As stated in Hebrews 10: 14, “For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified”
Thus, what does that mean? That He has “perfected forever them that are sanctified” Could that mean that Jesus has perfected Christians and those who are in Christ are sanctified already? Well, we must believe the truth or we will fall into the errors and traditions of men, for we can only rely upon Gods testimony for this truth and not the doctrines and teachings we hold dear. For, in all the times our sanctification is prophesied by the Old Testament prophets, the fulfilment is revealed in the New Testament. Sanctification is at no time referred to as an ongoing process. The moderation as contained in most of today’s translations are weak and therefore unacceptable as final authority. I urge you all to review the following quotations and let the scripture speak for itself.
“The tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory”. Exodus 29: 34
“Before I formed thee (Jeremiah) in the belly I knew thee; and before thou comest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee”. Jeremiah 1: 5
“Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are Sanctified”. 1 Corinthians 1: 2
“But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified…in the name of the Lord Jesus” 1 Corinthians 6: 11
“For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one” Hebrews 2: 11
“We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” Hebrews 10: 10
“For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” Hebrews 10: 14
“Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ…to them that are sanctified, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called”.
I have long held to some early church statements concerning my personal faith and regard many of them as very Biblical and foundational.
Some early church creeds are not like the more modern creeds such as the “Synod at Dort” and the “Westminister confession of faith” which go beyond the foundations of the faith and into varying debatable and maybe even none essential doctrines.
However, much of what I find in these early creeds of Christendom are totally contrary to the many doctrines found in the church today, including a popular and growing doctrine which is logically connected to the hardcore Calvinistic doctrine of “Double Predestination”.
The Council of Orange dating to 529 AD says the following; “We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrennce that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema” (The Council of Orange. Conlclusion. 529 AD)
The problem today is that many young Theologians who are influenced by the revival of Puritan books such as Owens “Death of Death” and some Calvinistic/reformed doctrinal books, are embracing doctrines which are not quite right, yet sound right when connected to other doctrines and certain passages of scripture.
Thus, in my posting this text, I would like to add that if any of my readers or your friends and fellow Christians hold to this doctrine condemned at Orange then you would be wise to re-think yourself. As written in scripture; “Take heed unto thyself and unto doctrine; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee” 1 Timothy 4: 16