19/01/20 The Reformation (actually a reformed or modified Catholic church)
Unless stated otherwise, quotes are from Schaff’s “History of the Christian Church” Vol.8 (1988 Reprint of the Third Edition – ISBN 0-8028-8054-1).
It is useful to understand just what “reformation” actually means.
Cambridge dictionary says it is “the act of making an improvement, especially by changing a person’s behaviour or the structure of something …. the 16th-century religious ideas and activity in Europe that were an attempt to change and improve the Catholic Church.“
That is, it was not the development of a biblically-based church in opposition to the Catholic church, but an effort to change the Catholic church from within to re-form or modify it, thus they were “Reformers”.
“The Reformers aimed to reform the old Church by the Bible; the Radicals attempted to build a new Church from the Bible.” (P 76)
Calvin considered the Catholic church to be God’s elect church in the same way as Israel was considered to be God’s elect nation in the Old Testament. He remarked that even though worship in Israel became corrupted, it yet remained God’s chosen avenue for worshipping him. In the same way he reasoned that the Reformers should not abandon the Catholic church.
“But if the holy Prophets were restrained by a sense of duty from forsaking the Church (of Israel) on account of the numerous and enormous crimes which were practiced, not by a few individuals, but almost by the whole nation, it is extreme arrogance in us, if we presume immediately to withdraw from the communion of a Church, where the conduct of all the members is not compatible either with our judgment or even with the Christian profession.“ (Calvin, Institutes Bk 4, Ch.1, Section 18) That is, it is arrogance to leave the Catholic church even if there are no active or professing Christians in it!
Of course, this incorrectly assumed that the Catholic church was God’s chosen church, excluding all other avenues of worship as required of Israel. But in the New Testament church we are commanded to separate ourselves from apostate churches.
2 Corinthians 6:14-17 – 14Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in [them]; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you,
Note that the Radicals mentioned here are those who opposed the Catholic church and, in obedience to 2 Corinthians 6:14-17, didn’t want to be part of even a re-formed Catholic church (as the reformers were doing). The Anabaptists were a major group of the Radicals.
While the Anabaptists got their name through their teaching of only baptising converted Christians (similar to Baptists of today) their main reason for establishing their separate beliefs was because of their opposition to the church being in leadership with the state. (The Catholic church controlled most of the countries of Europe and the Protestants took similar control if and when they were able to do so. The state served the church and the church served the state in return.)
“The first and chief aim of the Radicals was not (as is usually stated) the opposition to infant baptism, still less to sprinkling or pouring, but the establishment of a pure church of converts in opposition to the mixed church of the world. The rejection of infant baptism followed as a necessary consequence. They were not satisfied with separation from popery; they wanted a separation from all the ungodly.“ (P 78)
Thus the separation of church and state.
When the Reformers took over, they worked in with the ruling bodies of the cities or states where they existed and in most (if not all) cases the city or state took responsibility for establishing the rules of the church and enforcing them. This was something vehemently opposed by the Radicals (including the Anabaptists). The Catholic church also required citizens to be controlled by the city or state, such that the citizens were to embrace Catholic beliefs and practices or else suffer the consequences. The Reformers did the same when they were in charge. Whole towns and cities were to belong to the required town or city religion. Citizens who refused to belong were generally made to move out or else suffer. Notably Calvin was one who enforced such rules under threat of punishment for non-compliance.
The Anabaptists rejected the Catholic baptism, effectively starting a new church by separating from the established (yet corrupt and apostate) church. By doing so they alienated both the Catholics and the Reformers who both accepted the Catholic baptism.
“The opposition to the mixed state-church or popular church, which embraced all the baptized, legitimately led to the rejection of infant baptism. A new church required a new baptism. ……
From this conception of baptism followed as a further consequence the rebaptism of those converts who wished to unite with the new church. Hence the name Anabaptists or Rebaptizers (Wiedertäufer), which originated with the Pedobaptists, but which they themselves rejected, because they knew no other kind of baptism except that of converts. The demand of rebaptism virtually unbaptized and unchristianized the entire Christian world, and completed the rupture with the historic Church. It cut the last cord of union of the present with the past.“ (P 80)
The Catholic church required that all its members be given Catholic baptism (as children) in order to commence the regenerative process of baptism. In general the Reformers also accepted the same belief concerning paedobaptism.
“All the Reformers were born, baptized, confirmed, and educated in the historic Catholic Church, which cast them out; as the Apostles were circumcised and trained in the Synagogue, which cast them out. They never doubted the validity of the Catholic ordinances, and rejected the idea of re-baptism. Distinguishing between the divine substance and the human addition, Calvin said of his baptism, “I renounce the chrism, but retain the baptism.” ” (P 278)
“The two ideas of a pure church of believers and of the baptism of believers were the fundamental articles of the Anabaptist creed.“ (P 82)
Disciplinary action for moral and religious disobedience was administered by the town or city.
“To give force to these institutions, the ban was introduced in 1530, and confided to a council of three pious, honest, and brave laymen for each of the four parishes of the city; two to be selected by the Council, and one by the congregation, who, in connection with the clergy, were to watch over the morals, and to discipline the offenders, if necessary, by excommunication.—In accordance with the theocratic idea of the relation of Church and State, dangerous heresies which denied any of the twelve articles of the Apostles’ Creed, and blasphemy of God and the sacrament, were made punishable with civil penalties such as confiscation of property, banishment, and even death.“ (P 110) The morals police were watching!!
The Anabaptists opposed much of this involvement of state in the affairs of the church; they saw it as interference that was none of their business. The church should govern its own beliefs and the state should stick to civil unrest affairs. As a result the Anabaptists were persecuted because of their denial of the state’s rights to rule their religious beliefs.
“The Swiss Anabaptists had no connection with the Peasants’ War, which barely touched the border of Switzerland, and were upon the whole, like the Moravian Anabaptists, distinguished for simple piety and strict morality. Bullinger, who was opposed to them, gives the Zurich Radicals the credit that they denounced luxury, intemperance in eating and drinking, and all vices, and led a serious, spiritual life. Kessler of St. Gall, likewise an opponent, reports their cheerful martyrdom, and exclaims, “Alas! what shall I say of the people? They move my sincere pity; for many of them are zealous for God, but without knowledge.” ” (P 82)
“Grebel, Manz, and Blaurock (Anabaptists) were rearrested, and charged with communistic and revolutionary teaching. After some other excesses, the magistracy proceeded to threaten those who stubbornly persisted in their error, with death by drowning. He who dips, shall be dipped,—a cruel irony.
It is not known whether Zwingli really consented to the death sentence, but he certainly did not openly oppose it.“ (P 85)
Thus we can see that the Reformers were not interested in starting a new church based upon biblical foundations, for they never actually left the Catholic church, but instead desired reform of some of its allegedly more unacceptable practices. The main areas of disagreement between the Reformers and the Catholic church were (a) the celebration of the mass; (b) the hierarchy of the catholic church including pope, cardinals and bishops; (c) the necessity of the catholic priesthood as intermediaries between man and God; (d) the sale of papal indulgences for the forgiveness of sins; (e) the practice of simony (the sale of high office for monetary gain) and (f) the problem of an imposed priestly celibacy.
Mariology (the worship of Mary), along with the worship of saints was also seen as a problem for some Reformers but not for others. Note the following:
An opposer of Calvin, Gruet, was beheaded on the 26th of July, 1547. …..
“Two or three years after the death of Gruet, a treatise of his was discovered full of horrible blasphemies against Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Prophets and Apostles, against the Scriptures, and all religion.“ (P 503) Although Calvin did oppose “the absurdities and impieties of the wonder-working pictures of Christ; the relics of … the Virgin Mary, preserved in so many places.“ (P 608)
Luther declared Mary to have remained a sinless virgin perpetually.
Calvin calls Mary “the blessed Virgin Mary” (Institutes Bk 2, Ch.10, Section 4).
Other issues also arose with individual Reformers. For example, Calvin’s teachings on predestination and lack of free will for man went far beyond what the Catholic church taught.
“St. Augustin moderated the rigor of the doctrine of predestination by the doctrine of baptismal regeneration and the hypothesis of future purification. …. And yet we must say that the Reformers, following the lead of the great saint of Hippo, went to a one-sided extreme. Melanchthon felt this, and proposed the system of synergism, which is akin to the semi-Pelagian and Arminian theories.“ (P 94)
Even some of the above areas of disagreement were disputed between the Reformers themselves.
“But there was a characteristic difference between the two Reformers in the general theory of the sacraments, and especially the Lord’s Supper. Zwingli stood midway between Luther and the Anabaptists. He regarded the sacraments as signs and seals of a grace already received rather than as means of a grace to be received. They set forth and confirm, but do not create, the thing signified. He rejected the doctrine of baptismal regeneration and of the corporal presence; while Luther adhered to both with intense earnestness and treated a departure as damnable heresy.“ (P 88-89)
Calvin tended to suggest both that the communion was a memorial feast but also that the actual presence could not be separated from it.
“For unless we would charge God with deceit, we will never presume to say that he holds forth an empty symbol. Therefore, if by the breaking of bread the Lord truly represents the partaking of his body, there ought to be no doubt whatever that he truly exhibits and performs it. …. For why does the Lord put the symbol of his body into your hands, but just to assure you that you truly partake of him?“ (Institutes Bk 4, Ch.17, Section 10) (He was having a bet each way, I think!)
Luther, while initially in general agreement with some measure of free will for man, upon being told by Erasmus that he should believe in some measure of free will, then, in a fit of stubbornness, he declared that man’s will was in bondage and free will did not exist as such. (Luther could be a grumpy old man!)
But as for the rest of the practices and teachings of the Catholic church the Reformers generally had no real issues. After all, they didn’t wish to throw out so much history and tradition for the sake of a few areas of disagreement, and they saw the Catholic church as still the chosen vessel of God. Of course, those areas of disagreement were very severe in that neither side was prepared to compromise at all, leading to open conflict at times. The Reformers saw the Radical Anabaptists as dispensing with all that “good” of the Catholic church as well. You didn’t start a new church because you didn’t like the old; you re-formed (modified) the old such that it was reshaped into something satisfactory and acceptable. The Catholic church was never rejected by the Reformers, who merely demanded a re-forming of, or modification of, the areas of disagreement.
If the Catholic church were to have (a) rejected transubstantiation in the mass, (b) offloaded the pope and other leaders, (c) permitted their people to have direct access to God through Christ instead of through the priesthood, (d) stopped the selling of indulgences, (e) stopped the practice of simony, and (f) permitted priests to marry, then it seems that the Reformers might have stayed Catholic, albeit a Reformed Catholic church. Thus the Reformers merely set up their realms of influence to have a Reformed Catholic church available to its members, yet they still remained intrinsically Catholic! However, whether they were Catholic or Reformed, town and state citizens still had to obey the rules of the church as enforced by the morals police of the civil authorities.
The Catholic church was not a Christian church; it never had been. They were into control in a big way, as are all of satan’s ventures. They persecuted any who disagreed with them, and kept tabs on all its members through the confessional. All catholics were required to confess their sins to the priest regularly. Those who didn’t were suspected of anti-catholic beliefs. (Catholics also had to go to mass, had to be baptised catholics, had to die catholics! You obeyed the rules or suffered the consequences.) This is classic cult behaviour!
Once upon a time (in the past) the calvinists (who were the major Reformers here) didn’t agree with the Catholic confession. They said that the only mediator between God and man was Christ, and only Christ could forgive sins, not the earthly priesthood. However, they still kept an iron grip on the behaviour of their members, not through the confessional but via the “puritan” police. You had to live good pure lives or be punished! The state or city enforced the moral codes required.
Today the new calvinism has taken a few steps back toward the Catholic church. The old calvinism claimed that it was opposed to the Catholics, and even though this was not completely correct, they at least could claim that they had made significant changes to their reformed version of the Catholic church. The old calvinism also put aside Catholic sinfulness, at least to some extent, by teaching (even enforcing) the need for pure living (thus the label of “puritans”). The Catholic church wasn’t Christian in its beliefs nor its behaviour. The Reformers retained the non-Christian Catholic beliefs but gave them a veneer of respectability through pure and moral living. It was the old Catholic belief with works added to ensure their salvation. No matter how hard they declared that they were saved by Christ alone, they were still initially saved by their Catholic baptism and continued to be saved by their puritanism. If you didn’t live a proper puritan life, then you were struck off the earthly register of the elect (and therefore would miss out on heaven).
But three issues arose in modern times. Those pesky Baptists demanded believers’ baptism, and, unlike the Anabaptists, the modern Baptists (especially in USA) had some clout. They had to be accommodated or else the calvinists would lose their way, for the old calvinism was slowly but surely dying. They had to accept those modern-day “Anabaptists” and their beliefs, and add them into their corrupt calvinist doctrines.
Another serious blemish with the old calvinism is that it was clearly non-evangelical. The fundamentalist church demanded evangelism. So calvinism had to become evangelical, even more so than the evangelicals! But they were still calvinists; note the following from calvinist Bryan Liftin “But then why evangelize anyone if God’s decree is already fixed? The mistake is thinking that we evangelize in order to save people. That is incorrect. ….. The right reason to evangelize is to be obedient.” You see, once a puritan, always a puritan!
And the third issue was even more pronounced. We now live in an age where material assets and pleasurable living mean more than eternal life to most “Christians”. People don’t assess a church for “biblical” doctrine any more. Instead, they see if it offers what they want from a church: a good social life, a promise of eternal life if they are good members, and not too much conflict with their enjoyment of the world. And, pastors also desire a good retirement fund, something many pastors used not to have. It was always accepted that pastors, like missionaries and Christian school teachers, were to be paid less than other people because they would do it for the ministry, not for the money (or lack of it!). However, now it’s not much fun being the pastor of a small church where the offering barely pays for the hall rental or building maintenance costs. Once their benefits were supposed to be their eternal reward in heaven. Now pastors want their benefits payable in this life as well as in the next. They want their reward in heaven for sure, but they want to be able to dig into it now, like putting their expenses on a heavenly credit card that gives them all they want now. (Like digging into their super fund before they retire.) And a reward of souls saved doesn’t pay much, either. Far better to have cold hard cash in the bank now. After all, what’s the point of sending their money ahead to some heavenly super fund; there’s probably no shops to spend it there anyway. (So it has to be made easier for people to be “saved” so that more money pours into the offering plate! And with calvinism, “being saved” is as easy as regularly attending church and being a nicer, better person. You don’t even have to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved. In fact, they refuse to acknowledge something as onerous as crying out to be saved!)
A small church can’t give you any of these earthly “benefits”, so the bigger the church the better. And if you have to remove people from membership for not being puritan enough, then you’re going to lose more than you gain in today’s world where living life’s pleasures is the standard to be aspired to. So they had to find a way of keeping that money rolling in, in spite of the increased sin among their people.
Rick Warren is a perfect example of this seeker-driven church model.
“Warren does not begin with Scripture, he begins with people. His church was started on the basis of a survey asking people what they wanted in a church. He quizzes the congregation on the kind of secular music they like and provides that kind of music. He starts with the felt-needs of people and then crafts a message to meet those needs. He determines what he believes people need to hear and then goes to Scripture to find support for his philosophy of ministry.” (“The Gospel According to Warren by Pastor Gary Gilley”)
The happier people are in your church the more money they will put into the offering. And therefore the more that goes into the church bank. And therefore the more the pastor gets paid. This is the dream of most pastors today: to be in charge of a mega-church and be paid a mega-salary. Rick Warren doesn’t like people to mention anything negative when preaching the gospel. Like Paul Tripp, he has to make everything sound so positive. But sin is a negative that we all know something about, so how do you deal with sin yet keep the membership numbers rising? The answer is easy: you make even sin be a positive aspect of your worship. But how can sin be positive when it is described in the Bible as totally negative? After all, it causes death and separation from God and eternal condemnation in hell. But this is where the new calvinism has moved ahead of the old calvinism. New calvinism has made a glory out of sin. Not only does sin and evil demonstrate more fully the glory of God (according to Piper and Jonathan Edwards), but the restoration of a sinner to grace again is such a positive thing that all church members should spend some time sinning so that they can give God glory by being restored to fellowship again by His never-ending grace to the elect.
Piper’s website says “God does bring sins about, but always for his own good purposes. So in bringing sin to pass he does not himself commit sin. If that argument is sound, then a Reformed doctrine of the sovereignty of God does not imply that God is the author of sin.“
Piper says “Everything that exists—including evil—is ordained by an infinitely holy and all-wise God to make the glory of Christ shine more brightly.“
No longer does sin get you kicked out of the church (as Paul advised those at Corinth to do with one of the members there). No, it is only in being restored that the calvinist God can show his grace, and therefore, without restoration there can be no grace shown. Thus one must sin in order to confess, repent, to be forgiven and restored, revealing the calvinist God’s grace in the process. Therefore, it is ultimately sin that increases God’s glory! Without sin there can be no fulfillment of the calvinist God’s grace!
The Gospel Coalition (calvinist) says: “A world with no fall and no salvation is altogether less God-glorifying than a world with a tragic fall but also a wondrous salvation.“
Sin is that which permits the calvinist God to be more glorious!
So a process had to be introduced whereby sinful people didn’t get kicked out of the church, but instead were to be made the evidence of the calvinist God’s grace and glory in them. Instead of the elect being declared non-elect in cases of significant sin, such sin should rather increase their elect status so that the money keeps on pouring into the offering plates. Today’s sinful world has too much influence on people’s lives and if churches demanded pure living today they would soon lose lots of members (and a depleted bank balance!).
So re-introduce the confessional into the reformed Catholic church (that is, the calvinist church). Get them well trained to see that if they confess their sins they can be forgiven. In fact, the calvinist God only gives grace to his elect, so if you are restored by the calvinist God’s grace, then you have actually improved your status as one of the calvinist God’s elect. Yes, that’s right, in the new calvinist church it is sin that best demonstrates your elect status. That is, if you confess, repent and are forgiven and restored by the calvinist God’s grace which he only gives to his elect, then you are one of that elite group. In fact, in new calvinist theology, there is no sin that any of the elect can ever commit that can prevent them from going to heaven.
No-one else but the elect can repent of their sins! The calvinist God wouldn’t give his grace to anyone else. And the calvinist God is glorified by the sin of the elect because he was able to reveal his grace, or, if you were not restored, the calvinist God demonstrated his wrath against you for not being one of his elect, and wrath is also necessary for the calvinist God to be completely fulfilled.
Jonathan Edwards (whom Piper calls “the greatest religious thinker America has ever produced“) said “So evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world; because the creature’s happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect.“ (“Is God Less Glorious Because He Ordained That Evil Be?”)
And, if you do not regularly confess to your Biblical Counsellor, then, because all people sin, you must not be repenting of your sin, so therefore you are merely demonstrating that you are not special enough to belong to that illustrious elite group called the elect of God. Control is the name of the game here. The calvinist God only gives repentance to his special elite elect. Biblical Counselling is the new calvinist confessional today. When you confess your sin, you are causing the calvinist God to show either grace or wrath. In particular, if you are not one of the elect, you are perfecting man’s knowledge of the calvinist God by causing him to be wrathful toward you so that mankind can be happier (according to Jonathan Edwards)! The calvinist God will either be gracious to his elect, or he will be wrathful at the non-elect. This clearly is the fulfilment of the calvinist God who would otherwise remain unfulfilled without sin.
And finally, the biggest problem for the calvinist: If the calvinist God needs evil to be fulfilled, then evil must be eternal or else God is not eternally fulfilled. And if evil is eternal, and if the calvinist God cannot be truly God without sin, then evil also must be as eternal as God is. And therefore the final bit of logic says that this necessary evil has to be an attribute of the calvinist God. And satan still controls his church, whether it be Catholic, Reformed, calvinist or the new calvinist of today.