Category Archives: The Reformation

The history of the church from the beginning of the Reformation (1517) to the end of the Religious Wars (1688).

Was Ignatius of Loyola a Reformer?

Ignatius of Loyola was born on December 24, 1491. He  grew up to become a Spanish knight and was wounded by a cannon ball wound to the leg. While in the hospital, he asked for reading material, and all that was available was Christian text about the lives of the Saints and Jesus Christ. He became a follower of Christ, later to become a renowned theologian and ascetic. He is known for being the founder of the Jesuits, a movement of Catholic spiritual renewal during the counter-reformation. He was strongly opposed to the Protestant reformation, which makes our relationship with him even more interesting – at least those of us who are part of the Protestant tradition.

Should us Protestants disregard this Catholic thinker? One of my (Protestant) spiritual mentors studied Ignatius for his dissertation topic because he believes that much of what Ignatius taught is to be applied to the Christian spiritual life. Ignatius realized that the Catholic Church needed to be transformed, just as Luther realized did. However, Ignatius always remained within the church, and was astonished that Luther  and others would work from without.

Ignatius will always be remembered for contributing the two following ascetic traditions, The Examen of Consciousness and the Spiritual Exercises.

The Examen of Consciousness of 5 Steps:

  1. Recall, that no matter what, you are the beloved in the presence of the Creator God.
  2. Rest and reflect on what God has given you this day and what have you given others
  3. Ask for the Holy Spirit to pour his love into your heart and for his guidance
  4. Examine how you are living this day. Recall the day, context of your actions, hour by hour, etc. What cause you to act the way you did?
  5. Pray for reconciliation and compassion. Grieve over your sins and praise God for his grace towards you.

The Spiritual Exercises:

He wrote a manual for 30-day retreats. The spiritual exercises could be related to physical exercise such as running, biking, weight lifting…however, the are for the spiritual life (meditation, contemplation, prayer, etc). Following is a small excerpt on the first spiritual exercise and foundation from The Spiritual Exercises:

The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by doing so, to save his or her soul.

All other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for which they are created.

It follows from this that one must use other created things, in so far as they help towards one’s end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are obstacles to one’s end.

To do this, we need to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, provided the matter is subject to our free choice and there is no other prohibition.

Thus, as far as we are concerned, we should not want health more than illness, wealth more than poverty, fame more than disgrace, a long life more than a short one, and similarly for all the rest, but we should desire and choose only what helps us more towards the end for which we are created.

I believe that the Examen and Spiritual Exercises are a wonderful tool for maturing in one’s relationship with the Holy Trinity, but I would love to hear feedback? Do you think that Protestants should use the writings and thoughts of a Catholic Theologian who was greatly opposed to the Protestant Reformation?

Was Ignatius a Reformer?

[This is a guest post from Michael Fletcher, a Th.M. student at Western Seminary.]

Advertisements

Salvation pertains to everyone, but theology to only a few – Erasmus

[This is a guest post from Michael Fletcher, a Th.M. student at Western Seminary.]

Erasmus (formally Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus), was born October 28th, 1466. Today marks 545 years since his birth! Erasmus was a Catholic priest and theologian during the reformation period. With the rise of clerical abuses in the church, he was very committed to reforming the Church from within. Today, I am sharing an excerpt from his book Enchridion militis Christiani, namely, The Manual of a Chrisian Knight. I believe it’s an interesting thought for today, even though it was written in 1503. What do you think?

How can it be that these great volumes instruct us to live well and after a Christian manner, which a man in all his life cannot have leisure once to look over? In like manner as if a physician should prescribe unto him that lieth sick in peril of death to read Jacobus de partibus, or such other huge volumes, saying that there he should find remedy for his disease: but in the meantime the patient dieth, wanting present remedy wherewith he might be holpen. In such a fugitive life it is necessary to have a ready medicine at hand.

How many volumes have they made of restitution, of confession, of slander, and other things innumerable? And though they boult and search out by piecemeal everything by itself, and so define every thing as if they mistrusted all other men’s wits, yea as though they mistrusted the goodness and mercy of God, whiles they do prescribe how he ought to punish and reward every fact either good or bad: yet they agree not amongst themselves, nor yet sometimes do open the thing plainly, if a man would look near upon it, so much diversity both of wits and circumstances is there. Moreover although it were so that they had determined all things well and truly, yet besides this that they handle and treat of these things after a barbarous and unpleasant fashion, there is not one amongst a thousand that can have any leisure to read over these volumes: The great volumes. Or who is able to bear about with him Secunam secunde, the work of St Thomas? And yet there is no man but he ought to use a good life, to the which Christ would that the way should be plain and open for every man, and that not by inexplicable crooks of disputations, not able to be resolved, but by a true and sincere faith and charity not feigned, whom hope doth follow which is never ashamed. The theology appertaineth to few men, but the salvation appertaineth to all.

And finally let the great doctors, which must needs be but few in comparison to all other men, study and busy themselves in those great volumes. And yet nevertheless the unlearned and rude multitude which Christ died for ought to be provided for: and he hath taught a great portion of Christian virtue which hath inflamed men unto love thereof. The wise king, when he did teach his son true wisdom, took much more pain in exhorting him thereunto than in teaching him Those be noted that of purpose make the faculty which they profess obscure and hard, as who should say that to love wisdom were in a manner to have attained it. It is a great shame and rebuke both for lawyers and physicians that they have of a set purpose, and for the nonce, made their art and science full of difficulty, and hard to be attained or come by, to the intent that both their gains and advantage might be the more plentiful, and their glory and praise among the unlearned people the greater: but it is a much more shameful thing to do the same in the philosophy of Christ: but rather contrariwise we ought to endeavour ourselves with all our strengths to make it so easy as can be, and plain to every man. Nor let this be our study to appear learned ourselves, but to allure very many to a Christian man’s life.

Forced Choices: The Reformers

Last week’s Forced Choices put the Gospels to the test. John (34%) jumped out to a quick lead and held on to it all week. Matthew was next (28%), followed by Luke (20%) and Mark (17%). So, it looks like people actually prefer the synoptic Gospels overall. But as individual Gospels, John is the favorite.

This week: who is your favorite reformer? (No, that’s not “Transformer,” which would also be interesting.) As usual, you can leave a comment explaining your choice if you’d like, but feel free just to vote. And yes, I know that I’ve left off a lot of important names. I didn’t want to list everyone, so you have to pick from these three. That’s why it’s called a “forced” choice.

So, what do you think?

A prayer for Sunday (Heinrich Bullinger)

[Yesterday marked the anniversary of the death of Heinrich Bullinger, famous Swiss reformer who led the church in Zurich after Zwingli’s death. So, I wanted to commemorate that with a prayer from Bullinger. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find one in English, though here’s one in German. So, I’m actually cheating a bit this morning. Rather than posting ia prayer, here’s an excerpt from the Second Helvetic Confession and on the Gospel in the Old Testament].

And although the teaching of the Gospel, compared with the teaching of the Pharisees concerning the law, seemed to be a new doctrine when first preached by Christ (which Jeremiah also prophesied concerning the New Teatament), yet actually it not only was and still is an old doctrine (even if today it is called new by the Papists when compared with the teaching now received among them), but is the most ancient of all in the world. For God predestinated from eternity to save the world through Christ, and he has disclosed to the world through the Gospel this his predestination and eternal counsel (II Tim. 2:9 f.). Hence it is evident that the religion and teaching of the Gospel among all who ever were, are and will be, is the most ancient of all. Wherefore we assert that all who say that the religion and teaching of the Gospel is a faith which has recently arisen, being scarcely thirty years old, err disgracefully and speak shamefully of the eternal counsel of God. To them applies the saying of Isaiah the prophet: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20).

Martin Luther on How to Pick a Fight

I’ve never really met anyone that enjoys criticism, especially when it is of the unspiritual and unkind type.  I realized early on in ministry that to preach the gospel faithfully you have to have thick skin, unwavering convictions to biblical truth, and a kind and humble heart.  I’ll never forget the first phone call I received from an angry parent.  I felt defensive, attacked, and discouraged.  Luckily it all worked out and I learned a great deal about working with people.  Now, imagine you’re Martin Luther.  It’s not an angry parent that is calling but the head of the Church, and he’s essentially calling you and your teaching heretical.  This does not just mean the possible end of your ministry, but perhaps your life as well.  In Luther’s day you did not cross the church.  Fortunately for the Church, Luther had the conviction to honor God above men and posted his 95 Theses to the door of his church in Wittenberg.  Thus on June 15, 1520 Pope Leo X issued his papal bull demanding that Luther retract a major portion of his teaching, writing, and section of his 95 Theses.  (If you’ve never read it, it’s a fascinating read.)  He cited 41 errors in Luther’s teaching, which included such things as that purgatory was not in the Bible, that indulgences were not necessary to obtain grace, and that the baptism of infants did not cleanse them from sin.  Pope Leo went on to write

 “Therefore we can, without any further citation or delay, proceed against him to his condemnation and damnation as one whose faith is notoriously suspect and in fact a true heretic with the full severity of each and all of the above penalties and censures. Yet, with the advice of our brothers, imitating the mercy of almighty God who does not wish the death of a sinner but rather that he be converted and live, and forgetting all the injuries inflicted on us and the Apostolic See, we have decided to use all the compassion we are capable of. It is our hope, so far as in us lies, that he will experience a change of heart by taking the road of mildness we have proposed, return, and turn away from his errors. We will receive him kindly as the prodigal son returning to the embrace of the Church.

Therefore let Martin himself and all those adhering to him, and those who shelter and support him, through the merciful heart of our God and the sprinkling of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ by which and through whom the redemption of the human race and the upbuilding of holy mother Church was accomplished, know that from our heart we exhort and beseech that he cease to disturb the peace, unity, and truth of the Church for which the Savior prayed so earnestly to the Father. Let him abstain from his pernicious errors that he may come back to us. If they really will obey, and certify to us by legal documents that they have obeyed, they will find in us the affection of a father’s love, the opening of the font of the effects of paternal charity, and opening of the font of mercy and clemency.”

So what did Martin Luther do?  He had a book burning party in which he burned the Papal Bull in front of his students at Wittenberg.  He is reported as saying “Because you have confounded the truth of God, today the Lord confounds you. Into the fire with you!”  So on January 3, 1521, Pope Leo excommunicated Luther issuing another bull, the Decet Romanum Pontificem.  Needless to say, the Reformation was fully underway.

Mommy, John Calvin is calling me names!!!!!!!!

I’m spending part of this semester wrestling with the doctrine of infant baptism.  I grew up in a Southern Baptist tradition so for most of my life my stance has been pretty defined by my upbringing.  I can sum it up this way: Credobaptism = good and biblical; Paedobaptism = bad and unbiblical.  Keep in mind I’m not saying that it is right (or wrong) yet.  I’ll let you know in another month.  However, imagine my surprise several years ago when I found out that John Calvin was a Paedobaptist, even arguing against my extended family the Anabaptists (and he wasn’t even a Roman Catholic at the time!!!).  Talk about conundrum.

So I decided last Friday to finally engage with Mr. Calvin.  We argued for almost three hours.  He is very smart…and tricky!  Every time I had at my disposal an argument to dispatch his  defense of infant baptism, he would take it up in his work a paragraph later and challenge me.  Now what really surprised me was not that he was  intelligent and anticipated my every argument, it was how he argued with me.  I tried being cordial (only putting exclamation marks next to a few comments), and he responded by calling me the following names:

  1. A frenzied spirit and disturber of the church
    • “But since in this age, certain frenzied spirits have raised, and even now continue to raise, great disturbance in the Church on account of paedobaptism, I cannot avoid here, by way of appendix, adding something to restrain their fury.”
  2. A Hard Hearted Person
    • “See the quibbles to which men are obliged to have recourse when they have hardened themselves against the truth!”
  3. Stupid – this one really hurt!
    • “But God furnishes us with other weapons to repress their stupidity.”
  4. A Furious Madman
    • “Let us now discuss the arguments by which some furious madmen cease not to assail this holy ordinance of God.”
  5. A Barbarian Destroyer of Scripture
    • “In asserting a difference of covenant, with what barbarian audacity do they corrupt and destroy scripture?”
  6. A Trickster who Cloaks Falsehood as Truth
    • “But lest they should blind the simple with their smoke, we shall, in passing, dispose of one objection by which they cloak this most impudent falsehood.”
  7. Deluded and Lazy
    • “Hence it cannot but happen that they are every now and then deluded, because they do not exert themselves to obtain a full knowledge of any subject.”
  8. Absurd
    • “And, indeed, if we listen to the absurdities of those men, what will become of the promise by which the Lord, in the second commandment of his law, engages to be gracious to the seed of his servants for a thousand generations (Ex. 20:6)?”
  9. Ridiculous and void of Reason
    • “The distinctions which these men attempt to draw between baptism and circumcision are not only ridiculous, and void of all semblance of reason, but at variance with each other.”

WOW!!!  And I’m only half way through this particular treatise.  In light of all the recent Rob Bell discussion, I wondered if John Calvin would be welcomed into much debate today.  He would not be thought loving, tender, or politically correct enough for many who want to classify any type of strong disagreement as sinful judgment.  I would know….he’s the one calling me names.

Mapping the spread of the printing press (1450-1500)

Here’s an interesting graphic showing the spread of the printing press right before the Reformation. It’s amazing to see how rapidly the printing press spread in late-medieval Europe and how it set the stage to distribute the writings of the Reformers as quickly as possible.

.

 

click to embiggen

HT 22 Words

Getting the Reformation Wrong

Many thanks to IVP for sending me a review copy of James R. Payton’s Getting the Reformation Wrong (IVP, 2010).

★★★★☆

James Payton Jr. has done an outstanding job identifying and correcting a number of common mistakes that people make when talking about the Reformation. I have to admit that my review of this book is biased by the fact that Payton routinely provides support for a number of things that I argue in my church history class. So, if he agrees with me, he must be right! Even without that, though, Payton has put together a very clear and readable book that should be helpful to anyone wanting to get a better handle on the Reformation.

Summary

The structure of the book is pretty easy to follow. Each of the twelve chapters identifies some mistake that people commonly make in understanding the Reformation and Payton’s suggestion for a better approach. Along the way, Payton argues that we need a much better understanding of: (1) the relationship between the Reformation and medieval calls for reform; (2) the influence of the Renaissance on the Reformation; (3) the progressive nature of Luther’s theological “breakthrough”; (4) the conflict and disagreement that took place among the various reformers; (5) the real meaning of sola fide; (6) the real meaning of sola scriptura; (7) the role of the Anabaptists; (8) contemporaneous Catholic reform movements; (9) the transition to Protestant Scholasticism; (10) whether the Reformation was a “success”; (11) whether the Reformation is a “norm” for today.

Strengths

Without a doubt, the greatest strengths of the book are in its clarity and readability. I wouldn’t hesitate to require a book like this in a seminary or even an undergraduate context.

And, as indicated above, I wholeheartedly agree with the corrections that Payton offers. He does a great job identifying a number of common mistakes that people make that are really out of joint with the scholarly consensus on the Reformation. There is certainly room for debate on many issues relative to the Reformation. But Payton focuses on those areas with widespread consensus in the scholarly community and significant misunderstanding at the popular level.

Weaknesses

The one real drawback to the book is that it does require the reader to have some knowledge of the Reformation. Of course, that’s pretty much required by the book’s title. It’s hard to get the Reformation wrong unless you know something about the Reformation in the first place. So, this isn’t the right book to begin your understanding of the Reformation, though it would make an excellent companion to a more generalized introduction to Reformation history and thought.

There were also a few places where I would not necessarily agree with Patyon’s understanding of certain aspects of the Reformation. For example, although “justification by faith” was unquestionably a fundamental doctrine for Luther, I would not necessarily agree that Luther used it like a scholastic theologian who identifies “basic postulate” and then rearticulates “all teaching to comport with that postulate” (p. 94). That seems to be over-reading Luther’s use of that doctrine and runs the risk of downplaying other doctrines that were also fundamentally important.

A similar example of oversimplification was Payton’s statement that Luther focused primarily “on the individual and his or her needs” while Zwingli and other reformers were more concerned about the “community” (p. 101). Although Payton doesn’t present this as an either/or, it still seems like an unfortunate way of characterizing Reformational thought since all of the Reformers had a strong emphasis on both. The fact that they expressed those interests differently, which they clearly did, does not mean that we should see any of them as neglecting or downplaying either.

Conclusion

Nonetheless, these are relatively small quibbles on particular points of interpretation that do little to impact the value of the work as a whole. Getting the Reformation Wrong is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to understand the Reformation better. If you don’t really know anything about the Reformation, don’t worry. At least you haven’t misunderstood anything yet. But, if you do know a few things about the Reformation, then this might be the perfect book for you to read and make sure you haven’t gotten something wrong.

The Day the Heroes Died

On January 31, 1561 the Anabaptist leader Menno Simons, for whom Mennonites are named, died in Wustenfeld, Germany.  Menno Simons grew up and became a priest in the Roman Catholic Church.  Although he learned some Greek and Latin while studying the Latin Church Father’s he confesses that he never studied the Bible out of fear that he would be adversely affected by it, even after initially becoming a priest in the Church.  He referred to this period of his life as stupid.  Upon hearing of the beheading of a “re-baptizer,” Simons began to study the Scriptures and came to believe that infant baptism was nowhere to be found in the Bible.   On January 12, 1536 he rejected the Catholic Church’s teaching and became a prominent leader in the Anabaptist movement.   William Estep refers to the Anabaptist’s as having three periods: Before Menno, Under Menno, and After Menno.

Likewise, on January 31, 1892, the “Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, one of the greatest public preachers of his day, died at Mentone, France.  Although he never attended theological school, he was the most popular preacher in London by the age of twenty-one.  To this day he is still one of the most prominently read pastors in the Church.   During his life he not only was a pastor, but a songwriter, book author, editor of a monthly church magazine, founder of a pastor’s college, and an orphanage manager.  Concerning the gravity of preaching and the conversion of the lost, Spurgeon said:

“Often, when I come in at the door and my eyes fall on this vast congregation, I feel a tremor go through me to think that I should have to speak to you all and be, in some measure, accountable for your future state. Unless I preach the Gospel faithfully and with all my heart, your blood will be required at my hands. Do not wonder, therefore, that when I am weak and sick, I feel my head swim when I stand up to speak to you, and my heart is often faint within me. But I do have this joy at the back of it all— God does set many sinners free in this place! Some people reported that I was mourning that there were no conversions. Brothers and Sisters, if you were all to be converted tonight, I should mourn for the myriads outside! That is true, but I praise the Lord for the many who are converted here. When I came last Tuesday to see converts, I had 21 whom I was able to propose to the Church—and it will be the same next Tuesday, I do not doubt. God is saving souls! I am not preaching in vain. I am not despondent about that matter—liberty is given to the captives and there will be liberty for some of them, tonight! I wonder who it will be? Some of you young women over yonder, I trust. Some who have dropped in here, tonight, for the first time. Oh, may this first opportunity of your hearing the Word in this place be the time of beginning a new life which shall never end—a life of holiness, a life of peace with God!”