David Westerfield

Theology. Culture. Technology.

Category: Church History (Page 1 of 5)

Five Solas of the Reformation – Gregg Strawbridge

Sola Scriptura: The Scripture Alone is the Standard

The doctrine that the Bible alone is the ultimate authority was the “Formal Principle” of the Reformation. In 1521 at the historic interrogation of Luther at the Diet of Worms, he declared his conscience to be captive to the Word of God saying, “Unless I am overcome with testimonies from Scripture or with evident reasons — for I believe neither the Pope nor the Councils, since they have often erred and contradicted one another — I am overcome by the Scripture texts which I have adduced, and my conscience is bound by God’s Word.” Similarly, the Belgic Confession stated, “We believe that [the] holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein…Neither may we consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with those divine Scriptures nor ought we to consider custom or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God… Therefore, we reject with all our hearts whatsoever does not agree with this infallible rule” (VII).

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Resources for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

With this year being the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Reformation (though there were quite a number of precursors leading up to that point), there are a number of great resources that are celebrating what God has done in history in recovering the gospel, while expressing the urgent need for ongoing reformation in our present day in the church (universally).

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Clement on the Necessity of Community for Believers

“The great cannot subsist without the small, nor the small without the great. There is a kind of mixture in all things, and thence arises mutual advantage. Let us take our body for an example. The head is nothing without the feet, and the feet are nothing without the head; yea, the very smallest members of our body are necessary and useful to the whole body. But all work harmoniously together, and are under one common rule for the preservation of the whole body.”

Clement to the Corinithans

R. Scott Clark: The Supper is More Than a Memory

communion1

(Photo Credit: Jewett Photography – DFW Photographers http://www.jewettphotography.com/)

This is a great series of posts from R. Scott Clark on communion, how it has been desecrated through historical innovations, but then on the other side of the spectrum memorialized and in many cases completely trivialized in the larger, popular evangelical world. He then offers what is the historic Reformed view, a recovery of this means of grace.

http://heidelblog.net/2015/05/heidelberg-75-the-supper-is-more-than-a-memory/ (Part 1)

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The Deliciousness of Jello: Marcus Borg and “What I’m Trying to Say is…”

“I would say, as a Christian and as a historian: the stories of Easter are really true, even though I’m skeptical myself that the tomb was empty, even though I’m skeptical myself that anything happened to the corpse of Jesus. I would say the stories of Easter are really true even though they may not be literally true.” – Marcus Borg

This jello is laced with poison and can’t be nailed to the wall. Go ahead, try.

To counter, Albert Mohler:

Turns Out “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” Isn’t so Traditional After All

A recent formal doctrinal statement on the nature of salvation (or in technical theological terms, soteriology, or the study of salvation) signed on to by none other than Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (as one example), amongst others, like Emir Caner, is making quite the stir, even amongst classical Arminians (click to read). The statement was meant to counter what they view as the “threat” of Calvinism spreading in the SBC. At best, it is theological and historical sloppiness. At worst, it is theological and historical revisionism and an open slide toward heresy as it relates to the nature of man’s will as a result of the transmission of the sin of Adam to mankind.

The authors and signers claim they are speaking for the traditional view of the SBC on the issue of salvation. However, as Tom Ascol from Founders Ministries points out, this is hardly the case. Hopefully this will bring to light some issues that have been brewing for quite some time. They have drawn a line in the sand and either need to repent or split in my opinion. Yes, it’s that serious. These issues go beyond Calvinism versus Arminianism into the issues of Original Sin and the nature of the will, pre/post-fall, no less. In addition, I’ve included Tom Ascol’s response. Read on:

First of all, here’s the original doctrinal statement in question

Part 1 – Tom Ascol (Beginning of Response)

Part 2 – Tom Ascol

Part 3 – Tom Ascol

Could W.A. Criswell have signed this statement? – Tom Ascol

Part 4 – Tom Ascol

Part 5 – Tom Ascol

Part 6 – Tom Ascol

Part 7 – Tom Ascol

Part 8 – Tom Ascol

Part 9 – Tom Ascol

Part 10 – Tom Ascol

Part 11 – Tom Ascol

Part 12 – Tom Ascol

Part 13 – Tom Ascol

Semi-Pelagian/Pelagian Point in Question: The Recent SBC Statement on Salvation: A Point of Concern – John Aloisi

The Traditional Southern Baptist View of Salvation? – James White (MP3)

And finally, for a historical, theological background on what the early church concluded pertaining to not only Pelagianism but Semi-Pelagianism, you just have to read the Canons of Orange from 529 AD.

Spurgeon on the Downgrade Controversy

“Every generation must fight their own [version of the] Downgrade [controversy]” – Dr. James White

Very relevant to where the evangelical church is these days, in every age really. Excerpt from Spurgeon and the Down-Grade Controversy by John MacArthur, excerpted from The Sword and the Trowel.

[At the end of the Puritan age] by some means or other, first the ministers, then the Churches, got on “the down grade,” and in some cases, the descent was rapid, and in all, very disastrous. In proportion as the ministers seceded from the old Puritan godliness of life, and the old Calvinistic form of doctrine, they commonly became less earnest and less simple in their preaching, more speculative and less spiritual in the matter of their discourses, and dwelt more on the moral teachings of the New Testament, than on the great central truths of revelation. Natural theology frequently took the place which the great truths of the gospel ought to have held, and the sermons became more and more Christless. Corresponding results in the character and life, first of the preachers and then of the people, were only too plainly apparent.

The Sword and the Trowel – C.H. Spurgeon

This Is All My Calvinsim

From a Reformation Theology post in 2007. It is a good reminder that we have more in common with Arminians than we’re willing to admit many times. We stake out our positions (even if we’re right) at the expense of common ground, that is, that we’re united in Christ alone, same Lord, same faith, same eternal commonality:

In a sermon on Romans 9:16, Charles Simeon [Puritan] declared, “Many there are who cannot see these truths [the doctrines of God’s sovereignty], who yet are in a state truly pleasing to God; yea many, at whose feet the best of us may be glad to be found in heaven. It is a great evil, when these doctrines are made a ground of separation one from another, and when the advocates of different systems anathematize each other. . . . In reference to truths which are involved in so much obscurity as those which relate to the sovereignty of God mutual kindness and concession are far better than vehement argumentation and uncharitable discussion” (Horae Homileticae, Vol. 15, p. 357).

Simeon lived out this counsel is seen in the way he conversed with the elderly John Wesley. He tells the story himself:

“Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?

Yes, I do indeed.

And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

Yes, solely through Christ.

But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?

No.

What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?

Yes, altogether.

And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree.” (Moule, 79f)

The Gospel-Centeredness of John Calvin – The Gospel as the Foundation Unto Progressing in Holiness

Excerpted from the Institutes of the Christian  Religion, Book III, Chapter XV, Section 5, Christ as the Sole Foundation, As Beginner and Perfecter.

The below section from Calvin’s Institutes is an excellent summary of the foundation of Gospel-centered sanctification (progressing and maturing in holiness). Any other application of teaching apart from this foundation is basing our progression in the faith, at some level, upon our own working and toiling to “be good” (which is an oxymoron in light of Scripture), as opposed to submitting ourselves to His sovereign working in us of what is already true of us by the declaration of our justification before God’s throne. Living in light of what is already true of us in Christ is itself the motivation unto holiness. As Albert Mohler pointed out in his talk from the Together for the Gospel conference in 2010, “The Reformation was all about the recovery of The Gospel; the means of reforming the church was The Gospel.” This excerpt from Calvin is a perfect summary of what this means.

Only by a constant orientation to the Gospel, in particular that Christ is our righteousness (having none of our own with which to offer God in exchange for the eternal life of our souls), are we going to progress in holiness. Any other teaching is using law as a means unto progression in holiness which results in burnout, deadness, legalism, and oddly enough, legalism itself actually winds up resulting in the worst forms of license. The law was given by God to expose how far we fall short, not an instrument to motivate us unto holiness. It is an instrument whose design is to bring us low, to bring us into humility before God, so that we see how great the love of Christ is in the Gospel, that He Himself fulfilled the law in our place, died our death in our place, and rose again to seal, give life, and confirm all He has accomplished in our place. He is righteousness. Calvin shows us just how great this Gospel is and how it is the only true motivator unto holiness.

“…Christ, when we acknowledge Him, is given us to be our righteousness [1 Cor. 1:30]. He alone is well founded in Christ who has perfect righteousness in himself: since the apostle [Paul] does not say that He was sent to help us attain righteousness but Himself to be our righteousness [1 Cor. 1:30]. Indeed, he states that “He has chosen us in Him” from eternity “before the foundation of the world,” through no merit of our own “but according to the purpose of divine good pleasure” [Eph. 1:4-5, cf. Vg.]; that by His death we are redeemed from condemnation of death and freed from ruin [cf. Col. 1:14, 20]; that we have been adopted unto Him as sons and heirs by our Heavenly Father [cf. Rom. 8:17; Gal. 4:5-7]; that we have been reconciled through His blood [Rom. 5:9-10]; that, given into His protection, we are released from the danger of perishing and falling [John 10:28]; that thus ingrafted into Him [cf. Rom. 11:19] we are already, in a manner, partakers of eternal life, having entered in the Kingdom of God through hope. Yet more: we experience such participation in Him that, although we are still foolish in ourselves, He is our wisdom before God; while we are sinners, He is our righteousness; while we are unclean, He is our purity; while we are weak, while we are unarmed and exposed to Satan, yet ours is that power which has been given Him in heaven and on earth [Matt. 28:18], by which to crush Satan for us and shatter the gates of hell; while we still bear about with us the body of death, He is yet our life. In brief, because all His things are ours and we have all things in Him, in us there is nothing. Upon this foundation, I say, we must be built if we would grow into a holy temple to the Lord [cf. Eph. 2:21].”

Question From a Friend on Hell and What Christ Underwent at the Cross

Hey David! I have a theological question for you that has sprung from a few discussions I’ve had with a friend if you have some time. The question is whether or not Jesus went to hell when he suffered and died on the cross. My understanding is that He experienced hell in the spiritual sense- meaning complete separation from God – (“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”). If this is correct, does heaven and hell, in the physical sense, exist right now or not until the final judgment?

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