David Westerfield

Theology. Culture. Technology.

Tag: reformation (Page 1 of 2)

How Were You Saved? – Why the Five Solas (Still) Matter

There’s something about understanding your ancestral roots that gives foundation to understanding who you are and where you came from. Diving into your genealogical records and background can give you some form of a framework to knowing more about your identity, why you are the way you are in various ways.

The same can be said of understanding the nature of our salvation, or rather the nature of how we were saved.

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Five Solas of the Reformation: Southern Seminary

This was a theology conference put on by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on the Five Solas of the Reformation in 2015. Enjoy!

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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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The Protestant Deformation and American Foreign Policy – An Essay by James Kurth

The following is an essay from 2001 by political scientist James Kurth on the “Protestant Deformation” or what could be described as the radical secularization of Protestantism. As he notes, we’re now entering the final stages of this deformation, a long and twisty road that has led us to a radical individualism that threatens a new form of totalitarianism upon the free world: the totalitarianism of the self. Enjoy.

http://web.archive.org/web/20120119184608/http://phillysoc.org/Kurth%20Speech.htm
H/T http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/the-protestant-deformation/

Analysts of American foreign policy have debated for decades about the relative influence of different factors in the shaping of American foreign policy. National interests, domestic politics, economic interests, and liberal ideology have each been seen as the major explanation for the peculiarities of the American conduct of foreign affairs. But although numerous scholars have advocated the importance of realism, idealism, capitalism, or liberalism, almost no one has thought that Protestantism – the dominant religion in the United States – is worth consideration. Certainly for the twentieth century, it seemed abundantly clear that one could (and should) write the history of American foreign policy with no reference to Protestantism whatsoever.

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RefNet: 24-Hour Streaming of Biblical Teaching

If you haven’t listened to it, tune into RefNet … continuous streaming of Biblical teaching; really edifying http://refnet.fm/.

Is the Reformation Over?

A couple of years ago, a series of articles came out claiming the influence of the Reformation is mostly over for Protestantism. When looking at mainline Protestantism and mainstream evangelicalism, we certainly can draw a conclusion that this would appear to be the case. Carl Trueman addresses this issue on the Janet Mefferd Show from 2010.

Trueman also speaks to the issue of social justice and evangelicalism making that a primary drum beat, instead of the Person and work of Christ. The danger and concern is that social justice issues, as important as they are, may replace the central teaching and preaching of the Gospel, which is the primary function of the church.

Carl Trueman on The Janet Mefferd Show speaking to the issue, “Is the Reformation over?” March 03, 2010 (MP3, first 20 minutes)

I’m also including a later interview with Trueman by Mefferd on the Reformation’s influence.

Dr. Carl Trueman talks about Martin Luther and the Reformation. July 22, 2011 (MP3)

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].”

Justified By Faith or Through Faith?

UPDATE: I’ve reconsidered some of the things I originally wrote in this entry and come to understand that Scripture itself, apart from people in general, speaks of both being saved “through” faith and “by” faith and meaning the same thing. The important distinction I wanted to make here was that faith itself a gift granted by God, not something we conjure up out of our dead, sinful hearts. We’re saved by God through faith, a faith that He gives. And at the same time, we’re saved by that faith, for without it, we’re lost.


The distinction between these two ideas may seem like a minute point to contest in the world of theology. But each understanding has dramatic implications for how we view our justification before God. If on the one hand we view ourselves as being justified by faith, we will see it as the ground of our justification, where our doing and willing is what saves us. From talking to many believers, it seems this is how many of us view our justification or standing before God. Yet if on the other hand we view ourselves as having been justified through faith, then we see that our justification itself, and the faith required to obtain it, all rests on Christ’s work alone.

Now of course, many people simply say we are saved by faith and the mean the same thing as through faith. I’m not here to contest that. I’m speaking here of the theological difference of these two words, because each changes our perspective on it once pondered, I believe.

If our faith is the ground of our justification, then we can often wonder if we’re believing correctly or coming to Christ in the right way (which I have often had to dismantle as a concept for a few friends who doubted they had actually believed). But if we see that our justification is rooted purely upon the work of Christ to justify us by the power of His blood alone, then we see that faith is God’s instrument to bring us to Himself; that is to say that faith is a gift of God, not something we work up from within our sinful, unregenerate human nature. Regeneration precedes faith, or the new birth of the Holy Spirit spoken of in John 3 causes, or comes before, or immediately gives rise to faith, not vice-versa.

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The Courage to be Protestant – A Review

In The Courage to be Protestant, David Wells notes there are three major groups splintering within the evangelical church now that threaten the entire movement’s original cause (though one of them is remaining faithful and seeks to preserve it). There are smaller groups that are splintering of course, but the focus is on the three major movements. The word “evangelicalism” is rooted in the word “evangel” which means Gospel. This was the fundamental basis upon which the phrase “evangelical” came into existence, starting either during or right before the times of the Puritans (based upon the fact that John Owen and Jonathan Edwards used the term themselves in their writings). Now though, things are taking a drastic turn; a turn, in fact, that has not been witnessed in its entire history since the Reformation.

These three distinct groups that are “emerging” (no pun intended) are the Truth-lovers, those who hold a historic protestant understanding of the Gospel as recovered in the Reformation (though all of these people are not necessarily Reformed); the Marketers, that is those who hold to using corporate marketing techniques to, in a sense, manipulate people into the church (marketing primarily to an aging baby-boomer generation); and the Emergents, those who believe it is necessary to adapt and morph Biblical, theological and historical understanding to our postmodern culture in an effort to win them for Christ (marketing themselves primarily to my generation).

While not doubting the good intentions and desires of the Marketers and Emergents, Wells brings stinging indictments that reveals their shift on crucial doctrines of the Gospel itself, which Satan has historically used to tear the church apart from within and eclipse the Gospel itself, all in the name of Christianity. I have not been able to put this book down it is so good. It has really made me consider the need to be even more courageous (yet loving) to hold fast to historic Protestantism (that is the Gospel) in the face of those, even within our churches unfortunately, who employ worldly means to bring people in and in some cases attempt to save themselves through their own doing and “Jesus’ help”.

Within the Marketing and Emergent movements, everything under the sun (including substitutionary atonement even! Check out Al Mohler in this sermon) is being redefined outside of historic, Biblical definitions, but is instead defined upon what our culture thinks, says and wants. However though, in a lot of cases, historic doctrines are held, yet pastors and teachers seem to be ashamed of them and lighten them up significantly, or just never speak about them in the pulpit at all. Are you ashamed of the doctrines of hell, wrath, sin, justice, predestination even? Jesus Himself spoke more about hell than anyone, yet some teachers would make Jesus out to be this guy who spoke some hippie love language.

Shouldn’t we possibly be willing to talk about that which is uncomfortable (sin and wrath in particular) because it is a prerequisite for getting the Gospel right? Isn’t that why people hate us Christians to begin with, precisely because the Gospel is an offensive message to sinful man? And if our message is not met with a good level of opposition, could there possibly be something wrong with our message? It’s the truth, is it not? The Marketers sure do seem to be ashamed of these hard truths though. Are you ashamed of the Bible speaking in terms of absolute truth? The Emergents clearly are, because a majority of people in our culture now are not sure there is any absolute truth, and the Emergents are folding to the pressure to be culturally relevant. They therefore shape their message to fit what the culture wants.

This book is a clear wakeup call for the evangelical church to recover it’s Gospel-roots as its primary focus and not shift on Biblical language, so that we may preserve the movements’ initial cause: the glory of God and the Gospel through which people may be reconciled to God. Either we recover our roots and threads that hold us together, or the historic evangelical cause will be lost. Unfortunately, David Wells believes the movement may already be lost and so it may be time to just move on and start a new movement of Gospel-centrality in the church, for both salvation and progressive sanctification (for growth in our faith). To me, it seems that a new movement is already under way with the advent of the “truth-lovers”. David Wells, summed up, puts it like this in the book:

“It would be quite unrealistic to think that evangelicalism today could look exactly as it did fifty years ago, or a hundred, or five-hundred. At the same time, the truth by which it is constituted never changes because God, whose truth it is, never changes. There should therefore be threads of continuity that bind real Christian believing in all ages. It is some of those threads, I believe, that are now being lost….I do not know what the evangelical future will be, but I am certain evangelicalism has no good future unless it finds this kind of direction again.”

Nowadays, you have everyone from the Oneness Pentecostals to Joel Osteen being called evangelical, yet Osteen is clear that he never wants to speak on anything negative, even if it is true, because it would offend people. Osteen is a Pelagian in his teaching of how people are saved, heresy condemned by an ecumenical early church council, The Council of Orange, in 529 A.D. And then T.D. Jakes does not believe in the Trinity, he’s a Modalist/Sabellian, two heresies, both of which were condemned in the third and fourth centuries. These teachers not only deny historic ecumenical, early church doctrines on the nature of Christ, God, sin (doctrines that even the Roman Catholic Church holds, whom we Protestants have crucial disagreements with over the nature of salvation), but these guys also specifically deny the roots of evangelicalism in not preaching orthodox, Gospel truth. Yet they are called and labeled evangelical! And then if you criticize what they are teaching, that they are in error, in any fashion, you get labeled a bigot, most specifically within the church! There is something seriously wrong with that.

This is a totally unqualified quote with no backing or proof anyone actually said it, but it honestly would not surprise me with the way things are shifting in evangelicalism. Someone told me that a lady had left a Roman Catholic church to go to one of the nearby “evangelical” mega-churches (remaining anonymous) because, “They didn’t teach the Trinity there and I just can’t believe in that.” If this is true (which again, not sure it is), volumes can be said about the methodologies employed at the church, the messages being communicated, the lack of clear truth that isn’t being taught, and most of all, the fact that there is no Gospel whatsoever (the root of evangelicalism), amongst a host of other things.

As those who hold to the historic truths of Christianity as particularly recovered in the Reformation, we must be willing to take abuse for the sake of Gospel-truth and not shift on those doctrines clearly shown to us in the Scriptures. That does not mean we have to stand up and be jerks toward those who differ. In fact, if this just makes you angry and you know you’ll just be mean, please keep quiet. Rather, we should lovingly confront error with the timeless truth of the Scriptures that has been passed down throughout the ages. This book is a proclamation and warning call to hold fast to what is true, even though our times dictate for us to shift our positions. David Wells says, “It takes no courage to sign up as a Protestant.” However, to be a theologically historic Protestant is increasingly taking more guts. Lord, help us to hold fast to what is true by Your Spirit.

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