Protestant Reformation 007Genesis 8:21 • Dr. Andy Woods • July 23, 2017 • Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation 007
7-23-17 Genesis 8:21 Lesson 30
I’m going to open up with a Word prayer and then we’ll get started. Let’s pray. Father, we’re grateful for today and grateful for another chance to gather in Your name and to study, and I do ask specifically Father for the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit which Jesus promised would come in the Upper Room so that we could understand Your Scriptures and Your church the way that You would have us to understand these things so that we can grow correctly therein. I do ask, Father, that You would do something eternal today, whether it be someone gets saved or someone forms a relationship they didn’t have or gets some kind of insight they didn’t have but I do ask, Father, for Your blessing in that way… that something eternal would be accomplished and we’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.
Let’s open our Bibles, if we could, to the Book of Genesis, Genesis 8:21. As you all know we’re starting Lesson 7 on the Protestant Reformation and as we’ve indicated the 500th anniversary of the beginning of what most people believe is the beginning of the Reformation is coming up this October 31st so in that vein, what was this reformation about, why it’s significant and that’s sort of the purpose of this historical study that we’re doing through these summer months.
Here’s the outline that we’re following; I didn’t start us in the 16th century, I started us with the early church in the 1st century just to sort of show us what the apostles handed off to the first Christians. They handed off to them purity of doctrine and there was a school there, up north in Antioch, that took that baton very seriously and they developed the school at Antioch and they began to interpret the Scripture literally, as we talked about, including Bible prophecy. So things are kind of rolling along for the first two centuries of the church and around the second century everything starts to change with the rise of the circle down below, down south, in Alexandria, Egypt. And they became infatuated, not with the literal interpretation of the Scripture but with an allegorical interpretation of the Scripture.
I’ve given you many, many examples of what they did; basically they used the language of the text to bring in some kind of higher spiritual meaning. So they would say the four rivers in Eden, Genesis 2, the Pishon, the Gihon, the Euphrates, and the Tigris, those are just four parts of the soul, even though when you read it it looks like four rivers, doesn’t it? And they did the same thing with the various gates around the wall of Jerusalem, as described in Nehemiah 3. And of course we’ve gone into detail explaining why this allegorical approach is not the way to interpret the Bible. It’s got many, many problems, not the least of which is you’re not really interpreting the Bible, you’re reading your own ideas into the Bible.
And we went through I think about six reasons why this became very popular in the 2nd century, 3rd century, and by the time we get to the 4th century it had almost eclipsed everything that the school of Antioch stood for. So the church became very allegorical in its approach to the Scripture, particularly prophecy. And this ushered us into a very, very difficult time in church history, around the 4th century, probably right up to the Protestant Reformation, called the Dark Ages or the Middle Ages, where, for a variety of reasons the Scripture is removed from the people and everything is filtered to you through the lens of the priesthood. And we talked about how the system began to take advantage of people in that condition and began to tell them if you want to spring Uncle Joe out of purgatory you need to pay the right price to the priesthood. That’s called the sale of indulgences. And so we went into detail sort of describing that very difficult time in church history.
And once you understand the background and once you understand what was lost doctrinally for over a millennium in church history you begin to see the significance of the Protestant Reformation and why God raised up the Protestant Reformers to restore what was lost by getting us away from the influence of Alexandria, Egypt, and ultimately back to Antioch. So the Protestant Reformation really what it is, is it’s a back to the Bible movement.
So in that vein what we’ve been talking about under Roman Numeral IV is the contribution of the Protestant Reformers; several things we went through last time. We talked about the preparation of the Protestant Reformers. I gave you a little bit of the background into Martin Luther’s life and how God prepared him for this role that he himself didn’t even know he would play. And we talked about some morning stars of the Reformation. There are some things that came into play, like the printing press which allowed the Reformer’s ideas to be spread all over Europe. And there’s actually in church history some pre Martin Luther type characters, like John Huss and others.
And from there we started to talk about okay, this thing got off the ground and what did it actually contribute to Christianity? Well it contributed an emphasis on literal interpretation. I showed you the writings of many, many Protestant Reformers who used the word “literal” over and over again. And so they restored the church doctrinally in a lot of areas by using a literal approach to the Scripture and in the process they denounced the longstanding practice of allegorization which began in Alexandria, Egypt and really became popular under Augustine in the 4th century.
And another contribution of the Protestant Reformers is they rejected church tradition as a guide. So what people were taught prior to this point in time is it’s not just the Scripture that’s important, it’s the words of the priest, it’s the words of the Monks, it’s the words of the Pope who they think speak ex cathedra, at least the Pope. And so the Protestant Reformers reject that and they want to anchor their entire thinking and theology and preaching and teaching on the Scripture by itself. And that’s why I had you turn to, last time, Mark 7:13 and it occurred to me last time that I had you turn to Mark 7:13 but we never read Mark 7:13. So I’m as bad as the Roman Catholics I guess.
But Mark 7:13, Jesus faced this same battle with Pharisaical interpretation. He says, “thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.” So the Pharisees, as we talked about basically read the Bible through the lens of manmade legalistic documents and Jesus came on the scene and wanted to get back to the Scripture because layer after layer after layer after layer of manmade regulations was actually contradicting the Scripture at points.
And that’s basically what the Protestant Reformers are doing. They are rejecting church tradition as a guide and they want to get back to the literal written Word of God. So that’s probably one of their biggest contributions. And along the way they started to emphasize this idea of the priesthood of all believers because prior to this point in time people were basically told, first of all, many were illiterate and couldn’t read the Bible on their own if they wanted to. But even if they could they were basically told that look, you’re not qualified to understand the Bible because you haven’t been schooled in the Alexandrian approach to things, the allegorization.
So the Protestant Reformers reject that and they look at passages like Revelation 1:6 which says that we’re all priests. [Revelation 1:6, “and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father– to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”] So I am just as much a priest here at Sugar Land Bible Church as you are; I don’t have any special pathway to God that you don’t. And so if that’s true, and that’s what the Bible teaches, of course this practice is very different than what happened in the prior dispensation where priests came from which tribe? Levi, and they had to be a descendant from whose lineage? Aaron’s.
But if we’re in the church age where God is doing something new, as He’s been doing the last 2,000 years, and we are not Israel, then there’s other texts you have to go to, to figure out who we are. One of them is Revelation 1:6 which says under Israel priests were limited but that’s not how it is in the church age; all of us are priests. And you see, this is one of the things that the Roman Catholic Church did, is they kept going back to Israel to get their ques. So this idea that only they, the priests, in Roman Catholicism were priests, where are they getting that from? They’re not getting that from church age truth; where they’re getting that from is Old Testament teaching concerning Israel that you find in the Book of Leviticus.
And why is it that the Roman Catholic priests always wear these robes and these kind of things, and make themselves different than the people by wearing these very fancy robes? Well, you’re not going to find that in the New Testament related to the church age but you will find it in the description of Aaron in the Book of Exodus, around chapter 28 if my memory serves, where Aaron as a high priest had a very fancy robe. So this is sort of what began to happen in the Dark Ages or the Middle Ages, is church authorities are not making an Israel/church distinction and they’re building their case from Old Testament passages.
Now the book that I recommended to you by Ronald Diprose, Israel and the Church: The Origins and Effects of Replacement Theology, he documents all this historically, how the church, beginning in the Dark Ages, Middle Ages, are getting their ques about how to do church, not from Acts 2 forward, the way we would, but from Old Testament passages concerning Israel. So you go into church age doctrine there is no such thing that only some believers are priests. That’s true in the prior dispensation under Israel.
So the Protestant Reformers see this and they start to restore the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. And guess what? If we’re all priests we all need to understand the what? The Bible in our own language. So this is why the Protestant Reformers are into… Martin Luther spent a chunk of his life doing this, translating the Bible into the common man’s language, from Greek and Hebrew into German. And other people that followed Luther wanted to do the same thing. So the Bible now is becoming available to the masses since we’re all priests.
And guess what? We’ve got to do something about this illiteracy problem; we’ve got to teach people to read, not so they can pick the best stocks and retire early. We’ve got to teach people to read because they are priests and they need to be able to read what? The Wall Street Journal? NO, the Bible. And I bring up these things about the Wall Street Journal and things because our goal of literacy in the year 2017 is so you can get a good job. But that’s not the way the Protestant Reformers think; their whole goal is to get people literate so they can read the Bible on their own, in their own language because they’re as much a priest as is anybody else. And the more people understand the Scripture the less they’ll be deceived by the sale of indulgences and manipulated and things like that. So that’s what we’ve covered, I think in our last session, related to the contribution of the Protestant Reformers.
And let me kind of pick up here and throw something else into the mix that, for whatever reason almost nobody covers this in their presentations on the Protestant Reformers, and the good that it brought to the world, first to Christianity and then the world. If the Protestant Reformation didn’t happen the system of government that we have in the United States I don’t think would exist. The United States Constitution, the way I look at it, I don’t look at The United States Constitution as an inspired document, obviously, the way the Bible is inspired but I believe this: the most important book that’s ever been written is the Scripture. The second most important document that’s ever been created, other than the Scripture itself is The United States Constitution because that document has given more people more political and economic freedom than any other document in the history of the human race.
And I would just like to get across this very simple point, that if the Protestant Reformation hadn’t happened in the 16th century, and the descendants of those who came to these shores to found this country, the system of government that they would have set up, without being spiritual descendants of the Protestant Reformers living in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, the system of government that they would have come up with would have been completely different than the one we have today. And I believe that we would probably be in some form of totalitarianism or something to that extent had it not been for the Protestant Reformation.
The default mode of governments throughout human history is totalitarianism. What you have in the United States is totally unique and that’s why we’ve enjoyed what we’ve enjoyed in this country for so long, because of our founding documents and note that document makes no sense unless you view it through the lens of the Protestant Reformation. You look at our system of government with three branches of government which will not coalesce power in one person’s hands and then that system of government, not only does it divide power up it creates checks and balances where neither branch can get control of everything. Each branch is constantly being checked and balanced by another branch of government.
And then beyond that, not only did they divide, our Founding Fathers in America divide political power horizontally the way I’ve described it but they also divided it vertically by creating a national government and then multiple state governments. So if you actually go back and read some of our founding material what you’ll discover is the true source of power is not even to rest in the national government but it’s to rest where? In the state governments.
And we also have The Bill of Rights which came about a couple of years after our Constitution. You’re familiar with The Bill of Rights… freedom of speech, freedom to peaceably assemble, the right to keep and bear arms, the right to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right for the government not to come and take your property without just compensation. All of these individual rights we have are hindrances on government.
Now you look at that system and there isn’t a businessman on planet earth that would set up his business this way. This is a deliberately inefficient system. And this is why I always get a laugh out of people who say we’ve got too much gridlock in Washington D.C., nothing’s getting done. Every time I hear that I say thank you Jesus that nothing’s getting done. I don’t want to live in a country where things get done just like that. If you want to live in a country like that I’d recommend Iran to you; things get done very quick there but of course you’re living in totalitarianism where things get done rapidly without any insight or input from the people.
And the point I want to make and the point that’s almost never brought up is the people that set up the United States government were the spiritual descendants of the Protestant Reformers that happened in the 16th century. And even before I develop this let me read the words here of Antonin Scalia who passed away recently, formerly of the Supreme Court. He writes this: “Every tin horn dictator in the world today, every president for life, has a Bill of Rights,”…“That’s not what makes us free; if it did, you would rather live in Zimbabwe. But you wouldn’t want to live in most countries in the world that have a Bill of Rights. What has made us free is our Constitution. Think of the word ‘constitution;’ it means structure.” “That’s why America’s framers debated not the Bill of Rights during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia,” he said, “but rather the structure of the federal government.”’ Meaning its deliberate division of power. “The genius of the American constitutional system is the dispersal of power,” he said. “Once power is centralized in one person, or one part of the government, a Bill of Rights is just words on paper.”…“A constitution is about setting structure; it is not about writing the preferences of special interest groups,” he said.
Scalia had a very long career on the Supreme Court, wrote many wonderful opinions and dissenting opinions and this is right prior to his death. He says if you want to know why our country has lasted as long as it has without moving into the default mode of totalitarianism you look at our Constitution and how it deliberately divides power.
Now if the United States Constitution was set up by secular humanists or religious humanists or psychologists, or people who believe that humans are naturally good at heart, they would never set up this inefficient system that we have. The reason we have the deliberately cumbersome, deliberate inefficient system we have is because of a belief that came out of the Protestant Reformation called total depravity. And one of the things that the Protestant Reformers believed in, at least their heritage did, is something called TULIP, which is a description of the Calvinistic system. [T—Total Depravity, U—Unconditional Election, L—Limited Atonement, I—Irresistible Grace, P—Perseverance of the Saints.]
And in our soteriology series I went through that and showed you parts of it that I think are correct but other parts that might be a bit overstated. So I’m not giving a ringing endorsement to TULIP or advocating it today; what I’m saying is this is what the Protestant Reformers believed. This is what their heritage believed; this is what their children believed. This is what their descendants believed. And this is what people who came from Europe, following the Protestant Reformation, to the United States believed. They did not believe in the perfectibility of human nature; they believed in what’s called total depravity of human nature which basically means that sin has corrupted every part of my being, even my intellect or my capacity for thought has been corrupted.
So Luther was a big believer in what’s called the bondage of the will. In the soteriology series I kind of went through why I think some of that is true but some of it is overstated so I’m not advocating everything he said, I’m just saying this is what Luther believed.
Martin Luther called his book The Bondage of the Will, his most important work. In it he argued that humanity is bondage to sin, freely choosing to sin by their own will, yet still a slave to sin and unable to choose God on their own. This is what Martin Luther believed. The translation of it is this: Sin has not just corrupted humanity from the neck down. The effect of sin, and you see this with Paul in Romans 3:11, none seeks God, and these types of statements that Paul makes. [Romans 3:11, “THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;”]
2 Corinthians 4:4, how the god of this age, the world, the devil, has blinded the minds. [2 Corinthians 4:4, “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”]
Sin is so pervasive it’s effected how we think and so that’s what’s meant by total depravity. Now where in the world did the Protestant Reformers get this silly idea? I mean, I thought we were all good at heart. Well, they got it from the Bible because the Protestant Reformation is a “back to the” what? “Bible” movement. And they read passages like this: Genesis 8:21, “The LORD smelled the soothing aroma and the LORD said to Himself, I will never again curse the ground on account man for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”
So from the point of conception, Psalm 51:5 says the sin nature is handed down to every single human being. [Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”] Even your rulers have that sin nature. The masses have that sin nature. So if you believe that, and the Protestant Reformers believed it, and I believe it, it shapes your view of government. Why is that? Lord Acton, because “All power tends to corrupt and absolute power” what? “corrupts absolutely.” If you believe in depravity you understand that sin affects, not just the people that need government but the people running government. See that?
In the Greek system the people running the government were looked at as demigods, it’s just the fun-washed masses that were the sinners, the demigods that were running the government were at a higher level, intellectually they believed, so they weren’t as corrupted by the sin nature as were the masses. But you see, that’s an unbiblical concept. What the Bible teaches is everyone has been corrupted by this sin nature. So the last thing you want to do, the LAST thing you want to do is you want to want to centralize power in the hands of one person. And it is interesting to me that after the Lord made this statement, in Genesis 8:21, what comes after that is Genesis 11 which is the tower of Babel where a man named Nimrod was trying to take over the world. So the default mode is totalitarianism, you see it emerging right there in Genesis 11, and God disrupted it through a check and balance system where he confused the language. See that?
So what you believe about human nature will control your philosophy of government and what I’m saying here, as you study this, it’s not just my personal opinion, you see this in the writings of the Federalist Papers. This is Federalist Paper Number 51, I believe this one was written by James Madison who is called the chief architect of the United States Constitution. The Federalist Papers, in case you don’t know, were written at the intellectual level of a farmer. And today everybody looks at the Federalist Papers and this is so scholarly… but the reality is the intellectual capacities of people were much higher back then than they are today. So the Federalist Papers were written to the common person in New York, the farmer, trying to convince the people of New York to ratify this new document that was coming out of Philadelphia, called The United States Constitution. So the Federalist Papers become a source of light in terms of trying to figure out what our government is based on and things like this.
So James Madison, in Federalist Paper Number 51 summarized exactly what I’ve been saying. He says, “But what is government but the greatest of all reflections on” what? “human nature?” And what he’s saying is what you believe about human nature will shape your view of how government should exist. “If men were angels [no government would be necessary]” we wouldn’t need a government. “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government” like separation of powers, checks and balances, “would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men” parenthesis, who have a sin nature, “over men,” parenthesis, “who also have a sin nature, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed;” in other words, the government has to be strong enough to keep in check the sinful impulses of the masses, “and in the next place oblige it to control” what? “itself.” [Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, The Federalist Papers, trans. Clinton Rossiter (New York, NY: Penguin, 1961) 322]
So what he’s saying here is this is not the Greek city-state model that we’re setting up here in America where the people that run the government aren’t somehow at a higher level of evolution and they’re not tainted by the sin nature, what we believe is every single human being has been corrupted by the sin nature so we’ve got a problem here at our Constitutional Convention, 1787; our problem is sin! How are we going to make the government strong enough to control the sinful masses but at the same time weak enough so that the people running the government won’t be corrupted by their power. Here’s what we’re going to do; we’re going to divide up power and we’re going to create a system that makes it very, very difficult for one person, or one group, or one party, to get control of everything, and we’re going to create a deliberate check and balance system.
And without that system we would just go right into default mode, which is totalitarianism. And my point I’m trying to make is the Founding Fathers of the United States of America wouldn’t even think this way. See this? They wouldn’t even think this way had it not been for the influence of the Protestant Reformation with its emphasis on TULIP, the first of which is the total depravity of man. Now in Lorraine Boettner’s book, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, [Philipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1932) 398-90] he has a chapter in there where goes into this in detail. And he’s probably one of the few people I’ve ever seen develop this idea where he quotes historian after historian after historian who says had it not been for John Calvin with his belief in the total depravity of man, and Martin Luther and his belief in the total depravity of man the American system of government would not exist. So here’s one such quote: “Bancroft” a historian that Boettner is quoting, “simply calls Calvin ‘the father of America’ and adds: ‘He who will not honor the memory and respect the influence of Calvin knows but little of the origin of American liberty.’”
I wanted to put that in there because for whatever reason this isn’t brought out in most presentations on the Protestant Reformers. The impact that their belief in anthropology, which is the study of man, had on government and how government ought to be set up and the origins of the United States of America, I don’t even think the Protestant Reformers themselves understood what they were putting in motion through their back to the Bible movement and their emphasis on total depravity. They are putting into motion, probably without even realizing it, God realized it, what was happening, they’re putting into motion a political science philosophy that we, in the year 2017 are the recipients of. And most of us just sort of woke up one day in this country and thought this is the way the world is supposed to work; right? No, NO! God is, in history, linking chains together because God sovereignly knew what He wanted to do in this new country called The United States, which, by the way, has sent out more missionaries in the world than any other country in recorded history (that I’m aware of) where Christianity reigns in the United States like it’s never reigned anywhere around the world.
So I believe this; God is putting into motion the right philosophy that our founders would be steeped in, Calvinism, the total depravity of man, which would give them the right mindset by which a right government could be devised, on the basis of the fact that the people running the government are just as corrupted by the sin nature as are the people being governed. So let’s make the government big enough to control the sins of the people but weak enough so that it doesn’t go to the heads, so to speak, of the people running the government and they don’t become corrupted and we don’t go back into totalitarian default mode. So if you enjoy your freedoms in America, which I’m sure you do, you ought to thank the Lord for John Calvin and Martin Luther.
Now something else, switching subjects here, the Reformers gave us are the five Solas, Sola is a Latin word which means by itself. So out of the Protestant Reformation come all of these good things, including the five Solas, and you probably should just memorize these. Sola Scriptura, which means Scripture Alone. Solus Christus which means Christ Alone. Sola Fide which means Faith Alone. Sola Graetia which means Grace Alone. And Soli Deo Gloria, To the Glory of God alone.
In other words, they went back to the Bible and they saw these five Solas, and they used the literal method of interpretation to restore to the church these five Solas. So let’s look at these one by one. The first Sola is what is called Sola Scriptura, what does that mean? It means Scripture by itself. And this is why Martin Luther says things in his debates and in his contests with the Roman Catholic Church, I showed you the quotes last week, he says unless I am convinced by Scripture alone and sound reason it doesn’t really matter how many monks or priests or Popes you quote, here I stand Luther said, I could do no other. This is why Luther called the Book of Galatians Meine Frau, which means his wife. So Luther’s whole thinking is Scripture completely alone and completely by itself.
And what I what I want to show you is that not only did it erase about a thousand years of a different mindset but Sola Scriptura, your authority is the Scripture itself, is being erased today by what I would call the emergent church. And even before I talk about the emergent church, this is why when you’re in a discussion with your Roman Catholic friends you all aren’t on the same page. They believe in stuff that you don’t believe in. Why is that? They have a different authority base than you have. You, as a Protestant, believe that your authority and what you believe in comes from this Book. That’s not what Roman Catholics believe. They believe it comes from tradition, what the Pope’s say, church history, so they’re elevating all these other things on equal level with the Scripture and that’s why they believe “A” on a lot of different topics, and you believe “B” because you’re dealing with a discussion amongst people that are operating by a different authority base.
Luther and Calvin restored to the church the authority base of the Scripture which is Sola Scriptura. You don’t believe anything unless you can see it well taught in this Book. The emergent church sort of has moved today to get back to the pre Reformation Dark Ages. That’s the best way I can describe the emergent church. Brian McLaren, one of the key voices in the emergent church, in his book, A Generous Orthodoxy, page 210, says, “Anglicans” now I found that very interesting because my background is Anglican, I grew up in a church that believed exactly the way McLaren is describing how authority should be set up. I was saved out of this.
“Anglicans have demonstrated this both/and beautifully in relation to Scripture. Scripture is always a factor in Anglican thinking. In Anglicans’ best moments, it is their primary factor,” but notice what McLaren says, “but it is never…the only factor. Rather Scripture is always in dialogue” that’s a popular word today, dialogue, “rather Scripture is always in dialogue with tradition, reason, and experience. None of them Sola can be the ultimate source of authority…”
Now if you put your ear to the ground and listen very carefully you can hear Martin Luther rolling over in his grave because Luther’s whole point is Sola Scriptura, Scripture by itself. That’s how he reclaimed doctrines that had been lost for over a thousand years and what you see here in the emergent church is well, Scripture is nice but you’ve also got to factor in all these other things. Like what? Like tradition, like reason, and like experience. So what is happening with the emergent church is basically an erasure, they’re taking out a eraser and erasing the influence of Luther and Calvin in the Protestant Reformation.
Let me ask you a question: should tradition, reason and experience be elevated to the same level as the Bible in terms of authority? I don’t think so. First of all notice what Paul says, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.” Aha, tradition is not always bad; I mean, we’re not just against tradition because it’s tradition. Tradition can be a very helpful thing if it’s consistent with the Bible.
But you see, what happens in so many places is the tail starts to wag the dog and the tradition becomes more important than the Scripture itself. And if you move in that trajectory the Bible condemns that. This is why Mark 7:13, which we read earlier, Jesus condemned the Pharisees by invalidating the Word of God by your what? Tradition. This is why the Apostle Paul, in the Book of Colossians, chapter 2 and verse 8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”
So tradition is fine but when tradition departs from Scripture we depart from tradition. See that? That mentality comes into existence in Christendom in a dominant way because of the influence of the Protestant Reformation. Part of that point in time is whatever the church said is on equal level with the Scripture itself.
Now what about reason? What is McLaren saying here, back in this quote I gave you. “Anglicans have demonstrated this both/and beautifully in relation to Scripture. Scripture is always a factor in Anglican thinking. In Anglicans’ best moments, it is their primary factor, but it is never…the only factor. Rather Scripture is always in dialogue with tradition, reason, and experience.”
What about human reason? How much trust can be given to human reason? Well, if total depravity is true and sin has not just corrupted me from the neck down then even my mental capacities themselves are tainted by sin. In other words, my mind and your mind, as brilliant as perhaps they are or are not, I don’t know, as brilliant as the human mind can become and the capacities God has given it, the human mind has the ability to go astray, doesn’t it? So this is why we’re told over and over again to test our intellectual conclusions by the Word of God. It’s all over the Bible.
Here’s the verse you have probably on your refrigerator at home, “Trust the Lord with all your heart,” Proverbs 3:5, “lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Did you catch that second clause, “lean not on your own understanding.” Why wouldn’t I lean on my own understanding? Because my mind, I haven’t been corrupted by sin from the neck down, it’s affected my intellect. So whatever I’m thinking has to be tested with the Word of God because my mind can go astray.
Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way which” what? “seems right” it looks good, “to a man, but its end is” what? “….death.” So what the Bible is saying is the intellect is wonderful but don’t make that your authority. Why not? Because God has permission, doesn’t He, to do things that are outside of my mental checkbox? Doesn’t Isaiah 55:8-9 say, “For My thoughts are not” what? “your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Aha, so I have a thought, it may not be God’s thought. I have an idea, maybe it’s not God’s idea. So we’re told constantly to use the Scripture to hem in our reasoning capacities because I’m not given permission as a Christian to think thoughts that are contrary to God’s thoughts. So the Bible supports reason, it supports the intellect; what it does not support is unaided reason, the idea of unaided reason is not a biblical concept. It comes from basically humanism and rationalism under the misguided belief that human beings are naturally good and untainted by sin.
Now what else did McLaren say? The Bible needs to be equal with tradition, it needs to be equal with reason, it needs to be equal with experience. Does that work? Is the Bible equal with whatever experiences you have had or not had? A lot of people think so; they think whatever experience they’ve had, whether it be a dream, a vision, an impression, a liver-quiver, whatever it is must be from God, right, because the experience was so real. The experience was so real it must be from God. And of course that’s what a young man named Joseph Smith thought when he started Mormonism, because he was visited by an angel. And I don’t have any doubt that the experience that a young Joseph Smith had was very real but the error comes in where he thought what was real was from God. This is how Islam started in the 7th century, through another angelic manifestation to Mohammed.
If you were to interview Joseph Smith and Mohammed I think all of us would be convinced that they had real experiences but the error is in thinking that because the experience is real it must be from God. Let me let you in on a little secret here: it’s really not a secret when you study the Word of God… the devil can give experiences! Did you all know that? In fact, this slide here gives you every example in the Bible that I could come up with where a miracle is happening but God has nothing to do with the miracle. It starts with Pharaoh’s magicians, who are able to duplicate many of the things Moses and Aaron were doing.
Deuteronomy 13:1-3 says if you go into the land and there’s a prophet in the land and the prophet announces a sign which comes to pass, but then says let’s follow other Gods, you’re to renounce that prophet. [Deuteronomy 13:1-3, “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder,  and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’  you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”]
So there’s a false prophet that’s announcing something that comes to pass. Jesus said in the last days, Matthew 24:24, there would be false prophets performing signs and wonders. [Matthew 24:24, “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.”]
In fact Jesus said in Matthew 7, in the Sermon on the Mount many will come in that day that have never believed in Christ and say, Lord, Lord, did we not perform many” what? “miracles in Your name.” [Matthew 7:22, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’”]
You have Simeon, the sorcerer, before he believed in Christ he was wowing a whole city of Samaria with his signs and wonders. [Acts 8:9, “Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great;”]
You have in Philippi, Acts 16:16, the young slave girl who was predicting the future and making her master a lot of profit in the process because of the demon that was inside of her. [Acts 16:16, “It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling.”]
Galatians 1:6-9 talks about how even if an angel manifests itself and preaching something other than apostolic doctrine do not believe that angel. [Galatians 1:6-9, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;  which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”]
And you see, this is always something that’s bothered me about so many Christians looking for a signs and wonders movement. Now don’t get me wrong, God performs miracles; the Bible is full of them. But people think that every and any miracle has to be from God and the biblical text just isn’t saying that. The greatest signs and wonders movement predicted in the pages of God’s Word is the false signs and wonders movement of the antichrist, 2 Thessalonians 2:9. [2 Thessalonians 2:9, “that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders,”] we’re going to get into that passage perhaps a little bit in our Daniel study today.
The antichrist is going to rise from the dead, Revelation 13:3; he’s going to call down [Revelation 13:3, “I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast;”] He’s going to call down fire from heaven, that’s a pretty big miracle, isn’t it? It kind of sounds like he’s imitating who? Elijah.
Revelation 13:13 and Revelation 16:13-14 talks about demons performing signs and wonders. [Revelation 13:13, “He also performs great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in front of people.” Revelation 16:13, “And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs;  for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty.”]
So what am I trying to get at? I’m trying to get at that experience cannot be a test of truth unless the experience aligns with what? This Book [the Bible]. So when Brian McLaren is saying well, let’s just take reason, tradition, experience and Scripture and put them all at the same level I’m saying NO WAY! That’s not what the Bible teaches us to do and it’s certainly not what the Protestant Reformers stood for. Where in the Scripture are we told to dialogue with all four? Where does God say okay, get your experience out, get your tradition out, get My Word out and have a conversation amongst them. I mean, that’s just a manmade teaching; there’s no teaching on that.
Now am I against experiences? Not necessarily. Am I against tradition? Not necessarily. Am I against reason? Not necessarily. But you see, I hold those loosely against the authority of Scripture. I use those things, not in a magisterial sense; see a magistrate is someone that sits in judgment on somebody, I don’t use reason, tradition and experience to sit in judgment on the Bible. I use reason, tradition and experience to be in a subservient role as a minister to the Bible. So sometimes reason, tradition and experience can help extricate, explain biblical realities. But you see, when tradition departs from the Scripture I depart from tradition. When reason departs from the plain statements of God’s Word I depart from reason. When experiences depart from Scripture I depart from those experiences. I’m not necessarily shutting them off; I’m always holding them loosely and at bay to what the Scripture is saying in its literal, grammatical, historical sense, consistently applied.
So why do I think that way? Well, John Calvin and Martin Luther dropped off a great big Christmas present to me, called the Protestant Reformation, where they got me to thinking in a Sola Scriptura sense.
Let me cover one other Sola which is Sola Christus, it comes right out of the Protestant Reformation, meaning Christ alone. And you know that’s true because that’s what the Bible says, and the Protestant Reformers say this, salvation is found in Christ alone. See, the word “Sola” is a big deal; because the Protestant Reformers insist on the word Sola by itself that’s what put them at war with the Catholic hierarchy. If they had just left the “Sola” out everybody would have gotten along hunky-dory. But because they insisted on Sola that was what was unearthing a thousand years of the dark ages. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” [John 14:6] Christ alone, Sola.
Acts 4:12, quoting Peter, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Sola Christus, Christ alone! 1 Timothy 2:5, where there is how many mediators between God and man? One, “the man Christ Jesus.” [1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”] By the way, only Christ could be the mediator between God and man because he’s the only one who’s both God and man.
So the Reformers see this and they start to reject Mariolatry. Now Mary, how does the Bible portray Mary? She’s the Mother of Jesus; the Holy Spirit used her womb, through the virgin conception to bring Jesus into the world. So we as Protestants have a great deal of respect for Mary. She’s a woman to be honored. But let me tell you something; we don’t pray to Mary. Why don’t we pray to Mary? Because of Sola Christus.
Mary was not God-man, so any prayer offered to Mary is of no validity, it has no power, it’s just empty tradition. And so the Reformers see this and they start to move away from Mariolatry, elevating Mary to a place where the Bible never puts her. The Bible says she’s a respected woman but what you have in the thousand years of the Dark Ages is Mary is lifted up, almost as a co-Redemptress, almost as a mediator of some kind and that’s not the biblical position because it’s not borne out by the first principle of the Protestant Reformation called Sola Scriptura.
So the Reformers reject Mariolatry and in the process they reject the idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary. In Mariolatry what happened is they elevated her to such a role as the mother of Jesus, the Holy Spirit using the virgin conception, that she stayed a virgin her whole life. Did you know that? And yet what does the Bible say? B-I-B-L-E, that’s the book for me—right?
Matthew 13:55 says, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers,” where do these guys come from? “James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” What does this mean? It means that the Holy Spirit used the virgin Mary to bring Jesus into the world but Mary was married to Joseph. Following the virgin birth of Jesus Christ Mary and Joseph had a normal sexual relationship and from that normal sexual relationship, post virgin birth of Christ, came forth the half-brothers of Jesus. Now why do we call them “half-brothers”? Because they shared the same mother as Jesus but not the same father. Joseph is the father of these guys; Joseph, as we believe the Bible teaches was never the father, the biological father, of Jesus Christ because Jesus was born of a virgin and Thank God He was because if He wasn’t then what would we have inherited right down the line? The sin nature, and He had inherited the sin nature He wouldn’t have qualified to be our sinless sacrifice, because God only accepts a sinless sacrifice.
So we have in the Biblical text very clearly expressed the half-brothers of Jesus. Two of them wrote books of the Bible. Did you know that? Which two am I thinking of? James and Jude. Two books of the New Testament written by the half-brothers of Jesus Christ.
So the Reformers are moving away from Mariolatry; they are rejecting doctrines such as the perpetual virginity of Mary. And they’re also rejecting in the process the sinless perfectionism of Mary because in Roman Catholic teaching Mary, not only is she a mediator of some sort, not only did she remain a virgin her whole life, but she is actually in a state of sinless perfection. Well, that doesn’t work, does it, because the sin nature has affected every human being other than Christ, including Mary. And that’s why Mary herself says, Luke 1:46-47, as Jesus is in her womb, “And Mary said: ‘My soul exalts the Lord,  And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Even Mary herself recognized she needed s Savior. See that? I think Mary would be embarrassed that over 2,000 years she’s been promoted to a state of sinless perfectionism.
We know Romans 3:23, “For all,” wouldn’t that include Mary, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. So this Mariolatry now is being corrected in the Protestant Reformation through a return to Sola Scriptura. And we’ll pick it up next time with Sola Fide.