Protestant Reformation 014Matthew 16:18 • Dr. Andy Woods • October 8, 2017 • Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation
10-8-17 Matthew 16:18 Lesson 14
Father, we thank You for this morning and thank You for Your grace. Thank You that we live in a time where we can hear the gospel through so many available means. And we just pray, Father, that You will be with us today as we try to interact a little bit more about history. And I pray You’ll be with our worship service that follows and I pray that in all things You would be glorified. We lift all these things up in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.
What I had planned to do today was to do a question and answer on what we’ve covered and before we do that let me just do a quick review. I’m planning on talking maybe five minutes, believe it or not, in monologue form anyway. So we started this study because just in a few weeks now the 500th year anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the 95 thesis to the cathedral door in Wittenberg, Germany, will be here. And we’re trying to get a glimpse of history and try to get some perspective on the significance of that event. A lot of people understate it and a lot of people overstate it. So we’re trying to not do either.
And this study has gone on 13 weeks and we’ve covered a lot of ground. But we started with the early church, as you’ll remember, and the baton of truth that they passed off to the first generation of believers after the apostles, and they developed a school in Antioch up north, that northern circle, where they held to literal interpretation. And we could look back at some of the things they taught during that era and quibble with this or that but by and large their goal was to interpret the Bible, especially Bible prophecy in a literal sense.
So from that school of thought develops chiliasm, which is another name for premillennialism and they believed very strongly for the first few centuries of the church in a future kingdom. And what happened after the first two centuries of the church age is that school was eclipsed by the circle down south in Alexandria, Egypt, that developed the allegorical method of interpretation. And so we’ve explained what that is, we’ve explained why we don’t think that’s a correct understanding of the Scripture. We’ve explained the historical forces that made allegorism so popular.
But the sad reality is Alexandria, Egypt, what was bad eclipsed what was good in Antioch. And so this plummeted Christianity into a period of time called the Middle Ages or I call it the Dark Ages, and the Dark Ages went on for over a millennium. That’s what we as Americans in the year 2017, with all of our blessings, lose sight of. And this is basically a time period where the Bible is removed from the people and it’s largely related to the fact that under allegorization only the priests were given authority to interpret the Bible. The average person was told they couldn’t read it for themselves and during this time period illiteracy was so dominant that your average person couldn’t read it even if they wanted to.
So that takes you from the fourth century right up until the sixteenth century where you have this movement taking place called The Protestant Reformation, and that’s what everybody is celebrating beginning October 31st and these were men that the Lord raised up to restore biblical authority to the church in some areas. And their most prominent contribution was the five solas, which we’ve gone through: sola fide, faith alone; sola gratia, grace along, sola Christus, Christ alone. Probably the most important is sola Scriptura, Scripture alone. And then there’s Sola Deo Gloria, all Latin words, to the glory of God alone. And so they rejected the Dark Ages allegorization and they brought back to the church an Antioch mindset, a Bible only literal mindset in the area of the solas. So they contributed massively to regaining what was lost.
But as we have studied it’s sort of naïve to look at the Protestant Reformation as a complete return to truth and we’ve labored to explain why that was not so. The Reformers, for a variety of reasons took their literal interpretation to some areas but not others. And the theological system that they were the progenitors of, called Reformed theology, did the exact same thing. And even today Reformed theology does this; literal in some areas but it retains Roman Catholicism in other areas, like in the area of infant baptism, kingdom now theology, and things to that extent. So Alexandria, Egypt reigns supreme in much of Christendom even today.
So this begins to explain why the Lord raised up, I believe around the 19th century, what is called the dispensational movement, which is part of the heritage of Moody Bible Institute, Dallas Seminary, what used to be called Philadelphia College of the Bible, Sugar Land Bible Church. And the Bible church movement would be part of this spiritual heritage. It basically raised up people at different times to take the Reformation hermeneutic, which is really the Antiochian hermeneutic, and apply it to the whole Bible, not just parts of it.
So dispensationalism is a 19th century movement; it involves taking the Reformers hermeneutic and applying it to the whole Bible, and using that method of interpretation. And just as the Reformers retrieved the solas the dispensational movement retrieved a lot of other things, such as chiliasm, which we call today premillennialism, the Israel/church distinction, and pretribulationalism. And once you go that direction it’s a natural curb, if you will, on anti-Semitism, which is always alive and well in the world. And if you want to understand where anti-Semitism comes from just read Revelation 12 where the dragon is trying to devour the woman (or Israel) and Satan has always worked in history to blot out the Jewish people because Satan understands that the kingdom program is going to be fulfilled through the nation of Israel.
So what better way to stop that from happening than to become anti-Semitic, and so anti-Semitism has always been there. Anti-Semitism, because of biblical illiteracy, was dominant in the Middle Ages. And sadly, the same anti-Semitic trends, and we’ve tried to document this with various quotes, continued into the Protestant Reformation, into the Reformer’s thinking and even reigns in some of their progenitors, spiritual progenitors today.
But if you take the whole Bible literally you start saying oh my goodness, God has a plan for Israel yet future. And you begin to see passages come into focus, like Romans 11 where Paul of Israel says they are enemies now but they are beloved on behalf of the patriarchs. [Romans 11:28, “From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers;”] So even though Israel is not a believing nation or people yet we can read the Word of God literally and understand that God is not through with Israel and that gives you a love for Israel, not a hatred.
And once the Israel/church distinction starts to come back then you stop taking the Law of Moses like John Calvin did, and others, and try to legislate it on people, and you get away from these social experiments, like in Geneva that went awry. And I’ve given you, real fast last time, some of the key dispensational leaders that did this and if you look at these names through the lens of Reformed theology they’re always demonized; hardly anything good is said about them. But to my mind these people are all heroes and all they did was take the Reformer’s hermeneutic and apply it to prophetic sections of Scripture; names like John Nelson Darby, Sir Robert Anderson, who said that the first sixty-nine weeks of Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled literally then maybe the seventieth week would be fulfilled literally as well.
Sir Robert Anderson says, “There is not a single prophecy, of which the fulfillment is recorded in Scripture, that was not realized with absolute accuracy, and in every detail; and it is wholly unjustifiable to assume that a new system of fulfillment was inaugurated after the sacred canon closed…Literalness of fulfillment may therefore be accepted as an axiom to guide us in the study of prophecy.” [The Coming Prince, p.147-148]
No Protestant Reformer ever said; Luther never said that, Calvin never said that, in fact Luther and Calvin are saying the opposite. But Anderson is coming along and taking the Reformers hermeneutic, which was used to successfully retrieve the five solas and they’re applying it to prophecy. Other folks that did this would be C. I. Scofield, W. E. Blackstone, Henry Allen Ironside, Lewis Sperry Chafer, and I could give you other names but that just gives you a sampling.
And so we come to Roman numeral VIII, looking back 500 years later, how do we properly look at the Protestant Reformation, particularly as we’re coming up on the 500th year anniversary. Well, we rejoice over the Reformers. We’re grateful for what they accomplished and the price they paid, some of them paying with their own lives to do what they did. But at the same time we don’t put them on a pedestal or idolize them, any more than you would put any human being on a pedestal. And we understand that the restoration that they led was very partial; it was important but it wasn’t complete. What they gave us was a tool; now the tool wasn’t new to them, you can trace it back to Antioch, they just got it out of the tool box and dusted it off and used it. But the tool was literal interpretation; we’ve talked about what that means, and they went into the Scripture and retrieved certain doctrines, but they only applied it so far. They applied it selectively. They gave us the right seed or the right method, it just wasn’t consistently used. And so God had to raise up others outside of their movement, down the line, to apply it consistently.
And so that basically is the story of the whole Protestant Reformation as I understand it, looking at those eight major areas: The early church, The Alexandrian eclipse, The Dark Ages,, The Contribution of the Protestant Reformers, The Reformers’ Incomplete Revolution, Reformed Theology Today, DISPENSATIONALISM & THE COMPLETED REVOLUTION. And so we can look back 500 years later with gratitude but not over stating what they accomplished.
So anyway, that’s the end of the Reformation study. I thought I’d talk five minutes and I actually talked fifteen. So I got allegorical there a little bit. But there’s no doubt people, we have 45 minutes for questions so if you have a question just make sure you say it loud and we have a viewing audience out there so I’m going, to the best of my ability rephrase or rephrase the question not to insult you but just so people out there who haven’t heard the question can hear it. And if I don’t know the answer I’m just going to say I don’t know; how does that sound. And we also have potential Facebook questions that might come in so if you’re a Facebook viewer just put your question…now we’re looking for questions, not sermons, put your question in the comment box and we’ll try to get to it if there’s a lull in the action here. All right, how does that sound?
Wayne had his hand up first. [can’t hear] You mean how accessible was the Scripture during the Dark Ages? [can’t hear] Before the Dark Ages. Okay, so how accessible was the Scripture in the Antiochian area, I guess is what you’re asking. And my understanding is they had a completed Canon, the Canon was looked at as closed, and they looked at it with great reverence. And to my mind the early church, I’m not talking about in the Book of Acts, I’m talking about after the apostles left the scene, had everything they needed and were pretty faithful. They weren’t perfect but they were pretty faithful with what God had given them for the first two centuries. But the problem comes along in the Middle Ages or the Dark Ages when people are told they can’t understand what they’re reading. And it also becomes a problem when illiteracy begins to take over and people can’t read. So I think prior to that point in time, prior to Alexandria’s influence there was an accessibility and a general understanding that the Scriptures were available and understandable. That’s my understanding.
[Same person says more] Exactly. Well that was a key plank in the movement into an Alexandrian mindset is… you know, it’s easy to believe that God has a future for Israel when you can look over in the Middle East and see them there with a functioning temple, but that all changed in A.D. 70 with the Romans driving Israel out, and then Bar Cochba’s Revolt, which happened in A.D. 135, exasperated that and then when Hadrian came to power and called the name of that land Palestine, which is a mocking of the Jewish people, it comes from the derivative Philistine, pretending like the Jews were never there, then all of a sudden Christendom has a hard time believing these prophecies about a literal Israel.
Now in our day it’s much easier to believe in a literal Israel, isn’t it, because we pick up our newspaper and Israel is everywhere in terms of the news. But you’re dealing with people living in a time period where Israel had been kicked out of that land a long time ago so it’s easy to start to allegorize those passages. And as David Regan says that was D Day for the replacement theology view is the restoration of Israel. I mean, that is an event that totally upset them because now you can look at the Middle East and say wow, these prophecies could very well be happening literally.
Darrell [can’t hear] Well, you asked me about that last week and told me to be ready for that question and I didn’t do any research on it because I was in Minnesota all week and I haven’t really done any research on the Anabaptists. I just have a hard time believing any Christian group that claims some kind of direct lineage to the apostles. I think all of us are standing on the shoulders of the Reformers, one way or the other. Now I realize God always has a remnant and everybody claims that their particular denomination (or whatever) is part of that remnant. But to me it’s just very difficult to believe that given all the historical forces that were at work in the Dark Ages. So I think the Anabaptists and Sugar Land Bible Church and all of us are standing on the shoulders of the Reformers, building on what they did. That’s my unresearched answer, if that helps.
Tina T has a question: [can’t hear] The Crusades go back to what, the 1100’s, something like that. Have I got the date right on that? So they would precede the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. And I’m not denying the fact that good things were accomplished in the Crusades but when you get into this mindset that we’re going to go to Jerusalem and liberate Jerusalem and bring in the kingdom and fulfill all these prophecies, which was part of the mindset of the Crusaders as I understand it, that is an outworking of not understanding the Israel/church distinction, in the same way John Calvin didn’t understand it.
Calvin was taking the Mosaic Law and legally imposing it and trying to create a new Israel and that also is like politically a new Israel and that’s also a lack of understanding of the Israel/church distinction. So I’m not denying that some good things were accomplished in the Crusades but to me a lot of that relates to a theological confusion that people had at that time, that Israel is Israel and the church is the church. So if we see Israel as Israel and the church is the church then our primary mission on this earth is not political. Now I preach we ought to be involved in politics; I think we ought to be involved politics to restrain evil, to slow it down some but we don’t do it because we’re trying to bring in the kingdom. I don’t know if that helps at all.
Same person says you’re suggesting that the Crusades were for that purpose [can’t hear rest]? Andy: I think it was mixed, a mixed thing. It’s not one or the other it’s both and. So what I’m saying is that there could have been that good motive and good things accomplished but intermixed with this is a confusion about how we’re going to restore Jerusalem, restore the temple, and those kinds of things. I hope that helps.
[can’t hear, something about Face Book], something about Dallas Seminary and progressive dispensationalism? [can’t hear] Andy: That’s really not within the orbit of our study; if I go on record with that I’ll never live it down so I’ll answer that another time.
[Andre: can’t hear] Okay, let me restate the question. I don’t know if I restated Tina’s question either but this is hard for me to remember to restate questions so if I start talking without restating the question you guys interrupt me, okay. So you’re asking is the thousand year millennial doctrine, is that found in other places besides Revelation 20. [Person says yes] Okay, I would say the answer to that is the millennial doctrine is basically all over the Old Testament. I mean, it’s in the Old Testament primarily that you get the glimpse of an earthly kingdom, in the covenants, in the prophets and so forth. The only contribution that Revelation 20:1-10 adds is it tells you the duration of a thousand years. And this is what people get confused about with the Book of Revelation. The Book of Revelation, as I understand it, is not adding new information. Most of the information in the Book of Revelation is scattered throughout the Bible. The contribution of the Book of Revelation is it takes all of these scattered prophecies and puts them in a chronological order.
Maybe this analogy will work. Do you all do jigsaw puzzles, thank God for the box top that tells you what the picture is supposed to look like. So the scattered pieces is the millennial doctrine all over the Old Testament. The box top tells you how the pieces fit together. So the millennium is… and people misunderstand this, they think well, the millennium is just a doctrine found in one chapter of the Bible and that’s not true. The millennial doctrine is all over the Old Testament. Revelation comes along and just gives you the time of the millennium. So it’s true, you only find the duration of the millennium in Revelation 20 but the concept is voluminous all over the Old Testament. Does that help at all? [Person says thank you]
Let’s see, I told Bob he could go first and the elders are supposed to go first, right? [Bob: can’t hear] He’s asking about the distinction in Reformed theology between Lutheran Reformed theology and Calvinist Reformed theology. And the answer is that’s a distinction I wasn’t really aware of and so if that’s true I’m happy about that. [same person says more] He’s asking about John MacArthur and where he fits into this whole thing of Reformed theology and I would call John MacArthur somebody who’s really not a Reformed theologian because Reformed theology involves the covenant of grace, even though his church is called Grace Community Church, and that is used to… it superimposed over the Bible and it’s used to allegorize vast sections of Scripture. That’s how I’m using Reformed theology.
John MacArthur is definitely not in that category; he’s written entire books promoting dispensationalism and a future for Israel. He actually blurbed Barry Horner’s excellent book; he may have written the forward for it actually, on future Israel. And we have a lot of John MacArthur people and students at his school and members of his church that come to our Pre-trib study group. So he may be Reformed in the soteriological sense but he’s definitely not Reformed in the sense I’ve been using it here in terms of writing Israel out of the picture. Does that help at all. You’re right, we should be careful about how we use the word “Reformed” and define it because we don’t want to misrepresent people as being in a certain camp when they’re not.
If you want an example of a Reformed theologian all the way you would look at a guy like R. C. Sproul, who’s not only Reformed with the soteriological Calvinism but he’s eschatologically Reformed. [same person said something] Yeah, replacement theology, preterism. So MacArthur is maybe Reformed soteriologically but he’s definitely not reformed ecclesiologically and eschatologically, if that helps at all. Good thoughts.
[can’t hear] That’s a great question she’s asking—can you elaborate on the Reformed theologian’s understanding of the Mosaic Law. As you all know we have the Mosaic Law given at Sinai and you find it in the Book of Exodus and Leviticus and it’s restated for the second generation in the Book of Deuteronomy. And basically what Reformed theology does and what John Calvin did is he divided the Law into three parts: the first part he called the moral law and he believed, as does Reformed theology today believes, that we (as the church) are under the moral law. So the moral law would be don’t commit adultery, don’t use the Lord’s name in vain, those types of commands. So that’s part 1 of the law.
The second part of the law would be the sacrificial part of it, with animal sacrifices, or ceremonial is what they call it. And then the third part would be the civil part of it where you’re actually supposed to stone to death witches, and homosexuals and Sabbath breakers and things like that. So they have this nice neat threefold division and so they say well, we’re under the moral part of it but we’re not under the civil part of it and we’re not under the ceremonial part of it. And people that don’t believe like that, they have a little name that they call us; they call us antinomian which means you’re against the law. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people throw that at me. The reality of the situation is number 1, the Law itself, you can study the Book of Exodus and Leviticus and Deuteronomy all you want, it never divides itself up like that. Moses never says hey, here’s the moral parts over here; hey, here’s the ceremonial parts over here; hey, here’s the civil parts over here. So it’s a completely manmade thing that they’ve come up with.
And the second problem is if you put one pinky under the Law, I don’t care what you call it, moral or whatever, you’re under the whole thing. And that’s why the Book of James, chapter 2 and verse 10, written to a Jewish audience, says if we stumble at one point of the Law we’re guilty of the whole thing. [James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”] So you cannot… the moment you say we’re under the Law at all is the moment we go under everything.
So are we antinomian then, if we don’t believe we’re under the Law of Moses? No, because Galatians 6:2 says that we’re under the Law of what? We’re under the law of Christ. [Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”] So we are under a completely different system than the Law of Moses. And you might want to jot down Psalm 147:19-20, it says very clearly there that the Mosaic Law was given only to the nation of Israel, nobody else. [Psalm 147:19-20, “He declares His words to Jacob, His statutes and His ordinances to Israel.  He has not dealt thus with any nation; and as for His ordinances, they have not known them. Praise the LORD!”]
So what are we under? We are under a totally different system that looks like the Mosaic Law, at some points, because nine of the ten commandments are repeated in the New Testament, but it’s different. I mean, are we to stone to death Sabbath breakers? NO! Are we to stone to death witches? NO! Are we to stone to death homosexuals? NO! It would be like this: I’m from California and I currently live in Texas; the laws of Texas look a lot like the laws of California; I mean, murder is wrong in both states, right? It’s just in Texas they actually enforce the law… but I won’t go into that! So if I coming a crime in Texas, even though it would still be a crime in California where am I going to be tried? In Texas, because I am under Texas law even though Texas law looks very similar to California law
So what are we under as New Testament believers? We are under the law of Christ, which looks very similar to the Mosaic Law at certain points. But you’ll notice that the punitive and the ceremonial and the civil stuff isn’t there. So we’re under the law of Christ, sometimes Romans 8 called the law of the Spirit, which looks very similar to the Mosaic Law but it is not the Mosaic Law. [Romans 8:2, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”] Once you go under any element of the Mosaic Law you’re under the whole thing. And the Reformed system doesn’t really understand it that way and they don’t understand that if you’re under part of it you’re under all of it. And they’re hurling this name “antinomian” around without really understanding what we’re saying. The sad thing about Reformed theologians is we read them but they don’t really read us very well, so they have all these false caricatures of what they think we believe. And beyond that they’re making a three-fold division of the Mosaic Law that just doesn’t exist. It’s totally manmade. Does that help at all? [someone replies] Good!
[Question asked] He’s asking why did the Protestant Reformers not complete the hermeneutical revolution and I think there’s a lot of reasons for that. I think they were tired and they got old and they already accomplished a lot and what they accomplished was super human so to expect them to do more would have been, I think, unrealistic. And beyond that they were not, what you call tabula rasa, blank slates. They had baggage just like anybody else and they were basically Catholics and they actually wanted to stay Catholic and Luther was as shocked as anybody else when he posted this thing in Wittenberg and everybody in the church started calling him a heretic and kicking him out. He just wanted to start a conversation. He was trying to reform the church from within.
So because they were Catholics and they still wanted to be Catholics they brought a lot of Roman Catholicism with them. They brought a lot of the bad stuff from the Dark Ages with them into the Reformed movement. So they didn’t complete the whole thing because they were just people that God used in an area. But I love how God is so good and loves His church so much that He raised up other people to do what they couldn’t do. Does that help at all?
Someone asks question, can’t hear: … it was kind of long, that’s just fine, my sermons are longer than your questions… but he’s basically saying the concept of progressive illumination versus progressive revelation helps us understand better the past. Right? So real quickly, some of you may have caught this during the lectures, some of you may not, but I tried to draw a distinction between progressive revelation and progressive illumination. Revelation basically means God is revealing truth.
And you see, the Holy Spirit basically has at least two ministries of communication; the first is revelation where He’s revealing books of the Bible to biblical writers, that’s ministry A, and that ministry is over because the canon of Scripture is shut. Jude 3 talks about truth once and for all delivered to the saints. [Jude 3, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”]
And Revelation 22 says don’t add or subtract or the curses will be added to you and your place in the tree of life will be subtracted from. [Revelation 22:18-19, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book;  and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”] So it’s very clear that God is not saying anything new or not revealing new books today.
But there is a very active ministry called illumination where the Holy Spirit helps us understand what God has written. And people get the vocabulary confused all the time; in fact, sometimes the Holy Spirit is so real in terms of what He’s showing us that we think it’s revelation but it really isn’t revelation, it’s illumination. So you can study the doctrine of illumination in passages like 1 Corinthians 2:14-15 and other passages. [1 Corinthians 2:14-15, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.  But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.”]
Basically Revelation is done, illumination continues. And I do believe in, not progressive revelation, I don’t believe new books of the Bible are written today, the canon is shut, but I do believe very strongly in progressive illumination where the Holy Spirit allows subsequent generations to see things that early generations didn’t see.
So the truth has always been there; it’s not a new truth, it’s just the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit has allowed subsequent generations to see something that other generations couldn’t. So I believe we… and if you want Scripture on it I’m basically getting a lot of it from Daniel 12:4 and verse 9 which says in the last days people will go to and fro which is not air travel, it’s reading, when you cross reference it with Amos 8:12, and knowledge will increase; knowledge is not nuclear bomb type knowledge. Knowledge is the Word of God knowledge. [Daniel 12:4, “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” KJV. Daniel 12:9, “He said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time.’” Amos 8:12 “”People will stagger from sea to sea And from the north even to the east; They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, But they will not find it.”]
So I believe that when you get closer and closer and closer to the end the Holy Spirit starts to peel back truth. And you brought it up earlier with the restoration of Israel; I mean, it’s easy for us to believe those promises because we see an Israel in the land. Now prior generations didn’t see it that way, but the truth has always been there for everybody. So it is a fact that the field of eschatology, the study of the end times, was the last major area of systematic theology to be systematized. I mean, we had already systematized Christology, and atonement controversies and the doctrines of grace, going back to the Protestant Reformation, atonement going back to the 1100’s. And then you go back into the debates about the Nicaean Creed and all of these things that’s dealing with the person of Christ so Christology is systematized and then atonement is systematized and then you move into the 16th century and salvation starts to get systematized.
And it really is not until the 1800’s that we started to systematize eschatology. So what do you attribute that to? I attribute it to progressive illumination. And we’re sitting here today in the year 2017 on top of all of these wonderful doctrines that we just take for granted and we don’t really understand that it took the church centuries to formally systematize these areas. And one of the tools that the Lord used to get the church to start to systematize truth was heretics, because once a heretic shows up, like you have Arius, back in the Nicea days, Arius shows up and says you know Jesus was a created being; this is what the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach. Arius actually had a song, I won’t sing it because I don’t know if there’s a recording of it but supposedly it was a song he would say or sing “there was a time in which He was not.” So he was challenging the idea of the eternal existence of Jesus Christ.
So what does the church do? Oh my gosh, this guy sang this, the Bible seems to be saying something different, we’d better formalize the doctrine of Christology. And you go right on through church history it’s the same way. Another heretic arises and challenges something and the church says oh my gosh, we’d better systematize this doctrine, and this doctrine, and this doctrine. And we think heretics are always a bad thing but they actually forced the church to do some hard thinking. And eschatology is the last area systematized, largely because of what I believe is progressive illumination. Does that help at all. Most people, I talk so long they can’t remember the question. [Laughter]
[can’t hear question] This question is about what’s called the emergent church or the emerging church and how the emerging church is basically trying to leapfrog the Protestant Reformation and go back to the Dark Ages. And that literally is what the emergent church is trying to do. And we have primarily in this room an older group so you may not even know about it but if you have children or grandchildren they know all about the emerging church. And the emerging church is targeting the youth and if you go to Barnes and Noble and you go to the religious section you’ll see Brian McLaren everywhere, and these are sort of popular level books he and others have written. And the whole idea of the emergent church is there’s all this truth in the pre Reformation Dark Ages (they don’t call them the Dark Ages), that got lost. And so what we need to do to really practice Christianity today is we need to go back and retrieve all that stuff.
So what you see coming back in the emergent church is monasticism, the darkening of the sanctuary, a lot of the practices in Episcopalianism (that I escaped from) they want to go back to, Ash Wednesday, putting the ash, a cross, on people’s heads. They want to go back to holy water. They want to go back to the stations of the cross. I grew up as an unsaved person with the stations of the cross as an acolyte in the Episcopalian church. They want to go back to something called the labyrinth. Have you heard of this? It’s like a maze you walk through, and as you walk through this maze you get this sort of spiritual experience. And I can’t tell you how many Bible churches, particularly in the Dallas area, that my wife and I investigated because at that time when we lived there we were looking for a church and we just saw one Bible church, historic Bible church pastored by greats of the past move in this emergent church direction. And it’s moving towards holy water, Ash Wednesday, stations of the cross, advent, and all of these kinds of things.
And the problem is, you say well, where do you find biblical support for that stuff? Well, there isn’t any, the Bible never tells us to promote those things, support those things, get enmeshed in those things. And you say well then, what’s your authority for bringing all of this back. And it’s a scripture plus history mentality. So their view is there’s all this wonderful truth that somehow got lost subsequent to the Reformation that we want to go back to and retrieve. And once we do that then we’ll REALLY be able to experience Christianity. So there’s all these things about diet; there’s all these things about the desert fathers and some of the other things that I’ve mentioned. And the emergent church people just go on and on and on and on about all this stuff. And really all they’re doing is they’re leapfrogging the Reformation and going back to these ancient liturgical practices.
And one of the things that really has bothered me about the emergent church as I’ve tried to read some of their literature is they’re all about trashing Bible teaching, which bothers me because that’s my primary ministry as a Bible teacher. In the emergent churches primarily of young people you don’t have Bible teaching; what you have is a discussion mentality, kind of like Phil Donahue used to walk around the audience with a microphone and put the microphone in people’s face and say “what do you think about this passage?” Well, I think such and such. Well what do you think? Well, I think such and such. And so you don’t have even teachers; you usually have a guy in a Hawaiian church that has a year round tan and he’s real hip and cool and he’s not teaching authoritatively. Like in a Bible church the way it’s supposed to work is you have somebody trained in the Bible that studies the Bible all week to authoritatively give to God’s people truth. And that whole practice is lost in the emergent church. It’s all about experiences, and they’re really big on this issue of conversation.
Does that help at all? It’s a leapfrogging of the Protestant Reformation, going back to the very things that the Reformers helped us escape from. And you may have never heard of it but if you’ve got children or grandchildren I can almost guarantee, if you talk to them about it, they know something about it. It’s a reversal of Sola Scriptura is what it is. It’s Scripture plus tradition is what it is. And it’s the very thing that Luther reacted against. Does that help. You can’t remember the question I talked so long.
[Someone asks question, can’t hear.] He’s recommending Lewis Sperry Chafer’s Systematic Theology to help people grow in eschatology. Thank you for that because I’m the President of Chafer Seminary. By the way, do you want a job? [Laughter] Richard’s read those volumes several times.
Anybody else? Judy, in the very back: [can’t hear] Where does the Eastern Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, fit into all of this? I would say, and I don’t want to misrepresent them, I’ve never been a practitioner of theirs, but I would say they would represent a lot of pre-Reformation ideas, so they would be very big in liturgy. If I’m not mistaken they would be very big into the Bible plus the church fathers. And one of the things that’s interesting is to watch people. And to me it’s sad to watch, people that are Protestant Reformation Bible Church type people rejecting it and going back to those kind of traditions, which is my opposite trajectory. I grew up with all that kind of stuff and I went the opposite direction and I’m seeing more and more people go the other way. And one of the names that you might want to know is Hank Hanegraaff, who calls THE Bible answer man. He basically was a long-standing defender of Protestantism and countercult ministries and things like that. But he basically recently joined the Greek Orthodox Church.
Another name you might want to know is Frances Beckwith, who was in 2006 the President of the Evangelical Theological Society, so he was, in 2006, the highest ranking evangelical academically in the world. And in 2006 in the midst of his presidency he just decided he was going back to Roman Catholicism, right in the middle of his presidency. And the Evangelical Theological Society didn’t know what to do. And it’s interesting when people make this leap and they start to give you the reasons why they’re going into these traditions, here’s something they never say; they never say “I was reading my Bible and I decided to make this move.” What it always is, with the case of Beckwith is I was reading the church fathers. So they’re going to an authority base outside the Scripture. And when you listen to Hank Hanegraaff’s testimony it’s basically the same thing. It’s wanting more of an experiential approach to Christianity. So I wouldn’t put Greek Orthodox in the Protestant camp (so to speak). I would put him in sort of a pre-Reformation camp. Does that help?
They may have fast forwarded the clock up there, let’s get this guy off the stage as fast as we can. [Laughter] According to that clock we have three minutes left so any other thoughts. Anybody from Facebook? All right. I appreciate your patience and I hope you enjoyed this series. It may have taught you some things you may not have known before and we’re going to be starting a new class, most likely on the doctrine of the church, ecclesiology, so that will be coming up.
And we’re going back now to two Sunday School classes, Bob is going to be teaching a class also in the fellowship hall on (if I understood it right) the letters to the churches in the Book of Revelation. So I want to ask Bob some questions about that, like who are… I want to know who the overcomers are is what I want to know, because that’s a controversial issue. Anyway, that’s the future, Bob’s class starts next week and so you’ll have two classes to choose from: Revelation 2 and 3 and The Doctrine of Ecclesiology.
Any other thoughts or questions? Someone says: when you go to the Dark Ages or the period when people didn’t have the Bible [can’t hear rest]. I don’t know if have an exact answer on that other than Paul said it would happen, because in Acts 20 where he’s speaking to the elders at Ephesus, at the port city of Miletus on missionary journey 3 that’s about to end, so he’s an apostle talking to elders or pastors, he says be on the guard for all the flock among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood, “for I know….” So he sounds like the guy is pretty dogmatic about this, [Acts 20:29] “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you and not spare the flock,  and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.  Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.”
So this is the whole problem of going back to church tradition as some kind of authority for what we ought to be doing in the church, because Paul says that once the apostles leave the scene the church will be hijacked by wolves. So in Sola Scriptura we don’t determine what should be normative in the church based on church tradition or church history because Paul specifically said that church history would be dominated by wolves. And so I think it’s just a matter of what Paul predicted would come to pass and spiritual leaders just didn’t take it seriously. And the reason this historical survey is so valuable to us is the same thing could happen in our generation; we could lose everything. There’s no guarantee that what we understand is Christianity will be faithfully passed off to the next generation unless we’re vigilant to defend the truth.
And Ed brought up the emergent church mindset, that whole discussion doesn’t make any sense unless you understand history. You don’t even understand why it’s wrong unless you understand history. So what was lost was predicted and those the only lesson we learn from history is that we don’t learn anything from history. So that’s why studying church history helps us, so we don’t make the same errors. The emergent church is making the exact same errors that the Dark Ages made. I don’t know if I have an answer other than Paul warned about it and said it would happen and lo and behold it happened. And if it happened then it could happen again. So that’s the exhortation to us.
Let me close us in a word of prayer. Father, we’re grateful for these folks that want to go deeper into truth and learn history. I pray, Father, that You would make us… not just fill our heads with knowledge but You’d makes us better stewards as a result of the things that we know now. I ask that You will be with us during the worship service, we’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We lift these things up in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.