Monthly Archives: October 2007

 

Oct

31

2007

Trevin Wax|3:42 am CT

Top Ten Moments of the Reformation

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The Reformation was a political and religious movement in Europe that began in the 1500′s and lasted for roughly 150 years. It is difficult to pinpoint exact starting and ending dates for the Reformation, but we can point to two events that seem to begin and to culminate the Reformation era: 1517 (Martin Luther’s 95 Theses and his protest against the indulgence system of the Roman Catholic Church) and 1648 (The Peace of Westphalia, treaties that ended both the Thirty Years’ War and the Eighty Years’ War and thus put an end to most of the civil disruption caused by the religious movement).

1. Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses (October 31, 1517)
 It has been argued that the importance of Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg is often overestimated, since all public disputations were promoted in this manner. Furthermore, it is evident from the 95 Theses that Luther’s decisive break with Rome is not yet clear. He upholds the indulgence system, papal authority, and the existence of purgatory. Yet, this crucial event deserves to be at the forefront of any discussion on important Reformation events because it is the spark that led to the flames of revolution. Luther’s 95 Theses were published, printed, and disseminated into Europe, and the publication ignited a religious fervor that exploded across Germany and beyond.

2. The Marburg Colloquy (1529)
 Luther and Zwingli’s discussion of the theology of the Lord’s Supper may seem an odd choice for the 2nd most important Reformation event, but the political and religious consequences of their failure to come to agreement on the Eucharist set the course for a split which has lasted almost 500 years. Because the Reformers could not agree on the Lord’s Supper, the political alliance between Reform-minded countries was severely hindered. The religious implications forced the Lutherans and the Reformed to go separate ways, creating an animosity that precluded religious unity and led to even more splintering of Protestantism into differing groups.

3. Publication of Luther’s Translation of the New Testament (1522)
 Luther’s publication of the New Testament into common German was a watershed moment for the Reformation in Europe. He was followed by William Tyndale’s work on the New Testament in 1526 and by a host of other common-man translations in other countries. The translation of the Bible into the language of the people allowed the Reformers to base their criticism of the papacy on biblical grounds and led to the common man being able to search the Scriptures for himself without relying solely on the Church’s authority.

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Oct

31

2007

Trevin Wax|1:45 am CT

Justification – The Defining Doctrine of the Reformation

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The Reformation was, in many ways, a politically-motivated religious movement of the 16th century. Even Roman Catholics today affirm that the Church of the time was in desperate need of reform. Yet, Martin Luther came to understand that the true dividing line between him and Rome was not in papal authority, the sale of indulgences, the existence of purgatory, or even the place of tradition. The fundamental difference was found in how the gospel worked… in other words, on what basis is a person justified before God?

Infusion versus Imputation

The Protestants differed from Roman Catholic on justification in several important ways. First, they believed that justification was a declaration of righteousness made by God regarding human beings. They countered the Catholic notion that justification was God’s action of “making” someone righteous by infusing grace into them. Instead, justification was being “declared” righteous, not being “made” righteous.

The Protestants believed that righteousness was not infused into the believer, but imputed to the believer. In other words, God justifies sinners by seeing them as righteous on account of Christ’s righteousness reckoned or imputed to them. How does God justify the ungodly? By declaring an ungodly person as “righteous” based on the righteousness of someone else.

God does not accept sinners by making them righteous, or by giving them heavenly grace, but solely on the basis of the death and resurrection of His Son in the place of the sinner.

Christ’s death was the moment in which he took our sins upon himself and died a substitutionary death in the place of the sinner. In the moment of salvation or justification, the sinner’s wickedness is placed on Christ and Christ’s perfect righteousness is placed on the sinner. Luther called this “the Great Exchange.” Christ takes our sin and we take His righteousness. God then declares us “righteous” on the basis of Christ’s work alone.

Faith Alone 

The way to appropriate this righteousness is by faith alone. One must simply receive the salvation that God has provided in Christ Jesus. One receives this salvation by faith alone.

“Faith alone” according to the Reformers, does not refer to a mere mental assent to certain propositional truths or Christian doctrines, but an all-encompassing trust in the mercy of God for salvation. The Reformers saw faith itself as a gift of God, given to be the instrument by which one appropriates Christ’s righteousness and can then be declared “justified” or “righteous” before God.

Good Works? 
It should be noted here that the Reformers did believe in the necessity of good works in the Christian’s life. As Calvin said, “Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is never alone.” The Reformers believed that good works would necessarily follow as an outworking of true faith. Good works were commanded and expected of the Christian, but good works did not form the basis for a person’s justification before God.

This doctrine differed sharply from the Roman Catholic theology of the day, which saw saving “faith” as including good works. One earned salvation by cooperating with God’s grace which was infused into the believer at the moment of baptism. The Reformers rejected the idea of cooperation and synergism, because they believed any compromise on this doctrine left room for human boasting, as well as the abolishment of any assurance that one was truly faithful.

The Protestants believed that Roman Catholic theology had mixed “justification” and “sanctification” and had thus mixed faith and works. I should note that Protestants had a robust doctrine of sanctification, the doctrine of growing in Christ and doing good works. None of the Reformers believed that Christians were free to sin as much as they wanted because of their salvation. They believed that sanctification followed justification as the place where one worked out personal salvation and cooperated with the Holy Spirit in growing in grace.

The Protestants sought to distinguish between these two doctrines, in order to show how the good works of the Christian are necessary and indeed important, though they in no way form the basis of one’s salvation. The Catholics argued that divorcing justification from sanctification would lead to unrighteous living.

The Protestants believed that the Catholic doctrine of justification led to human despondency. Without assurance of right standing before God, a person could never rest in God’s mercy and unmerited love. Instead, people were driven to despair as they sought to buy and earn their salvation before God. No one could ever be sure of salvation and thus people were chained to the prison of their mind, always questioning and wondering whether or not their good works would suffice.

The Roman Catholic theologians and pastors believed that the Protestant doctrine of justification sola fide would necessarily lead to lawlessness. If a person’s good works are unnecessary to gain a right standing before God and avoid his just wrath, why would a person do them? If one can be assured of salvation based on faith alone, then the rationale for good works is ripped away. There is no incentive to holy living and righteous behavior. The Roman Catholics were worried that the Protestant doctrine would lead to wicked behavior and lawlessness.

The Protestants believed that it was the Catholic system of theology which ultimately led to self-centered, unrighteous living. If a person’s good works are motivated by the desire to gain heaven, they are not done selflessly, but selfishly – and thus are not truly good at all. According to the Catholics, a person does good works in order to earn favor with God.

The Protestants believed that only the doctrine of justification by faith alone properly freed people to love their neighbors without thought of reward or selfish prize. Once one was assured of salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ’s finished work of redemption, one could freely love people unselfishly, with thoughts of their neighbor’s wellbeing instead of their eternal state.

Some Thoughts about Luther

Luther himself was a traditionalist. If you go into most Lutheran churches, you will see that the service itself is not too different from the Roman Catholic services. Luther had no problem with liturgy, written prayers, vestments. He had no problem with stained glassed windows and statues and beautiful sanctuaries. He maintained his belief that Jesus Christ is physically present in the Lord’s Supper, so that when one eats the bread and drinks the wine, they are chewing on Christ’s flesh itself. Other Protestants would take a more symbolic view, or would defend the idea of Christ being spiritually present in the Lord’s Supper.

Luther also defended the idea of baptizing infants. He believed that the infant could actually believe the gospel.

Luther translated the Scriptures into German, and his translation became for the German people much like the King James Version became for English speaking nations. He married several years later. He continued to write. Towards the end of his life, his testimony was marred by a severe anti-Semitic bent. Some of his writings, sadly, paved the way for Hitler’s atrocities against the Jews.

Though we would disagree with Luther in many ways, he himself would say, “I am both a sinner and a saint.” And his life showed that. On his deathbed in 1546, his last words were, “We are beggars. This is true.” His life indicates the truth of that statement. We beg for God’s mercy and receive it in the robe of Christ’s righteousness, becoming simultaneously righteous and sinful – but forgiven by God.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2007 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Oct

30

2007

Trevin Wax|3:12 am CT

Book Review: Ancient-Future Faith

Ancient-Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World (Ancient-Future)“The road to the future runs through the past.” So says the late Robert Webber in the first book of his Ancient-Future series. In Ancient-Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World, Webber encourages evangelicals to return to the model of the early church as a way to bring renewal and guidance to our churches as we navigate through the murky seas of postmodernism.

(To read my interview with Dr. Webber shortly before he died, click here.)

Ancient-Future Faith is a thought-provoking book with many good insights. Webber’s knowledge of history and theology ground this book in the need for corporate worship that is focused on God, a church that understands itself as the body of Christ, and an evangelistic outlook as a process of discipleship.

What I Liked

Webber is right to show us how we can learn from the early church. Webber is also right to chastise evangelicals for so quickly dismissing the roots of our history and heritage. There is much to be gleaned from the classical Christian period, even if we have too often neglected our past by choosing instead to chase after the most contemporary expressions of Christianity.

Webber rightly emphasizes the importance of discipleship over quick-conversion evangelism. He claims that, for a postmodern world, the church’s witness is the most effective apologetic that we can put forth. He is also right to advocate the recovery of symbolism in our worship services.

The Bad

The generalizations found in Ancient-Future Faith are often misguided. Webber’s charts, diagrams, and tables comparing the current worldview to those of previous generations are helpful in their illustration, but their generalizations tend to polarize the discussion rather than elicit appropriate reflection. Because Webber seeks to show how a return to classical Christianity is the best reaction to the culture’s recent turn to postmodernism, he has to squeeze and force his descriptions into these categories in order to make this case. 

Webber downplays the need for intellectual justification of Christianity’s truth claims. I agree that the community of faith is the best apologetic for a postmodern world, but I do not think this must replace the worthy goal of Christian apologetics. Webber leans toward Fideism in his apologetic outlook (perhaps in an overreaction to a purely rational Christianity). Why do we have to choose one apologetic method over another?

Webber believes that postmodernism demands a return to the Christus Victor  theory of the atonement. While I agree with Christus Victor and Irenaeus’ theory of recapitulation, I do not believe that one theory has to be cherished above all others. Webber has a certain distaste for penal substitution, and though he does not deny its truth, he clearly denies its power to reach the current generation. Ironically, the substitutionary model of the atonement comes out even in the early church leaders that Webber quotes as evidence for Christus Victor! The idea that classical Christianity believed in Christus Victor alone is a historical fallacy.

One other part of Ancient-Future Faith bothered me. Webber goes back to the ancient church, but not to the earliest church. I kept asking myself as I read: “Why doesn’t he just go all the way back to the New Testament?” Surely, the New Testament church has more to say to us as we enter a pluralistic, postChristian society than does the Constantinian -Christendom era. While I believe we can gain insight from classical Christianity, I am not convinced it is the best period from which to draw. Furthermore, Webber downplays the significance of the Reformation, both theologically and practically, only giving lip service to its goals, theology, and reforms.

Ancient-Future Faith is an important book. I admire Dr. Webber for his work in the area of worship renewal. There is plenty of good insight contained in this book to merit its place on the thoughtful pastor’s shelf. Even when I disagreed with some of Dr. Webber’s conclusions, I felt as if the book has sharpened me and helped prepare me for the challenges ahead.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2007 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Oct

29

2007

Trevin Wax|5:14 am CT

My Move to Romania

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Only a few short months passed once I had discerned God’s call on my life to Romania. In September 2000, the big day arrived. I said goodbye to my brothers and sisters, boarded a plane with my parents, and headed overseas with a one-way ticket.

During the trip, I kept asking myself, What are you doing? I was a bright-eyed, naïve nineteen-year-old heading over to a third-world country, with almost no knowledge of the language.

I had no ties with any missionary agency; nor was I commissioned and sent out as a representative of my church.

I had no salary and no way to support myself, except to live off the savings I had accumulated during my year of work between high school and college.

I had no close friends in Romania, only a handful of acquaintances.

I had no idea exactly when I would be returning to the U.S., only that my place of residence would be a foreign country and a university campus.

I wasn’t scared. The situation didn’t frighten me. I dreaded the loneliness that would overwhelm me in a few days when I said goodbye to my parents and they headed back to the States. I dreaded the lack of knowledge and the time that would pass before I could speak Romanian fluently. But I wasn’t scared. My decision had been firm. God had led me to this place and I had answered the call. I wasn’t going to look back.

My parents spent a week with me in Romania, helping me settle into my dorm room on campus. We visited several village churches and met some new people. A pastor we had befriended had invited me to help with the young people in his small village church. At least, I would have some ministry opportunities, even if I didn’t know the language at first.

When the week was over, my parents and I shared a teary goodbye. They left for Budapest, and I went back to my dorm room and wept bitterly. What have I done? I remember thinking. I have left everything I’ve ever known. I have left everyone who loves me. I don’t know the language. I don’t know the culture. I don’t even know any people. And I’m supposed to minister here? The tears flowed as I seriously questioned my calling. But I didn’t let that moment go on. There was too much to do to sit around and feel sorry for myself.

A few days passed before school began. My first school year would be entirely devoted to learning to speak Romanian fluently. So I busied myself with Romanian grammar books and began spending my time studying the language. The faster I learned the language, the quicker my isolation would end and I could get on with ministry.

More on that later…

written by Trevin Wax  © 2007 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Oct

29

2007

Trevin Wax|3:08 am CT

Prodigal Son 5: In the PigPen

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“And he (the younger son) was longing to be fed with the pods that the pig ate, and no one gave him anything.”
- Jesus, “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:16)

Jesus’ story about a father and two sons has followed the younger son into a distant country, where he has foolishly squandered away the wealth gained from the family inheritance. Now working for a Gentile, he winds up feeding pigs, and finding he has the same desires as the pigs themselves. Jesus adds that one extra detail that emphasizes the boy’s depraved condition – he has such an intense hunger that he longs to eat pigs’ food.

Once we have suppressed our consciences by continually disobeying God’s Law, we lose all sense of moral proportion and begin to follow animalistic instincts. Like the younger son, we’re ready to start eating pigs’ food. Our culture is headed down the road of animalism, with certain beliefs so upside down that some people act more like animals than some trained animals do!

The business world is often described as “dog-eat-dog,” where you must claw your way to the top. Perhaps there are few lost people as financially destitute as the younger son in Jesus’ story, but there are nice looking people, beautifully clothed, working in luxurious offices who appear to be upstanding citizens, but who actually behave like animals in the business world. The ruthless instinct based in pride makes people want to tear down anyone who gets in their way to the top. Some are so geared to making money and being seen as successful that they’re ready to sacrifice their family, friends, and health to make it big.

The younger son wanted what a pig would desire. Could it be that we have begun treating others as dispensable? Are we so desperately wicked that we resort to behaving like animals? Jesus describes the horror of wickedness in the far country, away from the moral God. We know we’re there when our appetite and instincts are no longer humane.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2007 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Oct

28

2007

Trevin Wax|3:02 am CT

Luther's Prayer as a Pastor

prayer.jpg“Lord God, You have appointed me to be a pastor in Your Church.
You see how unfit I am to undertake this great and difficult office,
and were it not for Your help,
I would long since have ruined it all.
Therefore I cry unto You;
I will assuredly apply my mouth and my heart to Your service.
I desire to teach the people,
and I myself would learn ever more and diligently to meditate upon Your Word.
Use me as Your instrument,
only do not forsake me,
for if I am left alone I shall easily bring it all to destruction. Amen. “

 
 

Oct

27

2007

Trevin Wax|2:54 am CT

Famous Quotes from Martin Luther

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“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” – Martin Luther, the first of the 95 Theses

“I began to understand that “the justice of God” meant that justice by which the just man lives through God’s gift, namely faith. This is what it means: the justice of God is revealed by the gospel, a passive justice with which the merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written: ‘He who through faith is just shall live.’ Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.” – Martin Luther, 1545

“We are in truth and totally sinners, with regard to ourselves and our first birth. Contrariwise, in so far as Christ has been given for us, we are holy and just totally. Hence from different aspects we are said to be just and sinners at one and the same time.” – Martin Luther

“The will is like a beast standing between two riders. If God rides, it wills and goes where God wills… If Satan rides, it wills and goes where Satan wills; nor can it choose to run to either of the two riders or to seek him out, but the riders themselves contend for the possession and control of it.” – Martin Luther

“You cast your sins from yourself and onto Christ when you firmly believe that his wounds and sufferings are you sins, to be borne and paid for by him.” – Martin Luther, 1519 “A Meditation on Christ’s Passion”

“A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to no one. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” – Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian, 1520

“Who can understand the riches of the glory of this grace? Here this rich and divine bridegroom Christ marries this poor, wicked harlot, redeems her from all her evil, and adorns her with all his goodness. Her sins cannot now destroy her, since they are laid upon Christ and swallowed up by him. And she has that righteousness in Christ, her husband, of which she may boast as of her own and which she can confidently display alongside her sins in the face of death and hell and say, ‘If I have sinned, yet my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned, and all his is mine and all mine is his.’” - Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian

 
 

Oct

26

2007

Trevin Wax|3:56 am CT

The Best of Kingdom People: Top 5 Posts

Here they are! The top most-visited Kingdom People posts during my first year blogging. Enjoy the very best of Kingdom People!

 

#1. How “Saving Bellevue” is Destroying Bellevue

February 8, 2007

I’m sad to announce that the most visited post at Kingdom People in the past year was about the difficult circumstances at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis. After visiting the “Saving Bellevue” site, I felt compelled to offer some thoughts about how to handle church problems. Since February, more than 2500 have visited this post alone, most of them sidetracked in their search for the actual Saving Bellevue site. You can imagine the comments that this post generated – on both sides of the debate.

 

#2. How Well Do You Know the Words of Jesus?

January 18, 2007

Everyone likes a good quiz. If you haven’t taken this one, try it now. You know you want to.

 

#3. Is Rob Bell Going Soft on Homosexuality?

February 20, 2007

I used to listen to Rob Bell all the time. His current direction worries me. My post about his non-answer to the homosexuality echoes Ben Witherington’s concerns.

 

#4. Why “Saving Bellevue” Is Destroying Bellevue: Take 2

March 26, 2007

A month after first posting on the Bellevue discussion, I tried to redirect the discussion by asking the question: “What should one do if at odds with the church’s leadership?”

 

#5. Theron’s Story: Why I Left Evangelicalism for Eastern Orthodoxy

November 8, 2006

My first Kingdom People interview was with Theron Mathis, a former Southern Seminary student and recent convert to Eastern Orthodoxy.

 
 

Oct

25

2007

Trevin Wax|3:42 am CT

The Best of Kingdom People: 6-10

Since Kingdom People is turning 1 this week, I’m taking a break from new posts and “rerunning” links to the top 25 most visited posts from the previous year. We’re in the Top Ten now… each of these are posts that created a lot of comments. Join in the discussion.

 

#6. Why “Limited” and “Unlimited” Atonement Debates Miss the Point

January 5, 2007

When asked on my Systematic Theology exam what I believed about the “extent” of the atonement, I answered by questioning the question itself. There’s no right answer, because it’s not the right question. Once my exam answer was posted on the blog, it elicited some good comments and feedback.

 

#7. Rethinking Our Vocabulary: Personal Relationship with Jesus

July 23, 2007

My earliest contribution to SaidatSouthern got people talking. Check out some good discussion about our Christian vocabulary.

 

#8. Paul Negrut Accused of Plagiarism

February 28, 2007

In late February, Corina and I were surfing a Romanian tabloid’s website and we found a news story accusing Romanian evangelical leader Paul Negrut of plagiarizing his Ethics course. I had taken the course in 2004 and knew the accusations were false. By telling the other side of the story, I managed to quell the furor that was soon to erupt once the ABP published the story.

 

#9. Newsflash! The Key to the 20Somethings is Not Musical Style

October 2, 2007

The most recent post to make the Top 25. My comments on the elusive 20somethings crowd quickly got linked all around the world by likeminded 20somethings (and some older Christians who were glad to see us speaking up).

 

#10. It Is Finished!

April 2, 2007

Some quiet and brief reflections on Jesus’ last words from the cross. Whoever said that only scandalous posts generate traffic? My thoughts on “It is Finished” remained in my Top Ten Post list for months.

 

CONTINUE READING: (Top Five Posts)

 
 

Oct

24

2007

Trevin Wax|3:26 am CT

The Best of Kingdom People: 11-15

In celebration of Kingdom People’s first birthday, we’re recapping the previous year by listing the twenty-five most visited posts of the year.

 

#11. My Interview with Caedmon’s Call

July 3, 2007

I know I wasn’t the only person excited to see that Derek Webb had rejoined Caedmon’s Call for their new album, Overdressed – one of the best Caedmon’s albums in years. A couple months before the release, I interviewed band members Todd and Garrett about the album, the band, and the future.

 

#12. On Reading Widely

June 28, 2007

Chances are, I’m always near a book. When talking to some friends about the benefits of reading “widely” and not only in one Christian tradition, I was struck by the idea: This would be a great post. Apparently, other big bloggers thought so too, and “On Reading Widely” became one of the most popular posts of the year.

 

#13. Sola Scriptura: The Dividing Line between the Orthodox and Evangelicals

November 10, 2006

The third post in a series of interviews with converts from Eastern Orthodoxy to evangelicalism and vice versa. This is the post where I analyzed the interviews and discovered sola scriptura to be the major dividing line, or as Theron put it: “the whole house of cards.”

 

#14. John’s Story: Why I Left Eastern Orthodoxy for Evangelicalism

November 9, 2006

This was the second interview in my series on Eastern Orthodoxy and evangelicalism. I sat down with a Romanian convert from the Orthodox church who is now a Baptist.

 

#15. Mohler on Asking Jesus into Your Heart

August 23, 2007

I actually posted this at SaidatSouthern and then linked to it from Kingdom People. Mohler’s answer to the caller’s question is worth reading.

 

CONTINUE READING (Posts 6-10)