Monthly Archives: October 2007

Top Ten Moments of the Reformation

 

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 …

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Justification – The Defining Doctrine of the Reformation

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 …

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Book Review: Ancient-Future Faith

“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 …

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My Move to Romania

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 …

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Prodigal Son 5: In the PigPen

“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 …

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Luther's Prayer as a Pastor

“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. “

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Famous Quotes from Martin Luther

“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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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, …

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