Eternal Security ~ Part 20

Unpardonable Sin and Grieving the Ruach

In my last post, we concluded our presentation of Election that we started in Eternal Security ~ Part 2.  In this post, I want to tackle the issue of the Unpardonable Sin and Grieving the Ruach.  Once those issues are fully addressed, I will move on to the contested passages before wrapping-up this series with my own personal position.

Unpardonable Sin

What is the Unpardonable Sin?  Interestingly, that phrase is not contained in the Bible.  It has developed over the years to refer to blaspheming the Ruach HaKodesh“I tell you that people will be forgiven any sin and blasphemy, but blaspheming the Ruach HaKodesh will not be forgiven” ~ Matthew 12:31.  Attributing to the Adversary the work of the Ruach can imperil the soul for eternity. “Someone who blasphemes against the Ruach HaKodesh never has forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin” ~ Mark 3:29. “Everyone who says something against the Son of Man will have it forgiven him; but whoever has blasphemed the Ruach HaKodesh will not be forgiven” ~ Luke 12:10.

Recall in Eternal Security ~ Part 2: Glossary of Terms, Unger stated:

This was a specific sin possible only during the earthly life of our Lord, when He was ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit. Under those unique conditions a person who attributed to Satan the power of the Holy Spirit, so visibly and openly manifested, was guilty of this peculiar sin. For this reason, there could be no forgiveness in the age then present or in the age immediately following. Since no such conditions exist in this age, the unpardonable sin is now impossible. An unpardonable sin and the gospel of “whosoever will” cannot coexist. Were such a sin possible today, every gospel invitation would specifically shut out those who had committed such a trespass.

In both Mathew and Mark, the context for Yeshua’s pronouncement is His defense against the P’rushim’s accusation that He was driving out demons under the power of Satan, not the Ruach.  The passage in Luke is contained in several mini-teachings to the talmidim on His way to Jerusalem.

With respect to Matthew 12:31, the ESV Study Bible [1] states:

The sin is attributing to Satan what is accomplished by the power of God, and doing this through the flagrant, willful, and persistent rejection of God and His commands. This sin is committed today only by unbelievers who deliberately and unchangeably reject the ministry of the Holy Spirit in calling them to salvation.

With respect to Mark 3:29, the ESV Study Bible states:

The opponents’ accusation against Jesus is the unforgivable, eternal sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Mark 3:28 emphasizes that “all sins will be forgiven,” anticipating the eternally valid, substitutionary atonement of Jesus. However, if a person persistently attributes to Satan what is accomplished by the power of God – that is, if one makes a flagrant, willful, decisive judgment that the Spirit’s testimony about Jesus is satanic – then such a person never has forgiveness.

With respect to Luke 12:10, the ESV Study Bible states:

Jesus closes this occasion of teaching his disciples with one of the most enigmatic, debated, and misunderstood sayings of His ministry. Key to understanding this passage is the distinction Jesus makes between, on one hand, the extreme case of blasphemy against “the Holy Spirit” and, on the other hand, the lesser case of speaking in a dishonorable way against “the Son of Man.” One who asks to be forgiven for disrespectful words hastily spoken against Jesus (the Son of Man) will be forgiven. But blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – that is, the persistent and unrepentant resistance against the work of the Holy Spirit and his message concerning Jesus – this, Jesus says, will not be forgiven. The person who persists in hardening his heart against God, against the work of the Holy Spirit, and against the provision of Christ as Savior, is outside the reach of God’s provision for forgiveness and salvation. Christians often worry that they have committed this sin, but such a concern is itself evidence of an openness to the work of the Spirit.

As we see, we have a difference of opinion between Unger and the authors of the ESV Study Bible on when the Unpardonable Sin can be committed.  Unger maintains that it was limited to when Yeshua was ministering on earth; while the ESV Study Bible it can still be committed by those unbelievers who deliberately and unchangeably reject the ministry of the Holy Spirit in calling them to salvation.  While I understand Unger’s position, I can’t reconcile it with the whole of Scripture.

What if someone after Yeshua’s ascension or even today were to repent of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?  Is there no forgiveness for the person who repents of this sin?  Was Sha’ul sinning against the Ruach in the days when he persecuted Believers and even “trying to make them blaspheme” ~ Acts 26:11?  Evidently not!  He wrote to Timothy and stated: “I received mercy because I had acted in unbelief, not understanding what I was doing” ~ 1 Timothy 1:13.

A.W. Tozer has stated:

“I have discovered a very helpful rule in this matter. I believe it holds good throughout the whole church of God around the world. Anyone who is concerned about having committed the unpardonable sin may be sure he or she has not!” [2]

Grieving the Ruach

The concept of grieving the Ruach is found in Ephesians 4:30: “Don’t cause grief to God’s Ruach HaKodesh, for he has stamped you as his property until the day of final redemption.”   That the Ruach can be saddened or grieved points to the personality of the Ruach. The Ruach is a person who can be saddened by the way we live. Sha’ul has already explained that the Ruach’s power within gives new life to believers. While we continue to battle with our sinful nature, we should be living for Yeshua each day. To refuse to do so, to constantly give in to lying, anger, stealing, and foul talk is to grieve the Ruach of God. Because the Ruach controls and guides speech, praise, prophecy, and tongues, we offend him when we use them improperly.

Sha’ul reminded the readers that the Ruach within them gives both a privilege and a responsibility. Their responsibility is to not disappoint Him by the way they live; their privilege is their promised future, for through the presence of the Ruach, they were stamped until the day of redemption. The seal of the Ruach upon a Believer marks that Believer as God’s property until the day he or she is completely redeemed.

For further study, be sure to check out my friend Michael’s blog at Altruistico on “What Is the Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit?” and “What is the Unpardonable or Unforgiveable Sin?”

In my next post, I will begin to examine several of the contested passages we have encountered along our journey.

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[1]  In my personal devotion time this year, I have been using the English Standard Study Bible as I re-read through the Brit Hadashah, Psalms and Proverbs.

[2] “Jesus, Author of Our Faith” by A.W. Tozer

Eternal Security ~ Part 13

Calvinistic Theology ~ Part 4

In my last post, we began to unpack the Five Points of Calvinism.   In this post, we will conclude our unpacking of the Five Points of Calvinism, as well as looking at Moody’s Summary Evaluation of Calvinistic Theology.  As a reminder, in order to ensure that I present the material on this topic and Arminian Theology without any preconceived bias, I have elected to utilize “The Moody Handbook of Theology” by Paul Enns as my source document.

Irresistible Grace

Grace “is the unmerited favor of God.” Calvinists emphasize the necessity of God’s grace in salvation. If man can do nothing to save himself, then God must act; God must provide grace in order that man might be saved. That is the work of irresistible grace, which is also referred to as special or efficacious (because it is effective) grace.

Opponents of this doctrine might suggest that if grace is irresistible then God forces someone to come against his own will. That is not the idea of irresistible grace, according to Calvinists. It does not make someone come contrary to his will. Rather, irresistible grace makes the individual willing to come. Irresistible grace is the supernatural work of God whereby He works in the soul of the individual, changing the entire nature by the Ruach’s operation.

In the logic of Calvinism, God, through His Spirit, draws precisely those whom God unconditionally elected from eternity past and Jesus died for. Thus the purpose of God is accomplished. He elected certain ones, Jesus died for those very ones, and now through the Rauch, God dispenses His irresistible grace to them to make them willing to come. They do not want to resist. Continue reading “Eternal Security ~ Part 13”

Eternal Security ~ Part 12

Calvinistic Theology ~ Part 3

In my last post, we began to explore Five Points of Calvinism and the Doctrinal Affirmations of Calvinistic Theology.  In this post, we will continue to unpack the Five Points of Calvinism.   As a reminder, in order to ensure that I present the material on this topic and Arminian Theology without any preconceived bias, I have elected to utilize “The Moody Handbook of Theology” by Paul Enns as my source document.

Total Depravity

The word depravity means that because of sin’s corruption “there is nothing man can do to merit saving favor with God,” while total means that depravity “has extended to all aspects of man’s nature, to his entire being.” Calvin defined man’s depraved estate as follows: “All men are conceived in sin, and born the children of wrath, indisposed to all saving good propense [leaning or inclining toward, disposed] to evil, dead in sin, and the slaves of sin; and without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, they neither are willing nor able to return to God, to correct their depraved nature, or to dispose themselves to the correction of it.”

The Scriptures emphasize the depravity of man by man’s continual sinning (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-18). The reason is that man is born a fallen creature with the pollution of sin (Psalm 51:5). Depravity also affirms the inability of man to do good (Matthew 7:17-18; John 15:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:3). Depravity further affirms man’s inability to understand the good (Matthew 13:14; John 1:11; 8:43; Acts 16:14; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:14; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18; Ephesians 4:18). Depravity also indicates man cannot desire the good (Matthew 7:18; John 3:3; 6:44; 8:43; 15:4-5; Ephesians 2:1). Continue reading “Eternal Security ~ Part 12”

Eternal Security ~ Part 11

Calvinistic Theology ~ Part 2

In my last post, we began to explore the basic tenets of Calvinistic Theology as well as its spread and affirmation to the faithful.  In my next post, we will begin to explore the Five Points of Calvinism and the Doctrinal Affirmations of Calvinistic Theology.    In order to ensure that I present the material on this topic and Arminian Theology without any preconceived bias, I have elected to utilize “The Moody Handbook of Theology” by Paul Enns as my source document.

Five Points of Calvinism

Calvin did not author the so-called “five points of Calvinism.” They originated at the Synod of Dort (1619) and are also a result of affirming the uniqueness of Calvinism over the centuries since. God as sovereign was central in the theology of Calvin, and that is reflected in the five points. The five points emphasize God in His sovereignty and grace but also man in his depravity and sin. The five points are popularly named: Total Depravity; Unconditional Election; Limited Atonement; Irresistible Grace; and Perseverance of the Saints. (Theologians have nicknamed these points T.U.L.I.P., a popular acronym based on the first letters of the doctrines.)

These five concepts are arranged logically and are contingent upon one another. If man is totally depraved, then he is unable to make an initial response to God; God must call man to salvation through unconditional election. God also makes provision for those whom He calls to salvation by the death of Jesus; He secures their salvation by the effectual call of the Holy Spirit and keeps them secure in order that they might receive the eternal life He has promised them. The accompanying table and the discussion that follows will give a more detailed explanation. Continue reading “Eternal Security ~ Part 11”

Eternal Security ~ Part 10

Calvinistic Theology ~ Part 1

In my last post, we looked at the influence that Calvin had on theology, education and church government.  In this post, we will begin to explore the basic tenets of Calvinistic Theology as well as its spread and affirmation to the faithful.  In order to ensure that I present the material on this topic and Arminian Theology without any preconceived bias, I have elected to utilize “The Moody Handbook of Theology” by Paul Enns as my source document.

The theology of Calvinism or the Reformed faith finds its roots in the writings of John Calvin, particularly as expressed in the Institutes of the Christian Religion. Calvin’s theology centers on the sovereignty of God, the other doctrines being tied to that premise. The theology of Calvin is restated in the form of many confessional statements that have been adhered to over the centuries in Europe, Britain, and America.

Spread of Calvinism

John Calvin’s influence was felt throughout Europe as his doctrinal teachings spread quickly. The Heidelberg Catechism, written in 1563 by friends of Calvin, influenced the Reformed churches in Holland, Germany, and America. The Belgic Confession, written in 1561 by Guy de Bray, became the standard of belief in the Dutch Reformed church. The Synod of Dort met in 1618-1619, condemned Arminianism and the Remonstrants (a doctrinal statement embodying the teachings of Jacobus Arminius), and reaffirmed Calvinistic doctrine as expressed in the Heidelberg and Belgic Confessions.

Colonization of America brought Calvinism to the North American shores. The standards of the Westminster Confession became the doctrine of the Presbyterian churches.

The Synod of Dort

In the Netherlands a conflict arose between the followers of Jacobus Arminius and the Calvinists. Calvinism was attacked for its teaching of predestination and reprobation as well as for other issues. The States General called a synod in 1618 to settle the issue, but the Arminians did not come as equals. Rather, the Remonstrants were summoned to present their doctrines, which were subsequently condemned. The synod reaffirmed the Heidelberg and Belgic Confessions. The following points were affirmed at Dort and are given here in synthesized form.

  • Of divine predestination. All men sinned in Adam and lie under the curse, but God made provision for salvation through the death of Yeshua. The fact that some and not others receive the gift of faith stems from God’s eternal decree of election [1] and reprobation. Election is unconditional, not based on God’s foreknowledge; before the foundation of the world and purely out of His grace and according to His sovereign good pleasure, God chose some to salvation. The non-elect are left to condemnation, yet God is not the author of sin.
  • Of the death of Yeshua. While the death of Yeshua is of infinite value and sufficient to save the whole world, His atoning death extends to the elect only.
  • Of the corruption of man and his conversion to God. Man was created in the image of God, but through the sin of Adam all mankind is corrupted. Sin has passed to the human race so that all people are born in sin and are children of wrath. But while man is incapable of saving himself, God accomplishes salvation for elect individuals through the operation of the Holy Spirit. Those whom He has chosen in eternity, He calls effectually in time. The faith that realizes salvation is itself a gift.
  • Of the perseverance of the saints. Whom God calls, He also delivers from the dominion and slavery of sin. Since God is faithful, He preserves those who believe to the end.
Westminster Confession

The Westminster Confession arose out of the stormy political scene in England during the reign of Charles I. Charles met with resistance when he attempted to impose episcopacy on the Church of Scotland and to conform its services to the Church of England’s Common Book of Prayer. A civil war erupted and Oliver Cromwell led the Puritan forces to victory. Charles I was beheaded in the process. In 1643 the English parliament commissioned the Westminster Assembly to develop the creed of the Church of England. The 121 English Puritan ministers met for 1,163 daily sessions from 1643 to 1649. The Westminster Confession of Faith, completed in 1646, affirmed a strong Calvinistic position and disavowed “the errors of Arminianism Roman Catholicism, and sectarianism.”

The following points summarize the Westminster Confession of Faith:

  • Scripture. The sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments are recognized to provide “divine inspiration, authority, and sufficiency as an infallible rule of faith and practice.” The traditions of Roman Catholicism, the Apocrypha, and humanism are to be rejected.
  • God. God, who is infinite in His being, exists as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. He is absolutely sovereign, having from all eternity, by His own free will, ordained whatever comes to pass. The triune God has created the world out of nothing in the space of six days. God, in His providence, upholds all things by His sovereign authority.
  • Man. Man fell from original righteousness and became dead in sin, that sin and death being imputed to all mankind. God originally entered into a covenant of works with Adam, but when he sinned, God enacted the covenant of grace. In his sin man lost all ability to will anything spiritually good.
  • Christ. Jesus Christ is of one substance with the Father; became virgin born; as the God-Man became the Mediator, offering a perfect sacrifice. Yeshua purchased reconciliation for all those whom the Father has given Him.
  • Salvation. Through His Word and His Spirit, God effectually calls all those whom He has predestined to eternal life. He renews their spirit and draws them to Jesus Christ. Hence, salvation is entirely by grace. God justifies these believers, declaring them righteous; He adopts them as His children; and He sanctifies them. Saving faith is a gift of the Spirit of Christ. Repentance is a doctrine to be preached along with saving faith. Good works are the fruit of a true faith.
  • Perseverance. Those whom God has saved can neither totally nor finally fall away from grace but shall persevere to the end and be eternally saved.
  • Assurance. Only true believers will have assurance that they are in the state of grace; unbelievers will not have that assurance.
  • Worship. God is to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served with all the heart, soul, and might. Worship is to be accorded the Father, Son, and Spirit and no one else. Prayer is to be offered to God. A lawful oath may be part of religious worship.
  • Civil duties. God has appointed those in authority, and believers ought to pray for them; believers may also be called on to serve as magistrates.
  • Divorce. Marriage is between one man and one woman. The innocent party may divorce when adultery or fornication has taken place.
  • Church. The universal church consists of the whole number of the elect; the visible church consists of those who confess their faith. All believers are united to Yeshua and are in a holy fellowship in the worship of God. The sacraments are the seals of the covenant of grace. There is in every sacrament a spiritual relation or sacramental union. Baptism is a sacrament and also a sign and seal of the covenant of grace. Baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water on the person. The Lord’s Supper is spiritual nourishment and promotes growth in Yeshua. No remission of sins is made in communion; it is a commemoration. Yeshua has given authority to the church officers in which they enact church discipline. For the better government of the church there ought to be synods or councils.
  • Death and judgment. After death, bodies return to dust, but the soul immediately returns to God: the righteous are received into heaven; the wicked into hell. All authority has been given to Yeshua who will judge the world in righteousness.

In my next post, we will begin to explore the Five Points of Calvinism and the Doctrinal Affirmations of Calvinistic Theology.

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[1] I will be dealing with the concept of election in subsequent posts.  For now, see the definition in Eternal Security ~ Part 2.

Eternal Security ~ Part 9

The Protestant Reformation and John Calvin ~ Part 2

In my last post, we began to explore the Protestant Reformation and John Calvin.  In this post, we will continue to explore Calvin’s influence on the Reformation and society in the sixteenth century and beyond.

Calvin’s Teaching and Influence on Theology [1]

The Huguenot scholar Joseph Scaliger in the generation after Calvin described him as “alone among the theologians.” Clearly he was the greatest theologian of his age. Yet he consistently tried to make the Scriptures, as interpreted by the Holy Spirit and experience, the source of his ideas. “Let us not,” Calvin admonished, “take it into our heads either to seek out God anywhere else than in his Sacred Word, or to think anything about him that is not prompted by his Word, or to speak anything that is not taken from that Word.”

In the past some have said that the sovereignty of God was Calvin’s central teaching. Today many Calvin scholars argue that he made no attempt to reduce the biblical message to any one central idea, but rather appreciated and retained the biblical teachings in their complexity, affirming, for example, both human responsibility and God’s sovereign control, as well as other teachings that seem inconsistent when paired.

Behind everything that he wrote is the idea suggested earlier by Augustine of Hippo (345-430) that God created human beings for fellowship with Himself. Lacking that fellowship, they are miserable and disoriented. Thus Calvin began his “Institutes of the Christian Religion” by stressing that all wisdom comes from a knowledge of God and of ourselves. The God-man relationship was so basic for Calvin that he argued that in knowing God we learn of ourselves, and vice versa.

Knowledge meant much more to Calvin than intellectual exercise. Rather, theological knowledge requires a moral response by the whole human personality. The whole person, including mind and body, is engaged in the spiritual relationship. The one goal of that “knowing” experience is the worship of God in obedience and gratitude.

Calvin also emphasized that what we know about God is strictly limited to what God has revealed. He has revealed in Scripture only what is profitable for human beings to know for a covenant relationship with him. Consequently, Calvin taught that Believers should not engage primarily in theological speculation but in moral edification. Knowledge that does not lead to holiness is off course. The “why” of God’s actions has not been revealed but remains a secret bound up in his inscrutable counsel. The Christian must simply affirm with the Bible that God is intimately connected with the universe and that He accomplishes “all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11ESV)

Calvin’s Teaching and Influence on Education and Church Government

In addition to theology, two areas in which Calvin made major contributions are education and church government. The excellence of his own educational training is attested by the fact that his writings have had a lasting effect on the French language. He is considered one of the creators of modern French prose. Perhaps more important, he encouraged the development of universal education. Calvin was convinced that for every person to be adequately equipped to “rightly divide” God’s Word, he or she had to be educated in language and the humanities. To that end he founded an academy for Geneva’s children, believing that all education must be fundamentally religious. The city’s university grew out of the academy, linked to evangelical preaching and offering an education comparable to the finest in Europe. Some have called the University of Geneva Calvin’s “crowning achievement.”

Calvin’s ideas on church government, which have had a powerful effect on political theory in the West, are regarded by other scholars as his greatest contribution. The representative form of government he developed was organized so that basic decisions are made at the local level, monitored through a system of ascending representative bodies, culminating in a national “general assembly” with final authority. At each level, power is shared with the laity, not controlled exclusively by the clergy or administrative officials. In emergencies the local church can function without meetings of the upper-level bodies; in the midst of a hostile culture the church cannot be destroyed by silencing the minister. As a result, the Calvinist church was able to survive, even flourish, under adverse conditions. It experienced severe persecution in Holland under Spanish occupation, in France (except during brief periods of toleration), in England under Queen Mary, in Scotland, in Hungary, and elsewhere.

In my next post, we will tackle the actual tenets of Calvinism.

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[1] Most of the information in this post is taken from the “AMG Concise Church History” by John Hunt.

Eternal Security ~ Part 8

The Protestant Reformation and John Calvin ~ Part 1

In my last post, we explored God’s Sovereignty and Free Will.  In this post, we will explore the background behind the teachings of Calvinism.

One of the questions that I had when I first started to explore this whole subject of Eternal Security was why it took some 1,500 years after Yeshua’s resurrection and ascension for John Calvin to develop his doctrinal statements and then another 50 plus years for Jacobus Arminius to dispute Calvinism.   So, I decided to research what was going on in the church at that time.

The Protestant Reformation [1]

The Protestant Reformation was the turning point of modern church history.  The age of the Reformation bears a strong resemblance to the first century.  The way for Christianity was prepared by Moshe and the Prophets, the dispersion of the Jews, the conquests of Alexander the Great, the language and literature of Greece, the arms and laws of Rome, the decay of idolatry, the spread of skepticism, the aspirations after a new revelation, the hopes of a coming Messiah.

The Reformation was preceded and necessitated by the corruptions of the papacy, the decline of monasticism and scholastic theology, the discovery of a new world, the publication of the Greek Testament, the striving after national independence and personal freedom, and perhaps most importantly, the invention of the printing press that allowed the Scriptures to be shared eventually with the masses.

In 1517 Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.  Catholicism and Protestantism represent two distinct types of Christianity which sprang from the same root, but differ in the branches.  Catholicism is legal Christianity which served to the barbarian nations of the Middle Ages as a necessary school of discipline; Protestantism is evangelical Christianity which answers the age of independent manhood. Catholicism is traditional, hierarchical, ritualistic, conservative; Protestantism is biblical, democratic, spiritual, progressive.

But Catholicism holds also a large number of “traditions of the elders,” which Protestantism rejects as extra-scriptural or anti-scriptural; such as the papacy, the worship of saints and relics, transubstantiation, the sacrifice of the mass, prayers and masses for the dead, purgatory, indulgences, the system of monasticism with its perpetual vows and ascetic practices, besides many superstitious rites and ceremonies.

Protestantism, on the other hand, revived and developed the Augustinian doctrines of sin and grace; it proclaimed the sovereignty of divine mercy in man’s salvation, the sufficiency of the Scriptures as a rule of faith, and the sufficiency of Christ’s merit as a source of justification.  It also asserted the right of direct access to the Word of God and the throne of grace, without human mediators; secured Christian freedom from bondage; and substituted social morality for monkish asceticism.

The Reformation began simultaneously in Germany and Switzerland and swept with astonishing rapidity over France, Holland, Scandinavia, Bohemia, Hungary, England and Scotland. Since the seventeenth century it has spread by emigration to North America, and by commercial and missionary enterprises to every Dutch and English colony and every heathen land.

The Reformers, it should not be forgotten, were all born, baptized, confirmed, and educated in the Roman Catholic Church, and most of them had served as priests at her altars with the solemn vow of obedience to the pope on their conscience. They stood as closely related to the papal church, as the Apostles and Evangelists to the Synagogue and the Temple; and for reasons of similar urgency, they were justified to leave the communion of their fathers; or rather, they did not leave it, but were cast out by the ruling hierarchy.

The Reformation was at first a purely religious movement, and furnishes a striking illustration of the all-pervading power of religion in history. It started from the question:  What must a man do to be saved? How shall a sinner be justified before God, and attain peace of his troubled conscience? The Reformers were supremely concerned for the salvation of the soul, for the glory of the Messiah and the triumph of His Besorah. They thought much more of the future world than of the present, making all political, national, and literary interests subordinate and subservient to religion. The Reformation removed the obstructions which the papal church had interposed between Christ and the believer.

There are three fundamental principles of the Reformation:

  • The supremacy of the Scriptures over tradition;
  • The supremacy of faith over works;
  • And, the supremacy of the Christian people over an exclusive priesthood.
The Supremacy of Scripture

The objective principle of Protestantism maintains that the Bible, as the inspired record of revelation, is the only infallible rule of faith and practice; in opposition to the Roman Catholic coordination of Scripture and ecclesiastical tradition, as the joint rules of faith.

This is best stated in Luther’s defense of his theses when he declared the Five Solas of the Reformation:

  1. Sola Fide ~ Faith Alone
  2. Sola Scriptura ~ Scripture Alone
  3. Sola Gratia ~ Grace Alone
  4. Solus Christus ~ Christ Alone
  5. Soli Deo Gloria ~ To the Glory of God Alone

We must remember, however, that this wonderful progress was only made possible by the previous invention of the art of printing and by the subsequent education of the people. The Catholic Church had preserved the sacred Scriptures through ages of ignorance and barbarism; the Latin Bible was the first gift of the printing press to the world.

The Supremacy of Faith

The subjective principle of Protestantism is the doctrine of justification and salvation by faith in Yeshua; as distinct from the doctrine of justification by faith and works or salvation by grace and human merit.  Luther’s formula is sola fide (by faith alone).  Calvin goes further back to God’s eternal election, as the ultimate ground of salvation and comfort in life and in death.  But Luther and Calvin meant substantially the same thing, and agree in the more general proposition of salvation by free grace through living faith in Yeshua (Acts 4:12).

The Priesthood of All Believers

 The social or ecclesiastical principle of Protestantism is the general priesthood of Believers, in distinction from the special priesthood which stands mediating between Christ and the laity.  The Roman church is an exclusive hierarchy, and assigns to the laity the position of passive obedience.

In the New Testament every believer is called a saint, a priest, and a king. “All Christians,” says Luther, “are truly of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference among them, save of office alone. As St. Paul says, we are all one body, though each member does its own work, to serve the others. This is because we have one baptism, alike; one gospel, one faith, and are all Christians for baptism, gospel and faith, these alone make spiritual and Christian people.”

Brief Bio-Sketch of John Calvin [2]

(1509 ~ 1564)

Into the beginning of the Reformation period, Calvin was born in 1509 was born in northwestern France, twenty-five years after the birth of Martin Luther. His actual name, Jean Cauvin, became “Calvin” years later when as a scholar he adopted the Latin form (Calvinus). His birthplace, Noyon, was an old and important center of the Roman Catholic Church in northern Europe. A bishop resided there; and the economic, political, and social life of the city revolved largely around the cathedral. From a middle-class status Calvin’s father, Gerard, after serving the church in various offices including notary public, had risen to become the Bishop’s secretary. As a result, young Calvin was closely tied to church affairs from the beginning. He was brought up with children of the aristocracy, a background that made him a much more refined reformer than the notoriously earthy Luther.

At age fourteen Calvin was enrolled in the University of Paris, the intellectual center of western Europe. Although Calvin pursued a career in theology, for several reasons his life took an unexpected turn. In 1528, just as Calvin had completed his master of arts degree, his father sent word for him to leave theology and study law. Dutifully, the son migrated to Orleans, where France’s best law faculty was located.

Little is known about Calvin’s conversion except that it occurred between 1532 and early 1534, when his first religious work was published. In 1536 Calvin published the first edition of his “Institutes of the Christian Religion.”  The work, which underwent several revisions before its final exhaustive edition in 1559, was without question one of the most influential handbooks on theology ever written.

In my next post or two, we will explore more of Calvin’s influence on theology, education and government.

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[1] Most of the information in this section is taken from the “AMG Concise Church History” by John Hunt.

[2] Excerpts from “Who’s Who in Christian History” edited by J. D. Douglas and Philip W. Comfort.