Monday, October 31, 2005

Reformation Day!

Happy Reformation Day!

Let us be reminded of the principles restated during the Reformation. The principles that set us free from the yoke of bondage to that corrupt tyranny known as the papacy. Coming out of Egypt by the apparant miracles which shot down each of the papist idols; let us set up our own memorial and walk in them and teach them diligently to our children.
Sola Fide - Faith Alone
Sola Gratia - Grace Alone
Sola Scriptura - Scripture Alone
Solus Christus - Christ Alone
Soli Deo Gloria - God's Glory Alone
We know by Scripture Alone that we are saved by Grace Alone by the work of Christ Alone through the free gift of Faith Alone to the Glory of God Alone. Amen!!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Heinrich Bullinger V

Sermons Four and Five of the First Decade are devoted to faith.

While Bullinger provides many definitions of faith by divers authors, let me just mention (what I believe, haha) are the pertinent ones.

Bullinger explicates what he believes (and I agree) to be Paul’s words in Heb. 11:1:

St Paul saith: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The substance, or hypostasis, is the foundation, or the unmoveable prop, which upholdeth us, and whereon we lean and lie without peril or danger. The things hoped for are things celestial, eternal, and invisible. And therefore Paul saith: Faith is an unmoveable foundation, and a most assured confidence of God’s promises, that is, of life everlasting and all his good benefits. Moreover Paul himself, making an exposition of that which he had spoken, immediately after saith: “Faith is the argument of things not seen.” An argument or proof is an evident demonstration, whereby we manifestly prove that which otherwise should be doubtful, so that in him, whom we undertook to instruct, there may remain no doubt at all.

But now touching the mysteries of God revealed in God’s word, in themselves, or in their own nature, they cannot be seen with bodily eyes; and therefore are called things not seen. But this faith, by giving light to the mind, doth in heart perceive them, even as they are set forth in the word of God. Faith, therefore, according to the definition of Paul, is in the mind a most evident seeing, and in the heart a most certain perceiving of things invisible, that is, of things eternal; of God, I say, and all those things which he in his word setteth forth unto us concerning spiritual things. – p.82

Then, after reviewing several exercitations on Paul’s definition, Bullinger arrives at his own:

Faith is a gift of God, poured into man from heaven, whereby he is taught with an undoubted persuasion wholly to lean to God and his word; in which word God doth freely promise life and all good things in Christ, and wherein all truth necessary to be believed is plainly declared. – p.84

(Notice his emphasis in both: the Word of God as the necessary & sufficient means.)

He makes the point that God uses “certain ordinary means”, that “he sendeth teachers, by the word of God to preach true faith unto them;” and, further, that it is not man, but the Holy Spirit which can “cause us with all our heart to believe that which we by his word and teaching have learned to believe.”

He correctly emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit by quoting Augustine:

What do I now while I speak? I drive into your ears a noise of words: but unless he which is within do reveal it, what say I, or what speak I? - p.86

Again, not wanting the reader to miss the ultimate cause of faith, Bullinger admonishes:

This therefore is left unto us for a thing most certain and undoubtedly true, that true faith is the mere gift of God, which is by the Holy Ghost from heaven bestowed upon our minds, and is declared unto us in the word of truth by teachers sent of God, and is obtained by earnest prayers which cannot be tired. – p.87

Going on, Bullinger covers assent and trust before dealing with perseverance and the fact that faith does not believe all things but being “ruled and bound to the word of God,” only is a “most sure ground and settled opinion touching God and our salvation.”

He goes back over this ground, emphasizing these points and showing their precedents in scripture. The key point being that:

God’s word is the foundation of faith, faith cannot wander to and fro, and lean to every word whatsoever: for every opinion conceived without the word of God, or against God’s word, cannot be called true faith. – p.97

Ah, Sola Scriptura! Thank You, Lord!

The summary for Sermon #4 includes the two points that a) faith is a free gift of God, and b) that it believes “all that is declared in the scriptures,” and he concludes with a restatement of his (previously quoted) definition of faith.

(Sermon #5 will be covered later.)

Saturday, October 22, 2005


Notes Towards a Plea for Reformed Discernment

Today's devotions included Jeremiah, Chapter Four, wherein I was reminded of the raison d'etre of ¡Alarma! Standard.
Jeremiah, in prophesying of the soon destruction of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, repeats the dual-aspected theme of warning: standard and alarm.
set up the standard toward Zion - v.6
the sound of the trumpet, the alar[u]m of war - v.19
How long shall I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet? - v.21
The standard appears to be a visual symbol of what Judah should be standing for/defending; while the sound of the trumpet is an aural symbol (alarum) of coming judgement. ¡Alarma! Standard is, among other things, about the standard being assailed, and a trumpet declaring the judgement that will inevitably ensue when we fail to not only defend, but also proclaim that standard.
What is this standard?
I see this as being the composite of the holiness & righteousness of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that special revelation of such: the Word of God.
How is it being assailed?
The standard is assailed when we fail to both defend and proclaim it. This follows the definition of sin: doing wrong or failing to do right. The standard is exclusively a responsibility of the (visible) Church and, as such, she must be the one to proclaim it to the world and raise (defend) it among her people. This involves not only lifting up (teaching) that which is right; but, also, exposing, rebuking, and punishing that/those which is/are wrong (ie: polemics & church discipline).
For, we know, the gates of hell will not prevail and, thus, external assault (whether God's chastisement or the Adversary and his minions), is not the problem; rather, internal purity (1 Pet.4:17): certain men (Jude 4); false teachers (2 Pet.2:1, c/w 2 Tim.4:3); traitors (2 Tim.3:4,5); men of corrupt minds (1 Tim.6:3-5); blasphemers (1 Tim.1:20); Judaizers (Gal.);, and their abherent or heretical teachings must be exposed and shown to be detrimental to (or, against) the True Faith (Jude 3) or, even, another Gospel (Gal. 1:8,9).
Now, evangelicalism bounds with entities who purport - and do, to a large extent - serve both polemically and apologetically. Most specialize in some particular area (Mormonism, New Age, Word of Faith, etc.); while some try to cover more territory (Christian Research Institute, Spiritual Counterfeits Project, etc.); however, except for internet discussion groups, the odd website or blog, little time or effort is being made on behalf of orthodox reformed discernment.
¡Alarma! Standard hopes to contribute to that cause.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Heinrich Bullinger IV

[Previous post in Series]

Sermon III of the First Decade focuses on the exposition – via faithful preaching - of the Word. After noting the two extremes of “the Bible is unintelligible to the common man,” and, “make of it what you will,” and correcting the latter with a plea for exegesis and a caution against eisegesis, Bullinger sets forth four principles of bible exposition and interpretation:

1) The Analogy of Faith

2) Context, Context, Context (after HH)

3) Scripture Interprets Scripture

4) Sanctified Interpretation (ie: Spirit-led)

Then follows his triumphant summation:

Thus much hitherto have I said touching the sense and exposition of God’s word: which, as God revealed it to men, so also he would have them in any case to understand it. Wherefore there is no cause for any man, by reason of a few difficulties, to despair to attain to the true understanding of the scriptures. The scripture doth admit a godly and religious interpretation. The word of God is a rule for all men and ages to lead their lives by: therefore ought it by interpretation to be applied to all ages and men of all sorts. For even our God himself did by Moses in many words expound and apply to his people the law, which he gave and published in Mount Sinai. Furthermore, it was a solemn use among the ancient prophets first to read, and then by expositions to apply, God’s law to the people. Our Lord Jesus Christ himself expounded the scriptures. The same did the apostles also. The word of God ought therefore to be expounded. As for those which would not have it expounded, their meaning is, because they would sin freely, without controlling or punishment. But whereas the scripture doth admit an exposition, it doth not yet admit any exposition whatsoever: for that which savoureth of man’s imagination it utterly rejecteth. For as by the Spirit of God the scripture was revealed, so by the same Spirit it is requisite to expound it. There are therefore certain rules to expound the word of God religiously by the very word of God itself: that is, so to expound it, that the exposition disagree not with the articles of our faith, nor be contrary to charity towards God and our neighbour; but that it be thoroughly surveyed, and grounded upon that which went before and followeth after, by diligent weighing of all the circumstances, and laying together of the places [context]. And chiefly it is requisite, that the heart of the interpreter be godly bent, willing to plant virtue and pluck up vice by the roots, and finally, always ready evermore to pray to the Lord, that he will vouchsafe to illuminate our minds [c/w Eph.1:17,18], that God’s name may in all things be glorified. For his is the glory, honour and dominion, for ever and ever. Amen. – pp.79,80 [emphasis added]

Monday, October 17, 2005

William Goode

This is a plea for someone to republish William Goode's The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice.
It would be great to see it in a quality Reformation Heritage Book edition (or Baker co-pub), though this may seem inappropriate for their - manifestly - continental program; an SGCB - or any other small reprinter (maybe Wipf & Stock?) - edition would do; need I mention P & R?

Some background:
Goode, a 19th Century theologian in the Church of England who wrote against the Tractarians among other things, wrote The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice to defend the Protestant position on sola scriptura (the Bible being the only, revealed, sufficient, norm for Christian doctrine and practice), against the unwarranted and both abherent and heretical views of the papists.

Goode also wrote an extremely helpful and enlightening work which was republished in 2000: Charismatic Confusion: The Modern Claims to the Possession of the Extraordinary Gifts of the Spirit Stated and Examined. A title I might (and hope to) review at a later date (I read it when it came out, and have covered a lot of intervening ground since then, and could not do it justice without rereading or at least skimming).

So, in the intrests of defending sola scriptura, and combating the gnostic mindset of modern evangelicalism, I join David King, co-author with William Webster of the remarkable 3 volume Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, in calling for the republication of Goode's The Divine Rule of Faith.

NB: Goode may have been an Erastian (I haven't confirmed this yet), but then we don't have any heroes do we?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Heinrich Bullinger III

(Previous Posts in this series are Bullinger I, Bullinger II.)

For lack of a better (read easier) method for tackling Bullinger’s Decades, I have willingly adopted (with slight modifications) the suggestion of John Whitgift.

Every minister having cure, and being under the degrees of master of arts, and batchelors of law, and not licensed to be a public preacher, shall before the second day of February next provide a Bible, and Bullinger’s Decads in Latin or English, and a paper book, and shall every day read over one chapter of the holy scriptures, and note the principal contentes thereof briefly in his paper booke, and shall every week read over one sermon in the said Decads, and note likewise the chief matters therein contained in the said paper;… [pp. xcix-c, The Decades of Henry Bullinger, Vol.1]

Thus far, I have read the first two sermons, while maintaining (uninterrupted) my regular Bible readings (ie: swinging back and forth between the OT and NT this time through).

Sermon I of the First Decade - an apology for the canon of scripture (and the canonicity of scripture) – begins my adventure with The Decades of Heinrich Bullinger.

While sometimes quirky, and often at less than my level of coherence, Bullinger provides a nice epistemological starting place for theological studies (scripture = divine revelation). He covers all the common scriptural witnesses for our surety that it is God-breathed. He also makes a point of the shortness of transmission – seven people – from the Creation and Patriarchal histories whilst extolling the roles of both the Prophets (esp.) and Apostles as conduits of God’s special revelation.

Dearly beloved…you learned what the word of God is; from whence it came; by whom it was chiefly revealed; what proceedings it had; and of what dignity and certainty it is. [p.57]

Sermon II of the First Decade begins with Bullinger setting forth his goal to:

Declare unto you, beloved, to whom, and to what end, the word of God is revealed; in what manner it is to be heard; and what the force thereof is, or the effect. [p.57]

He then goes on to a rousing defense of the efficacy of the Word of God. In enlisting a (to me) novel exegesis of the Parable of the Sower (Matt.13:1-23) as an exhortation for Christians to avoid ‘plagues’, he concludes:

For they do not only hinder the seed, that it cannot bring forth fruit in their hearts; but also they do stir up and egg men forward to gainsay the word of God, and to afflict the earnest desirers of God’s word. Here therefore we must take heed diligently, lest, being infected with these diseases, we become vain and unthankful hearers of the word of God. [p.66]

Other stirring words include the joyous acknowledgement of the Holy Spirit’s work:

We must pray continually, that the bountiful and liberal Lord will vouchsafe to bestow on us his Spirit, that by it the seed of God’s word may be quickened in our hearts, and that we, as holy and right hearers of his word, may bear fruit abundantly to the glory of God, and the everlasting salvation of our own souls. For what will it avail to hear the word of God without faith, and without the Holy Spirit of God to work or stir inwardly in our hearts? [p.66]

And also the sufficiency of the Word:

For the Lord in the word of truth hath delivered to his church all that is requisite to true godliness and salvation…Neither needeth the church to crave any other… [p.69]