Thursday, July 29, 2010

Good News Indeed...

     Martin Luther wrote that Justification by Faith alone was the article by which the church stands or falls. John Calvin wrote that it is the main hinge on which religion turns.”  And Thomas Cranmer wrote (Article XI) that:  “… Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort...   What these three Reformers were attesting to was that the gospel, inasmuch as it be good news to those who hear it, is embodied in the doctrine of Justification by Faith.  Whether of Germany, Switzerland, or England the Reformer's Biblical understanding of salvation led them to
conclude that to diminish or reject this doctrine of faith alone was to retreat from the good news of Jesus Christ and fall back into the works-righteousness-justification fog of the Medieval Church.
Sola Fideism (by faith alone), a much misunderstood phrase, embodies the gospel.  Dr. R.Scott Clark at Heidelblog writes that sola fide is a shorthand way of saying that “faith - receiving and resting in the perfect, finished, whole, active and passive obedience of Christ for his people - is the alone instrument through which a sinner is justified before God.”  The questions then to be addressed is: why and how is sola fide essential to the good news? To answer that we must look to the Law.
I think for many, who look to diminish or dismantle sola fide in God’s redemptive scheme, there exists an underestimation of the absolute righteous demands of God’s law (be ye perfect even as My Father is perfect) upon all mankind and the unbridgeable chasm between our most righteous works (filthy rags all before God's holy law) and the unblemished holiness required in order to stand justified before that law.

[Gal. 3:10-11] For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them. Now that no man is justified by the law before God, is evident: for, The righteous shall live by faith…  [Rom.2:5-6] but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his works;  [3:8] as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one; [3:19b-20a]… that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God: because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight…
This is some serious bad news!   And there is nothing one can do to change the “rules of the game.”  Yet something within us doesn’t buy this bad news as being quite as condemning as it really is.  Something inherent resides within us (Calvin calls it the relic of the flesh) that supposes there is some good we can and must bring to the table of God’s redemption.  That something which dwells within us is the sinful self-regard that "thinks more highly of himself than he ought" [Rom 12:8].  It is that which does not believe the truth that surely "nothing good dwells within my flesh." And, despite agreeing with the law via the benefit of a new heart and right-will through regeneration, I yet slip into the sin (Rom. 7) which subtly insists that my righteous intentions, prayers, faith, meditations, experiences, and works have some inherent value in climbing a meritorious ladder to God.
It doesn’t matter if one says, though erroneously, “but His grace has infused in me an inherent righteousness from which to live unto justification.”  It is not an "on and off" proposition with the law.  The law demands that I live not only in a righteous manner continually (no mulligans... we are forgiven - yet the Law demands complete holiness of life), but that my righteousness be as perfect as that of our divine Father in heaven... God Himself.  That the creature should somehow ascend toward the holiness of the Creator and from within himself produce virtue that matches God's Righteousness is pride and folly in the extreme.  Thus as Thomas Cranmer wrote in his Homily on the Salvation of Man (Of Justification), “but every man of necessity is constrained to seek for another righteousness or justification, to be received at GOD’S own hands...”

Where then is “another righteousness or justification” to be found for the inherently unrighteous sinner?  And how then is he to receive it at God’s own hands?  But now apart from the law a righteousness of God hath been manifested… even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ… being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus… whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood… that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus… We reckon therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. [Rom. 3]
This good news of the Divine Transaction of the cross is that Jesus Christ, made like us, fully Man yet without sin, takes our sin upon Himself, bearing it and the condemnation and penalty rightly due our disobedience (to the law) by his suffering and death on the cross; but not only that. The penalty paid, He has risen in righteousness and, in exchange for our sins before the law, Christ now offers to his own the merit of His perfect obedience before that very law, which God imputes to us who receive it through faith... Christ's fulfilling of the Law for the redeemed.  The penalty for man's sin demanded by God's law is paid. The perfection of obedience demanded of the law is accomplished; both by the infinitely worthy God-Man Jesus. God is now both the just (His law is not compromised) and the justifier of the unjust.
This Divine Transaction of grace rightly cuts against any pride of self-regard. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. [Romans 3:27]
Regarding this justification Dr. R. Scott Clark writes that, “That faith is never alone. [Yet] it does not justify because it is not alone. Those graces that accompany justifying faith do not constitute faith justifying. Only Christ, the object of faith, makes faith justifying. This is the difference between Rome and the Reformation. For the Reformation, the accompanying graces are evidence and fruit of true faith. They tell us that one has a living faith. In that way, they are necessary.”

It is good news because by a free gratuitous act of favor and love, God has sought out and rescued the sinner, who though justly under the condemnation of the law, receives forgiveness of sins and salvation through faith in Christ’s death and resurrection on his behalf. Through faith in Him the sinner receives the gift of this Divine Transaction, exchanging the filthy rags of his imperfect works for Jesus's penalty-bearing and perfect obedience in all of the law. Thus the one who trusts in Christ’s work is declared justified before the same law that once condemned him.  This justification, completed and freely given, is not a blessing restricted solely to initial saving faith, but is the secure ground of the Christian’s life going forward from which all good works spring.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus... [Rom. 8:1] This is the solid rock upon which the believer stands as he, with increasing gratitude, follows his Lord and Savior Jesus; Who, as his Advocate and Mediator in heaven, is ever his sure Justification before God. And by grace given, this sinner/saint walks in those good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in [Eph. 2:10b], not unto his own insufficient merit and righteousness, but unto the glory of God in Christ Jesus.
Do we then make the law of none effect through faith? God forbid: nay, we establish the law. [Rom. 3:31]
Good news of justification received through the gift of faith apart from any works of our own.
Good news of God’s freely given grace - cleansing from sin by Jesus’ blood and His righteous merit before the Law accounted to us - apprehended by faith aloneThis grace sustains, upholds, and comforts as we, with increasing gratitude and trust in His finished work, yield ourselves to works of righteousness through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.
Good news indeed! ... for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them. [Eph. 2:8-10] But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. [Rom. 11:6]

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Anglican Problems...

Will, over at Prydain, has a post that I thought I would respond to here, rather than leaving what would be a much too lengthy comment at his site:

I am not familiar with "More and Cross" nor this publication, though I have just spent some time reading through a number of sections.  Suffice to say though, I think contained within it is a type of historical revisionism that is emblematic of what ails the Anglican Continuing churches.

Example from More's essay:

In their repudiation of the Roman efforts to cover her dogmatic innovations under the authority of tradition, and in their insistence on the Bible as the sole final criterion of orthodoxy, the Anglicans stood with the Protestants; but on the other side they departed from the Reformers of the Continent and from the Puritans at home in their rejection of what they regarded as an illegitimate extension of Scriptural authority.  Again it was a question of fundamentals and accessories.  Certain inferences from the central dogma of the Incarnation they allowed as self-evident, even in a way as essential to the faith that saves; but they hesitated over, and with the passing of time drew back more resolutely from, the doctrines of absolute predestination, effectual calling, justification by faith alone, imputed righteousness, and the whole scaffolding of rationalized theology which Luther and Calvin had constructed about the central truth out of an unbalanced exposition of isolated texts.  Not that way lay the simplicity of the faith.

The above and this series of essays consist of, to be kind, a distorted view of the history of the English reformers visa-vis Luther, Calvin, and the Continental reformers.  Go and read for yourself.  I will begin by looking at Thomas Rogers' commentary on the Articles and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the architect of the Book of Common Prayer and the 42 Articles of Religion which were later compacted to 39 Articles without any significant changes:

Thomas Cranmer strongly defends predestination and effectual calling in his Great Commonplaces (Ashley Null's book on Cranmer's theology) - as did many other English reformers.  Article XVII: Of Predestination and Election is classic reformed doctrine.

From Thomas Rogers' The Catholic Doctrine of the Church of England: An Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles (1586) which Will at Prydain blog posted:

Rogers  (chaplain to Archbishop Bancroft) writes...
Of Presdestination and Election:
pg. 145:  Err therefore do they which stand in opinion that Some are appointed to be save, but none to be damned... Predestination began before all times...
pg. 146:  The public confessions of the churches, namely in Helvetia, Basil, and France, bear witness hereunto... Wander then do they from the truth which think That the very elect, totally and finally, may fall from grace, and be damned...
pg. 147:  We deny that all, and affirm that a certain chosen and select company of men be predestinate...
pg. 148:  In the scripture we read of man's predestination, the cause efficient to be the everlasting purpose of God; the cause formal, God his infinite mercy and goodness; the cause material, the blood of Christ; the cause final, or end, why both God the Father hath loved, and Christ for his elect hath suffered, is the glory of God, and the salvation of man.
    And this do all the churches militant, and reformed, with a sweet consent, testify and acknowledge...
pg. 150:  Though true it be, the Lord knoweth all and every of his elect... This things are most evident, and clear in the holy Scripture, where is set down both the calling of the predestinate, and their obedience to the word being called, and their adoption by the Spirit bo be the children of God; and last of all, their holiness of life, and virtuous conversation.

[here Rogers takes to task the Papists, the Antinomians, the Puritans (who make a mark of election the presbyterial kingdom), and the Schwenfeldians-the enthusiasts of that day.]

pg. 153:  divers be the effects of man's predestination; but chiefly it bringeth to the elect justification by faith in this life, and in the life to come glorification...
pg. 154:  This doctrine of predestination is to the godly full sweet, pleasant, and comfortable, because it greatly confirmeth their faith in Christ, and increaseth their love toward God.

Me:  This is consistent with Calvin, Bullinger, and the reformed confessions.

Article XI and the Homily on Salvation (Justification) clearly teach and defend the doctrines of justification by faith alone:  that by faith only in Christ's merits alone and not by any works of ours are sinners justified by God - and thus "credited", "reckoned", or imputed Christ's righteousness, as Cranmer put it, "But every man of necessity is constrained to seek for another righteousness, of justification to be received at God’s own hands".

From Cranmer's homily:
the Apostle toucheth specially three things, which must go together in our justification. Upon God’s part, his great mercy and grace: upon Christ’s part, justice, that is, the satisfaction of God’s justice, or the price of our redemption, by the offering of his body, and shedding of his blood, with fulfilling of the law perfectly and thoroughly; and upon our part true and lively faith in the merits of Jesus Christ, which yet is not ours, but by God’s working in us: so that in our justification, is not only God's mercy and grace, but also his justice, which the Apostle calleth the justice [righteousness] of God, and it consisteth in paying our ransom, and fulfilling of the law: and so the grace of God doth not shut out the justice of God in our justification, but only shutteth out the justice [righteousness] of man, that is to say, the justice [righteousness] of our works, as to be merits of deserving our justification. And therefore S. Paul declareth here nothing upon the behalf of man, concerning his justification, but only a true and lively faith, which nevertheless is the gift of God, and not man's only work, without God: And yet that faith doth not shut out repentance, hope, love, dread, and the fear of God, to be joined with faith in every man that is justified, but it shutteth them out fro the office of justifying.

These doctrines, along with the doctrines concerning the Eucharist and Real Presence were the animating doctrines of the English reformers (Tyndale, Cranmer, Hooper, Ridley, Latimer, Jewel), many of whom were condemned by the Roman Catholic Church and burned at the stake for their advocacy of these teachings.  I would include Hooker's voice with those above:

From Hooker's Learned Discourse on Justification:

"Christ hath merited righteousness for as many as are found in him. In him God findeth us, if we be faithful; for by faith we are incorporated into him. Then, although in ourselves we be altogether sinful and unrighteous, yet even the man who in himself is impious, full of iniquity, full of sin; him being found in Christ by faith, and having his sin in hatred through repentance; him God beholdeth with a gracious eye, putteth away his sin by not imputing it, taketh quite away the punishment due thereto, by pardoning it; and accepteth him in Jesus Christ, as perfectly righteous, as if he had fulfilled all that is commanded him in the law: shall I say, more perfectly righteous than if himself had fulfilled the whole law? I must take heed what I say; but the Apostle saith, "God made him which knew no sin, to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." Such we are in the sight of God the Father, as is the very Son of God himself. Let it be counted folly, or phrensy, or fury, or whatsoever. It is our wisdom, and our comfort; we care for no knowledge in the world but this, that man hath sinned, and God bath suffered; that God bath made himself the sin of men, and that men are made the righteousness of God."

Peter Toon writes regarding Hooker's public debate with the Puritan Travers:

"In the three sermons, and then in the Learned Discourse, Hooker stated with great clarity the developed Reformation doctrine of Justification by Faith alone, through Christ alone, and issuing in good works, done in love for the glory of God. As he did this, he also stated and criticized the Roman doctrine of justification through the "sacramental system" as set forth by the Council of Trent in its canons and decrees. In all this Travers could find little to disagree with for on Justification by Faith alone there was basic agreement between Anglicans, Presbyterians and Lutherans...

... One major reason for the present crisis in Anglicanism and for the temptation to leave its ranks is that Anglicans have (generally speaking) lost that doctrine which Hooker and Travers [the Puritan with whom he debated] held in common, even as Cranmer, Luther and Calvin had held it in common-Justification by Faith alone issuing in holiness of life with good works."

It is all well and good that many today in the Continuing churches want to hold to a view that ignores the above.  But in order to do so they must, if being honest with the historical record, no longer count the above men and their fellow reformers as allies.  I think it is they that have left classical Anglicanism by developing a variant that sees its heritage almost exclusively through the sole lens of the creeds, the church councils, and the patristic writings.  Almost certainly it is the lens they use to interpret the English reformation and those subsequent years, rather than the very words, writings, testimonies of the reformers themselves, and above all the Scripture.

In addition, the lumping together of all the "Continental Reformers" into a more or less radical Puritan camp that is at odds with the English Church is just a poor reading of history.  As exampled by H. Bullinger's response to advice sought by those opposing the wearing of vestments as required by...

Archbishop Parker's "Advertisements":

John Jewel and other bishops, including Edmund Grindal, Bishop of London wrote to key Continental Reformers - especially Heinrich Bullinger - asking their views on the vestments and ceremonies...

Bullinger and the other Zurich Reformers did not fully approve of the ceremonies, but insisted that they were not so bad that any minister should risk dismissal by refusing to conform. Thereafter, the English bishops did uphold the ceremonies (although some less enthusiastically than others). Increasingly, the bishops in general came to see those who would not conform as mere troublemakers.

Hardly the response from radical continental reformers opposed to the episcopacy.  Neither vestments nor church polity at that time (nor now) were tests of any reformed confession, be it the 39 Articles or any those of the Continent churches.  As Article XXXIV makes clear, it is within the jurisdiction of a church body (e.g. The Church of England) to determine the "traditions and forms of ceremonies".  The question of the church polity  and regulative principals (e.g. vestments) were passionately argued in England and similarly on the Continent.  But they were national or denominational church matters, not matters of reformed theology.

G.W. Bromily... contrasts the English reformers like Jewel and the "patristic centered' Anglicans of more recent times:

"Jewell did not appeal to the Fathers as to a source of authority additional to that which we have in Scripture. His appeal was historical, having this aim, to show that the present Roman Church is not historically the church of the early centuries either in practice or in doctrine. Jewell granted that in its earlier period the Church was purer, and that it ought to be studied for that reason. He did not urge, however, that Scripture must be accepted as interpreted by the Fathers. He did not wish to argue that the early Church was infallible either in Scripture-interpretation or in conduct. The Church in all ages remained under the final judgment of Scripture...
Jewell had no thought of the Church of England as a bridge - church between the Romanist and the Reformed groups. Historical circumstance have perhaps made that position appear possible, but doctrinally it is impossible. The Anglican Church of Jewell was thoroughly Protestant, and thoroughly anti-Roman...
In past centuries the successors of Jewell have used their patristic studies to pervert or to weaken the Reformed doctrines of Anglicanism."

By redefining the Anglican heritage in a way that essentially bypasses or re-interprets the historical record of the 16th century, today's various Anglican denominations have lost the essential character of the classical Anglican tradition:  a protestant, reformed, catholic faith and practice.   As a result the two main streams that dominate today are the liberal to apostate denominations and the Anglo-Catholic to Anglo-Roman provinces.  Within those bodies are sojourners, who in heart and mind identify with those long forgotten English reformers and long for a church body that again embraces their teachings and confession of the faith once delivered.

Update 7-24-10:  A discussion on this essay can be found at this Prydain link.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pastoral Law & Gospel...

Credit to:  iustitia aliena

From: The Pearl of Christian Comfort by Petrus Dathenus (1531-1588)... Law & Gospel:
DATHENUS: Just as this is very comforting, so it also is certain and true. For this is what Paul is teaching us with these similar words, namely, that “by the deeds of the law no flesh shall justified in his sight: for by the law is knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). Also, “Nay, I had not know sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Rom. 7:7; Exod. 20:17).
As summation, Paul points out that the law is our disciplinarian, or what which leads us to Christ, to be justified by faith. However, once we have come to faith, we are no longer under the disciplinarian guide.
 ELIZABETH: That is comforting and true. But accommodate yourself to my ignorance, and explain it to me even more.
 DATHENUS: I will gladly do that. You did understand what we discussed earlier about the blindness, alienation and depravity of the natural man, in which he is spiritually dead before God, did you not?
 ELIZABETH: I did hear you say that, but I did not understand it very well.
 DATHENUS: In spite of what the real state of man is before God, he likes to see himself as being pious, holy and righteous. This we can see by the example of the rich young ruler who boasted that he had kept all the commandments of God from his youth (Mat. 19:20). When the penitent woman who was a sinner touched Jesus, Simon the Pharisee regarded himself as if he were not likewise a sinner (Luke 18:11).
 ELIZABETH: Indeed, that is the case all too often with unbelievers.
 DATHENUS: Oh Elizabeth, God grant that it does not happen with those who think themselves to be the best of Christians, who see the splinter in another’s eye, but do not notice the beam in their own eye.
 ELIZABETH: But can this also happen with those who truly know God?
 DATHENUS: Alas, yes, far too often. I have to complain that I come across it many times, and I do not doubt that you sometimes have discovered it in yourself. Spiritual pride, self-love and self-centeredness have not died in the children of God. You can see this very plainly in the example of Loadicea, where the say themselves as rich and enriched and having lack of nothing. But the Lord testifies to the contrary, that they were poor, miserable, blind and naked (Rev. 3:17).
 ELIZABETH: That, indeed, is true.
 DATHENUS: Because we are so blinded by spiritual pride that we do not feel our miserable state, the law of God serves as an eye salve (Rev. 3:11), to clear up our dim vision, as a mirror (James 2:5), in which we can see and acknowledge how far we fall short. He does this in order that we will be displeased with ourselves (Ps. 19:13) and become ashamed like the poor publican who did not even dare to lift up his eyes to heaven, and say with him, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
ELIZABETH: I also need that eye salve and that mirror.
 DATHENUS: Not only you, dear Elizabeth, but also the holiest of people. Therefore also the more experienced of God’s elect see themselves mirrored faithfully when they have made a sincere confession (Ps. 19:13; 38:5; Job 13:23; 14:4; Isa. 38:17; 64:6; 1 John 1:9).
The highest perfection of people, as long as they live on earth, lies in a sincere confession of imperfections.
 ELIZABETH: This cannot be denied, for who does not have to say and confess with David, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse though me from secret faults” (Ps. 19:12).
Please, also teach me something of the gospel which, as you taught me earlier, is the other part of God’s Word. I now pretty well understand what the law is about.
DATHENUS: This I would wish you from the heart, but I fear that you still have quite deficiency in the knowledge of the law; but we can always make up that deficiency later. So not let us talk about the gospel.
Tell me, Elizabeth, what definition would you give me of the gospel?
ELIZABETH: All that Christ and His apostles have taught us and handed down to us in writing in the New Testament.
 DATHENUS: Here you are again making quite a big mistake. Have you forgotten so soon that which I point out earlier– that Christ and His apostles (Rom. 8:3) also proclaim and enforce the law? Don’t you remember that they exhort all people to keep the commandments of God, which we are not able to do (Acts 15:10)?
ELIZABETH: Yes, that is true, but I had almost forgotten that. So please instruct me. What is the true gospel?
 DATHENUS: The Greek word for gospel denotes joyful good news which causes people to speak and sing joyfully and be glad in heart, just like the good news that came to Israel that David triumphed over the arrogant Goliath and slain him (1 Sam. 18:6).
Such also is the good news of the gospel that proclaims to us and tells us that God will be gracious to a poor sinner, and will forgive and forget our sins (Jer. 31:34; Heb. 8:12). Yes, for Christ’s sake (1 Tim. 1:15) God will regard us as holy and righteous (2 Cor. 5:21), out of pure grace, by faith alone, without adding any works (1 Cor. 1:30; Rom. 3:28).

Late Nite Spaghetti Sauce...

Here's a new tune I recently put together and recorded. It's a kind of jazz-rock instrumental with a spaghetti-like layering of me on guitar and saxophone.  It can be downloaded Here if you want a copy.

Visit Jack Miller's Site At
For More Music

Friday, July 16, 2010


This music/video montage (and included testimony of his to students at Hope University - a couple months before his death) is now up at YouTube (I have been waiting for it)... of my dear friend Joel Schubert who left this life on May 10th of this year. I recorded his song, I'm Gonna Be An Overcomer (the music to this video), in 2006 with Joel singing along with his soulmate and wife, Priscilla, after he had been diagnosed with cancer. Joel wrote this song of his way back in 1973 when we (he, his wife, me, my wife) were young christians and friends. I kidded with him that it was a "hit" song in the making. It was and is...

This video was shown at the memorial service. I miss him, and yet rejoice that he has entered into that very sure hope and rest in Christ...