Monday, January 28, 2013

The English Reformation: Glass Half Empty Part 5

E. Grindal
The thought behind these series of posts, The English Reformation: Glass Half Empty (hereherehere, and here), is that the nature of the reformation in England was quite different under Queen Elizabeth than that which had been taking place under King Edward and Thomas Cranmer.  That isn't a big news scoop for anyone familiar with the history.  And while some consider that change in a negative light (my view), others do view it favorably.  Yet what is interesting to see is the role that Elizabeth played in moving the Church of England from a church that was reforming according to the Word of God (albeit with fits and starts) to that of a formerly reforming church, one that had begun to settle into a kind of compromised Protestantism; at crucial crossroads succumbing to the views of the Supreme Governor of the Church rather than the teachings of Scripture when it came to certain issues. In my view this is no where more evident than the reduced emphasis on and, and at times, even outright hostility toward the preaching of the Word of God after 1559.

State of preaching Pre-Marian:
Arguably, the first major reform enacted in the Church of England under Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was to place in every church an English version of the entire Bible.  Without the Scriptures in the language of the people there could be no reforming of the Church. Without the Word of God central in the Church there would be no biblical preaching to build the Church. It was in the year 1538 that Cromwell gave the directive that the clergy provide "one book of the bible of the largest volume in English, and the same set up in some convenient place within the said church that ye have care of, whereas your parishioners may most commodiously resort to the same and read it."

About nine years later in 1547, Cranmer issued the Book of Homilies entitled "Certain Sermons or Homilies Appointed to Be Read in Churches."  The need for biblical teaching and preaching in the formerly Roman Catholic churches was great but the number of clergy familiar with the reformational doctrines of the Christian faith were few.  The Book of Homilies was issued as a stop gap solution to this situation.  By publicly reading these sermons clergy could begin to nourish the faith and practice of God's people with the Word of God.

Over the next few years Archbishop Cranmer would bring several leading reformers such as Martin Bucer and Peter Martyr Vermigli to England to help train prospective clergy in the biblical doctrines of the Church.  Vermigli was given the position of Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford.  Two years after his appointment he writes to Rudolph Gualter (June 1, 1550):
There is no lack of preachers in London, but throughout the whole kingdom they are very rare... The sheep of the divine pasture, the sheep of God's hand, the sheep redeemed by the blood of Christ, are defrauded of the proper nourishment of the divine word; unless the people be taught, the change of religion will certainly avail them but little. [emphasis added]
Vermigli's words were not only an accurate assessment of the situation, but also foreshadowed the years that were to follow Queen Mary's reign.  The purpose of these doctors of doctrine was to train men who would teach and preach from the pulpit the Scriptural truths regarding salvation by the grace of God through faith in Christ alone.  By the proclamation of Christ in the Word the Church is birthed.  And by the Word of God  preached and taught the Church is reformed, nourished, and built.

Cranmer's path was the natural and logical consequence of his embracing the foundational truth of the Reformation - sola scripturathe supremacy and authority of the Word of God in things pertaining to faith and practice in the Church, as later confessed in the Forty-Two Articles of Religion:
VI. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation - Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation...
State of preaching Post-Marian:
Queen Elizabeth I
After the reign of Queen Mary and the restoration of the Protestant Church in England, the need for preachers was indeed dire.  Yet the trajectory of progress going forward in this area was mixed and disappointing. This was in no small part due to the views of the new Supreme Governor of the Church, Queen Elizabeth.  John Jewell expressed his concern (and that of many) in a letter to Vermigli in January 1559:
The queen has forbidden any person, whether papist or gospeller, to preach to the people.  Some think the reason of this to be, that there was at that time only one minister of the word in London, namely, Bentham, whereas the number of papists was very considerable; others, that it was because the people, having heard only one public discourse of Bentham's, began to dispute about ceremonies, some declaring for Geneva, and some for Frankfort.  Whatever it be, I only wish that our party may not act with too much worldly prudence and policy in the cause of God.
And from an April letter of the same year Jewell further highlights the need for preachers of the Word of God:  "... and yet the people everywhere [are]... exceedingly thirsting for the gospel."  He later wrote to Martyr in two letters a year apart of his concern with the state of the schools in which preachers were to be trained and the desperate need for preachers:
Both our universities are now lying in a most wretched state of disorder, without piety, without religion, without a teacher, without any hope of revival.  Many of our leading men... are fixing their thoughts on yourself, and are anxious that you should be invited at the earliest opportunity, in spite of all the German leaguers." (Nov. 16, 1559)
 We are only wanting in preachers; and of these there is a great and alarming scarcity.  The schools are also entirely deserted; so that, unless God look favourably upon us, we cannot hope for any supply in the future.  The existing preachers, who are few in number, those especially who have any ability, are listened to by the people with favour and attention.        (Nov. 6, 1560)
Yet remedying this situation did not necessarily fit comfortably with Queen Elizabeth's vision for the Church.  M. Rosemary O'Day writes,
After Elizabeth's accession the Church in England was in a confused condition. The queen envisaged a politique settlement which, although protestant, was not reformed, thereby enabling her to avoid both international conflict and open internal rebellion. This meant that the established Church must not follow too closely the radical changes in ceremony, doctrine and administration associated with the continental Reformed Churches
Robust biblical preaching under the authority of the Word became a risk to Elizabeth's concept of the Church. Thus preaching, per se, was not desirable in and of itself nor in the best interest of maintaining order and peace in "her" new Church and kingdom.  In fact, her own personal preference regarding a church service was that of infrequent sermons which were to short and not especially doctrinal.
She herself was accustomed to listen to sermons only in the season of Lent, and on one such occasion had interrupted a sermon of the Dean of St. Paul’s (Nowell), a notable preacher, with the command to desist as the theme was not to her liking. Not surprisingly, the Dean was overwhelmed with confusion. To console him Archbishop Parker took him home to dinner afterwards! (Church Society)
Yet ironically, the pressing need to fill the vast number of vacancies in the office of bishop in 1559 led to the appointment of the only supply available to the new queen - many of the Marian exiles/preachers who had returned from the reformed churches of the continent with a high view of the authority of the Word of God.  Their intention to continue the reforms begun a decade earlier in the Edwardian church was a potential problem to contain.  One of those exiles appointed as a bishop under Queen Elizabeth was Edmund Grindal who would later be selected Archbishop of Canterbury.  Accepting the former office that Cranmer had held, he would clash almost immediately with the Queen over the issue of "prophesyings."  And it was this issue more than any other that revealed the change that had taken place between the Church under Cranmer and that of Elizabeth.
In 1576, Grindal conducted a metropolitan visitation (a sort of survey of standards in the archbishopric) and was shocked by how few ministers preached regularly to their flocks. He decided to try and rectify the problem by encouraging prophesyings. Prophesyings had begun spontaneously in various parts of the South-East c. 1571. They were meetings of clergy in the localities for prayer and sermons followed by mutual criticism and discussions about the state of the church... 
Prophesyings rapidly became very popular, and were often attended by zealous laymen. Elizabeth (who thought that four or five preachers per county were quite enough) saw them as inherently disruptive and a covert attack on royal control of the church...  
Elizabeth wanted prophesyings stopped, but Grindal merely issued orders for regulating their conduct. Elizabeth was furious - particularly when Grindal refused a direct order to suppress them, and wrote her a letter saying that it was his duty to obey God rather than her. She wanted to deprive him immediately of his post as Archbishop but was prevailed on by her Privy Council merely to suspend him until he submitted. He never did. (link here)
To paraphrase a the sixties Dylan song, The times they were a'changing!
To Grindal it seemed natural that the clergy should meet to discuss the scriptures; but with a view of appeasing objections he issued orders that such meetings should be licensed by the bishop and presided over by the archdeacon or his deputy; that only approved persons be permitted to speak, and that all political or personal references be rigidly excluded. This did not satisfy Elizabeth... (Grindal)
The situation had reached a point of crisis for Elizabeth. Philip Edgcumbe Hughes summed up the mindset of Elizabeth this way,
Now, however, matters came to a head. So far from reacting favourably to Grindal’s plan for the regularisation, and thus the retention, of the ‘prophesyings’, Elizabeth gave vent to her displeasure by commanding him to bring about their suppression forthwith. She objected that by attending these gatherings the laity were neglecting their proper affairs and were in danger of having their heads filled with seditious notions. She complained, further, that there were too many preachers, insisting that three or four were sufficient for a county, and that the people needed nothing more than to have the Homilies read to them. The Queen, indeed, laboured under an apparent inability to appreciate the value of biblical preaching not only for the progress of sound religion but also in the interests of promoting good and stable citizenship.
There could be only one ultimate authority in the Church of England and Elizabeth was determined that she would have that final position and not the Word of God as administered by those called and ordained to preach and teach it.  The reformation, at least for the institutional Church of England, was crippled, if not over...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Not "only" Justified, we are Sanctified by grace

Our whole salvation is by the grace of God in Christ alone.  John Calvin's commentary on Ephesians 2:10 -
10. For we are his work. By setting aside the contrary supposition, he proves his statement, that by grace we are saved, -- that we have no remaining works by which we can merit salvation; for all the good works which we possess are the fruit of regeneration. Hence it follows, that works themselves are a part of grace.     
When he says, that "we are the work of God," this does not refer to ordinary creation, by which we are made men. We are declared to be new creatures, because, not by our own power, but by the Spirit of Christ, we have been formed to righteousness. This applies to none but believers. As the descendants of Adam, they were wicked and depraved; but by the grace of Christ, they are spiritually renewed, and become new men. Everything in us, therefore, that is good, is the supernatural gift of God. The context explains his meaning. We are his work, because we have been created, -- not in Adam, but in Christ Jesus, -- not to every kind of life, but to good works.   
What remains now for free-will, if all the good works which proceed from us are acknowledged to have been the gifts of the Spirit of God?  Let godly readers weigh carefully the apostle's words. He does not say that we are assisted by God. He does not say that the will is prepared, and is then left to run by its own strength. He does not say that the power of choosing aright is bestowed upon us, and that we are afterwards left to make our own choice. Such is the idle talk in which those persons who do their utmost to undervalue the grace of God are accustomed to indulge. But the apostle affirms that we are God's work, and that everything good in us is his creation; by which he means that the whole man is formed by his hand to be good. It is not the mere power of choosing aright, or some indescribable kind of preparation, or even assistance, but the right will itself, which is his workmanship; otherwise Paul's argument would have no force. He means to prove that man does not in any way procure salvation for himself, but obtains it as a free gift from God. The proof is, that man is nothing but by divine grace. Whoever, then, makes the very smallest claim for man, apart from the grace of God, allows him, to that extent, ability to procure salvation.     
Created to good works. They err widely from Paul's intention, who torture this passage for the purpose of injuring the righteousness of faith. Ashamed to affirm in plain terms, and aware that they could gain nothing by affirming, that we are not justified by faith, they shelter themselves under this kind of subterfuge. "We are justified by faith, because faith, by which we receive the grace of God, is the   commencement of righteousness; but we are made righteous by regeneration, because, being renewed by the Spirit of God, we walk in good works."  In this manner they make faith the door by which we enter into righteousness, but imagine that we obtain it by our works, or, at least, they define righteousness to be that uprightness by which a man is formed anew to a holy life. I care not how old this error may be; but they err egregiously who endeavor to support it by this passage.     
We must look to Paul's design. He intends to shew that we have brought nothing to God, by which he might be laid under obligations to us; and he shews that even the good works which we perform have come from God.  Hence it follows, that we are nothing, except through the pure exercise of his kindness. Those men, on the other hand, infer that the half of our justification arises from works. But what has this to do with Paul's intention, or with the subject which he handles? It is one thing to inquire in what righteousness consists, and another thing to follow up the doctrine, that it is not from ourselves, by this argument, that we have no right to claim good works as our own, but have been formed by the Spirit of God, through the grace of Christ, to all that is good.  When Paul lays down the cause of justification, he dwells chiefly on this point, that our consciences will never enjoy peace till they rely on the propitiation for sins. Nothing of this sort is even alluded to in the present instance. His whole object is to prove, that,     
"by the grace of God, we are all that we are."   (1 Corinthians 15:10)     
Which God hath prepared...  Beware of applying this, as the Pelagians do, to the instruction of the law; as if Paul's meaning were, that God commands what is just, and lays down a proper rule of life. Instead of this, he follows up the doctrine which he had begun to illustrate, that salvation does not proceed from ourselves. He says, that, before we were born, the good works were prepared by God; meaning, that in our own strength we are not able to lead a holy life, but only so far as we are formed and adapted by the hand of God. Now, if the grace of God came before our performances, all ground of boasting has been taken away. Let us carefully observe the word prepared. On the simple ground of the order of events, Paul rests the proof that, with respect to good works, God owes us nothing. How so? Because they were drawn out of his treasures, in which they had long before been laid up; for whom he called, them he justifies and regenerates.    
Note: I think the word regenerates in the last sentence may best be understood as sanctifies.

From the Conclusion of John Fesko’s book, Justification:

If Christ is the last Adam, and he is the fountainhead of the age to come, of the eschaton, then the justification pronounced over those who place their faith in him is eschatological, final, and irreversible. This means that the verdict from the final judgment on the last day has been declared in the present. Justification does not merely restore the sinner to the potentially defectible state of the first Adam only to face probation once again. Or, in simpler terms, justification does not merely return us to the garden. Rather, noting the inherently eschatological nature of justification tells us that Christ has performed the work for us and that we enter the eternal state by faith alone in him; by faith, we are propelled into the indefectible state of the last Adam. (p. 409)

Lastly, it is the nature of Adam's probation in the garden that causes many to see the importance of the law-gospel hermeneutic in Scripture. The law is not, contrary to popular opinion, an evangelical aid given to man after his sins are forgiven to assist him in his journey of moral transformation that culminates in his declaration righteousness at the final judgment. Rather, the law represents the requirement of perfect obedience, the requirement that God demanded of Adam, and later of Israel at Sinai. It was the requirement that all failed to meet, save the last Adam. Therefore, the law brings those same demands that God placed upon Adam, his disobedient son, in the garden-temple; upon Israel his stiff-necked firstborn son at the foot of Sinai; and upon Jesus, the Son of man, God’s only begotten Son in whom he was well pleased, who was born under the law to redeem us from its curse. The demands of the law therefore drive sinners to look outside of themselves to the perfect obedience of another, to the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Our faith is extraspective, not introspective. It is the covenant of works that enables us to see that if Adam could not be justified by his works though he was sinless and righteous, we cannot be justified by our works in any sense. Only the perfect obedience of the last Adam justifies us. (p. 411)
[emphasis added]

Sunday, January 20, 2013

the given life: Holiness, Obedience, and Gospel Enthusiasts {a review of De Young's The Hole in Our Holiness}

From Laura Rosenkranz's review of Kevin DeYoung's book:
It seems to me that DeYoung's audience (and maybe I am wrong about this) is primarily made up of conservative Christians, readers of The Gospel Coalition blogs, those who lean toward or are Reformed, those who are trying to answer the question, "How do the sola gratia, sola fide, and sola Christo of the gospel relate to the holiness of God and my sanctification?"

These repeated moments of confusion in The Hole in Our Holiness become a shadowy straw man, subtly calling into question the teaching of those who preach and teach "the unimpeachable nature of our justification." It would be a shame for anyone to think he should be concerned or suspicious of bold, unapologetic, unqualified gospel proclamation.
My concern is that those who fear that the gospel can be overemphasized and should be balanced, maybe even limited by law will find fuel for their worry in DeYoung's words, instead of realizing that these two realities for the Christian--that we are freely justified by faith as a gift AND that God calls believers to lives of obedience and holiness--are complementary truths and gain their meaning and power in relation to each other not in opposition to each other.
Read the whole thing here:
the given life: Holiness, Obedience, and Gospel Enthusiasts {a review of De Young's The Hole in Our Holiness}

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sanctification, Sin, and Old Guys...

My friend, Gerda Inger, sent me this wonderful quote of John Owen's (Overcoming Sin and Temptation).  It's from the web site The Old Guys, a blog with the self-described purpose of putting "others in touch with helpful quotes, books, and resources concerning Christian life and thought from a specific group of people…. The Old Guys." 

To mortify a sin is not utterly to kill, root it out, and destroy it, that it should have no more hold at all nor residence in our hearts. It is true this is that which is aimed at; but this is not in this life to be accomplished. There is no man that truly sets himself to mortify any sin, but he aims at, intends, desires its utter destruction, that it should leave neither root nor fruit in the heart or life. He would so kill it that it should never move nor stir anymore, cry or call, seduce or tempt, to eternity. Its not-being is the thing aimed at. Now, though doubtless there may, by the Spirit and grace of Christ, a wonderful success and eminency of victory against any sin be attained, so that a man may have almost constant triumph over it, yet an utter killing and destruction of it, that it should not be, is not in this life to be expected.
~John Owen~

This understanding of Owen's dovetails nicely with another quote that was posted today by Scott Clark's at The Heidelblog, that of another old guy - Caspar Olevianus:
The Son of God, having been appointed by God as Mediator of the covenant, becomes the guarantor on two counts: 1) He shall satisfy for the sins of all those whom the Father has given him; 2) He shall also bring it to pass that they, being planted in him, shall enjoy freedom in their consciences and from day to day be renewed in the image of God.
It seems to me that the older reformed writers were quite comfortable with the idea that Christians, who seek to live godly lives, still continue to sin. One of their main concerns appears to be with clearly communicating the benefits of the gospel, as in the quote above; the provisions of Christ’s work in order to comfort the conscience (wouldn’t need that if sin weren’t a reoccurring reality) and the truth that it is God who sanctifies by His grace. To me, these dual provisions are indispensable, as well as extremely encouraging, given our weaknesses/struggles and given that the law of God is still the moral standard required of God’s people – “Be ye perfect, therefore, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48)

“For both he that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren…” (Heb.2:11)