Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Reformation: A return to the apostles and prophets
If the Church is founded on the doctrine of the apostles and prophets, by which believers are enjoined to place their salvation in Christ alone, then if that doctrine is destroyed, how can the Church continue to stand? The Church must necessarily fall whenever that sum of religion which alone can sustain it has given way." (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion Book 1v. Chap II.)
What does it mean to be reformed? Does it mean to change the teachings of the apostles into something new or does it mean to return to apostolic teaching? Does it mean to throw overboard even the biblical view of a personal God, to declare that, “There is not a personal god out there external to human beings and the material world.”?
What does reformation mean when one looks at the person of Jesus Christ? Does it mean returning to the clear Christology of the Bible and the Confessions, that Jesus who is truly human is very God of very God, one in essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, or does it mean that, “We should give Jesus a demotion,” and that “It is no longer credible to think of Jesus as divine.”?
Does reformation mean that we rejoice once again in the salvation given to us by a compassionate Lord who lived with us, died because of our sinfulness and was resurrected for our eternal salvation or do we instead insist as does Robert W. Funk that:
“The doctrine of the atonement—the claim that God killed his own son in order to satisfy his thirst for satisfaction—is subrational and subethical. This monstrous doctrine is the stepchild of a primitive sacrificial system in which the gods had to be appeased by offering them some special gift, such as a child or an animal.”?
It was a misrepresentation of many of these very doctrines and the need to return to the more biblical view that prompted the reformers to return to the biblical text, to the teachings of the apostles. Reformation for the Church is recovery of what is lost, or disparaged, or scorned. It is the upholding of the faith.
The person who puts his or her person in direct opposition to a personal God, the divinity of Jesus Christ and the atoning death of the Incarnate One is in apostasy. The Church officials, be they a Presbytery or a Synod or higher, who allow such teaching to continue are like the hired hands in the Gospel of John who run away because they do not care for the sheep.
Jesus tells his Church:
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.” (John 10: 11-13)
May God deliver his Church from the wolf that scatters and the hired hand that doesn’t care. Going further may God deliver the wolf back into the fold as a lamb who at last hears the Savior’s voice and follows only him. And may God deliver the hired hand back into his fold as a good servant who cares for the sheep.