Martin Luther: The Idea That Changed The World

I’m a bit behind on my reviews, so I’m going to keep the next several somewhat brief.

Martin Luther: The Idea That Changed The World
Directed by David Batty, narrated by Hugh Bonneville, and featuring Padraic Delaney as Martin Luther.
PBS, 2017, 120 minutes

I missed this docu-drama when it aired on PBS back in September as part of the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, so I recently ordered the DVD. I enjoyed “Martin Luther: The Idea That Changed The World” quite a bit. It’s clear that this was a low-budget production and written with a wide audience in mind, but it surprisingly tells Luther’s story quite accurately, including the reclaiming of the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Multiple sound bites from the most powerful Catholic clergyman in America, cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, are included in the first half of the film. Dolan concedes that the Catholic church was exceedingly corrupt at the time of the Reformation and he praises Luther for his zeal. However, he makes sure to point out that some monarchs supported Luther only as part of an effort to usurp territory held by Rome. No debate with that, but leave it to Dolan to draw attention to the temporal sidebars of the Reformation rather than to the spiritual battle of whether man is saved by Catholicism’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit or by the Biblical Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. The film does focus on the moment when the Holy Spirit used Romans 1:17 to enlighten Luther to the Gospel of grace.

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

I’m not altogether pleased with the title of this documentary. It infers that the Gospel was Luther’s “idea.” Rather, Luther, along with others, recovered the New Testament Gospel that had been buried under layer upon layer of ecclesiastical ritual, tradition, legalism, and ceremony.

Praise the Lord for Luther and all the Reformers who were used by the Holy Spirit to return the church to the Gospel of grace. I’m definitely going to watch this film again. Order from Amazon here.

Postscript: Catholics should have absolutely zero objections to Martin Luther and the Reformation at this point because their current pope says even atheists can merit Heaven if they follow their conscience.

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How genuine were Catholic prelates when they “commemorated” Martin Luther and Reformation 500?

A few weeks ago, there were MANY articles in the news regarding the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. However, in today’s “post-modern” era, when doctrine is totally deemphasized, and relativism, experientialism, and plurality are worshipped as idols, the Reformation strikes many as offensive. Some “Protestants” now eagerly embrace Catholics as fellow “believers” and declare they’ve renounced the “rancor” and “sectarianism” of the Reformation and strive for unity with the church of Rome. After all, they say, Catholics also believe in “grace” and “faith” and “Jesus the Savior” so let’s all just let bygones be bygones and focus on what unites us and leave the debates over doctrine to grumpy theologians.

But beneath all of today’s doctrinally-bankrupt, ♫kumbaya♫ sentimentality, Rome still preaches the same false gospel of sacramental grace and merit that it did in 1517. At the Second Vatican Council, Rome decided it could catch more “separated brethren” with “sweetness” rather than with conflict and many Protestants have taken the bait. Last month, Catholic bishops all over the world co-celebrated prayer services commemorating Reformation 500 with liberal Lutheran bishops. Catholic prelates extol “justification by faith” with gusto, but what they mean is something ENTIRELY DIFFERENT than what evangelicals understand by that term. As the saying goes, if you keep telling a lie long enough, you can get just about everyone to believe it.

In the article below, ex-Catholic priest, Richard Bennett, comments on the Vatican’s enthusiastic pronouncement that the Reformation is over.


Vatican Fake News – “The Reformation is Over”
By Richard Bennett and Stuart Quint
September 29, 2017

The Lord Jesus Christ condemned the Pharisees as they attempted to suppress the truth of the Gospel by equating their traditions with the Bible.  “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees!  For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”

Today, the senior leadership of the Roman Catholic Church also undermines truth by equating man-made traditions with God’s Word.   Pope Francis and the Roman hierarchy exalt their own authority above Holy Scripture.  Consequently, the Catholic person believes not in the Almighty God and His immutable Word, but rather in the Catholic Church and her evolving tradition.

Ever since the Reformation began 500 years ago, the Roman Church continues to use its influence to camouflage the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

To continue reading, click on the link below:

http://bereanbeacon.org/analyzing-the-pope/2017/9/29/vatican-fake-news-the-reformation-is-over

A prayer of gratefulness for the Reformation

Today marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, when a 33-year-old Augustinian friar, Martin Luther, nailed his 95 theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, in Saxony, Germany on October 31st, 1517. The Holy Spirit would use Luther and the other Reformers in a mighty way to recover the Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone that was preached by the New Testament church, but had been buried beneath layers of religious legalism, ritual, tradition, and ceremony created by the institutional church of Rome.

I’m so grateful for the early Reformers. It took great courage and faith for Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and the others to oppose Rome at a time when such opposition should have meant certain death. Over the ages, many believers were persecuted and even martyred for their faith in Christ. I can pick up my Bible and read it any time of the day. I can also gather with other believers and worship the Lord according to His Word without restriction. I’m mindful of the many Christians who gave their lives rather than deny their faith.

I was baptized into the Roman Catholic church as an infant and educated in a Catholic grammar school and high school. In my 27 years as a Roman Catholic, I never heard the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Not once. What I was taught was a complicated religious system that was based on sacramental grace and merit. I’m so grateful for the legacy of the Reformers that’s been handed down for over 500 years and is alive in the mission of believing churches and their members. Jose, Ray, and Mike witnessed to me back in the early 1980s because someone had witnessed to them, because someone had witnessed to them, and back and back.

Lord, I am so grateful You raised up the early Reformers and used them to recover the Gospel of grace. Thank You for the generations of believers who have faithfully spread your Good News! throughout the world and help us to continue this mission. Help us also to defend the Gospel of grace and fight for its purity at a time when many who claim to be Christian compromise and betray the Gospel for the sake of popularity and false unity with those who teach “another gospel.”

This past Sunday, no mention was made at our church of the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation. I’m guessing that was the case in many evangelical churches. So the Reformation continues. Semper reformanda! Always reforming!

Catholics and Lutherans holding joint services to commemorate Reformation 500???

Those who follow news about the Roman Catholic church have noticed the many stories this month about joint Catholic-Lutheran prayer services being held nationwide in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Here in Rochester, N.Y., a joint service will be held on October 29th at the Catholic diocesan cathedral, presided over by the local Catholic and Lutheran (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – ELCA) bishops. See article below.

My thoughts?

As the early Christian church became increasingly institutionalized, error and anti-Biblical traditions were continuously introduced. By the Middle Ages, the church was almost completely apostate. The Holy Spirit raised up Martin Luther and the other 16th-century Reformers to recover the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone that was preached by the apostles and the New Testament church. Rome immediately condemned the Reformation and sought to squelch it by ANY means. Lines were drawn. Protestant believers and Catholics opposed each other for the souls of men and women for 450 years.

At the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, Rome reversed itself and determined that a more conciliatory approach toward the “separated brethren” would reap greater results. Catholicism still preaches the same false gospel of sacramental grace and merit that it did in the 16th century, but now grants that Luther may have had some legitimate grievances regarding the selling of indulgences, etc. Rome proclaims that, like Protestants, it also preaches a gospel of “grace” and “faith,” but how it defines those terms is completely different compared to Biblical Christianity. Many of the old, mainline Protestant denominations (including the ELCA) drifted into liberalism and apostasy long ago and now preach a social gospel. Embracing Catholicism is no big deal for them because they also embrace every sort of religion – from Islam to Buddhism – as legitimate “pathways” to (g)od (just as Catholicism does).

In light of the approaching joint prayer service planned by Rochester’s Catholics and ELCA Lutherans, I’m reminded of an episode from my past, but first, a little background.

I served as an altar boy at our Catholic parish church from 5th through 8th grade (1966-1970). The pastor was a very formal, aloof person who showed no warmth or kindness to us altar boys. In hindsight and in consideration of the church-wide cases of pedophilia at the time that would surface decades later, I’m actually grateful the priest kept his distance. One late afternoon, I entered into the church “sacristy” to prepare to serve at the 5PM mass. The priest was kneeling in prayer as was his habit before mass. As I walked past him, on my way to the room where the altar boys put on their cassocks and prepared for mass, I respectfully said, “Good evening, Father.” The priest annoyingly replied back, “Good AFTERNOON.” Ho, what fun! After that, I made it a point to say “Good evening” to the priest every time I entered the church for 5PM mass, and he always made a point of correcting me with a “Good AFTERNOON.” Loosen up, “father.” Great fun for a young teenage boy!

Anyway, let’s get to my point! One day in late summer of 1968, I entered the sacristy for altar service and for some reason the old priest was more talkative than usual. In fact, it’s the only time we had a conversation in my four years as an altar boy that I can recall. Somehow the subject came up that my family and I had attended my cousin, Beverly’s wedding over the weekend (on August 24th to be precise*). The old priest inquired where the wedding ceremony had taken place and I innocently replied, at Hope Lutheran Church on the other side of town. Well, you would have thought I had slapped the priest across the face with both hands from the look on his face! Prior to Vatican II, Catholics were strictly forbidden from entering a Protestant church, upon pain of mortal sin and eternal damnation. The priest evidently was out of the loop and had not been made aware of the church’s new conciliatory, ecumenical approach, but he soon would be. Maybe a year later, I was sitting in church with my family at mass and one of the hymns on the program was “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” written by heretic, Martin Luther. I remember my mother being completely flabbergasted when she heard this Protestant hymn in a Catholic church. My, how things had changed!

Fifty-years later, Rome continues to gather the “separated brethren” unto itself. Some “evangelical” pastors and para-church leaders have unfortunately heeded Rome’s call. Praise the Lord for all those who continue to uphold the Gospel of grace and who reach out to Roman Catholics with the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Rochester Catholics, Lutherans note unity with prayer service
http://www.catholiccourier.com/articles/rochester-catholics-lutherans-note-unity-with-prayer-service

Postscript: This ex-Catholic saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone has a “silly” rhetorical question: Prior to Vatican II, Rome had taught that it was a mortal sin for a Catholic to worship at a Protestant church. So what happened to all the Catholics who worshipped at a Protestant church and died and went to hell prior to Vatican II? Did they all receive a “Get out of hell free” card after Vatican II?

*The only reason I know the exact date of my cousin’s wedding is from a newspaper clipping via an internet search. Hope Lutheran Church belonged to the conservative evangelical Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) in 1968, and still does. The church continues to preach the Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. I attended a funeral service for my aunt a couple of months ago, and the presiding minister was from Hope Lutheran Church and he gave a wonderful, Gospel message. Cousin Bev and her family still worship at the church, fifty years after her wedding there. Unfortunately, some in the LCMS leadership are now also reaching out to Rome.

“Martin Luther: The Idea That Changed the World” premiers Tuesday, September 12th on PBS

 

There’s admittedly a lot of junk on television, but heres a show you may want to see. “Martin Luther: The Idea That Changed the World” premiers on PBS, Tuesday, September 12th. Check your local television listings for broadcast times in your area. Let’s hope the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ ALONE is presented. I see from the trailer that Catholic cardinal, Timothy Dolan, is an interviewee so I have my doubts.

http://www.pbs.org/program/martin-luther-idea-changed-world/

Get ready for Reformation 500!

The 500th Anniversary of the Reformation is coming up in about two months on October 31st. Praise the Lord for all the men and women He raised up who returned the church to the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, despite the intimidation and violence of the Roman Catholic church.

There’s many good introductory books available on the Reformation with one of my favorites being Michael Reeves’ “The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation.” See my review here.

Catholics love to claim their church has been around for 2000 years and that Protestants didn’t get their start until 1517. At what point the early church of Christ fully devolved into the apostate, institutional Roman Catholic church is debatable because it was a gradual process over many centuries, but I believe there were always genuine followers of Christ, both inside and outside of Catholicism, way before the Reformation. Yesterday, I noticed a new book coming out shortly that discusses this very topic:

Long Before Luther: Tracing the Heart of the Gospel From Christ to the Reformation
By Nathan Busenitz with a forward by John MacArthur
Moody Publishers, October 3rd, 2017, 256 pages, $13.99

Where was the gospel before the Reformation?

Contemporary evangelicals often struggle to answer that question. As a result, many Roman Catholics are quick to allege that the Reformation understanding of the gospel simply did not exist before the 1500s. They assert that key Reformation doctrines, like sola fide, were nonexistent in the first fifteen centuries of church history. Rather, they were invented by Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others.

That is a serious charge, and one that evangelicals must be ready to answer. If an evangelical understanding of the gospel is only 500 years old, we are in major trouble. However, if it can be demonstrated that Reformers were not inventing something new, but instead were recovering something old, then key tenets of the Protestant faith are greatly affirmed. Hence, the need for this book.

After reading Long Before Luther, readers will:

  • Possess a greater understanding of church history and the role it plays in the church today.
  • Have a deeper appreciation for the hard-won victories of the Reformation.
  • Be equipped to dialogue with Catholic friends about the presence of Reformed doctrines throughout church history.
  • Feel renewed gratefulness for the unearned nature of grace and the power of the gospel.

NATHAN BUSENITZ, (M.Div., Th.M., Ph.D., The Master’s Seminary) is the Dean of Faculty and Assistant Professor of Theology at The Master’s Seminary. He holds a doctorate in church history, with a specific focus on patristic theology. He has served as a full-time member of the pastoral staff at Grace Community Church, director of the Shepherd’s Fellowship, managing editor of Pulpit magazine, and as the personal assistant to John MacArthur.

– summary from Moody Publishers

This looks good, folks. Pre-order from Amazon here.


 

Speaking of Reformation 500, you don’t want to get to October 31st without a few Reformation 500 t-shirts ready in the clothes dresser. Sure, they’re a little tacky but that makes them GREAT conversation starters!

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Order from Amazon here. Many logos (obviously some better than others) and colors to choose from.

An explanation of Martin Luther and the Reformation for children (adults can watch, too!)

I ran across the article far below which mentions the surprising popularity of the Playmobil toy company’s Martin Luther figurine. Included in the article is the above stop-action animation video, which brings to life some of the early history of the Reformation for young people and will delight adults as well. Narrator, Michael Reeves, has written a couple of excellent books on the Reformation, which I reviewed previously. See here and here.

As we know, in contrast to this light-hearted video, many of the men and women who turned away from the Catholic church and trusted in Christ during the Reformation suffered greatly for their faith at the order of Catholic prelates.

Thank you, Lord, for raising up men like Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and others who endeavored to return the church to the glorious Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

A believer’s Bible study resource book shelf is not complete without a Playmobil Martin Luther figurine to commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Order from Amazon here.


Playmobil Martin Luther is a hit – new You Tube animation brings the Reformation to life
https://www.christiantoday.com/article/playmobil.martin.luther.is.a.hit.new.youtube.animation.brings.the.reformation.to.life/110424.htm

The “Other” Reformer

Ulrich ZwingliZW
By William Boekestein
EP Books, 2015, 163 pages

As I related in an earlier post, my wife and I visited Zurich, Switzerland as a side trip during our stay in Germany in early April. My wife had an interest in Zurich because her grandfather originated from there and I was interested in the city because it was the home of the Reformer, Ulrich Zwingli.

After returning to the U.S., I wanted to read about Zwingli but I didn’t want to get bogged down in an academic tome. This book from the “Bitsize Biographies” series was perfect.

When it comes to Reformation history, most people know about Luther and Calvin, but Zwingli is far less familiar. Ulrich Zwingli was born in 1484 and ordained a Catholic priest in 1506. Young Zwingli was strongly influenced by the priestly scholar, Erasmus, who was a critic of the thoroughly corrupt church. Zwingli was one of the first to obtain a copy of Erasmus’s New Testament translation in 1516. When Zwingli was appointed pastor of the most important church in Zurich, the Grossmunster (Great Minister), in 1518 at the age of thirty-four, he was already pushing for reforms that would return the church back to New Testament faith and practice. Zwingli preached against ritualistic liturgy and the mass, indulgences, obligatory Lenten fasting, worshipping statues, the intercession of Mary and the saints, and the enforced celibacy of priests. Zwingli taught that salvation was not by sacramental grace and merit as Catholicism taught, but by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone as revealed in the New Testament. The Reformer won over the support of the civil government of Zurich and most of its citizens.

Zwingli and Luther met in 1529 in an attempt to unite the Swiss and German Reformation movements but the two could not find agreement on the issue of the Lord’s Supper. Luther held to the real presence of Christ in the elements while Zwingli believed the bread and wine were only symbolic.

Zwingi believed in a strong alliance between church and government. Anabaptists pushed for reforms beyond what Zwingli could accommodate and he persecuted them via the city magistrates. Several of the Swiss cantons followed Zwingli’s Reformation while others remained Catholic. Civil war ensued and Zwingli died in battle in 1531 as a chaplain to the Zurich troops.

I learned quite a bit about Zwingli in this short book. His belief in an ordained, church-state alliance is disappointing but understandable given his times. Perhaps the most unusual information I learned about Zwingli was his belief that God elected some “heathens” for salvation, those who would never hear the Gospel during their lifetime.

As this book makes clear, Zwingli was an imperfect man. But as flawed as he was, the Lord used him in a mighty way to return the church back to the Gospel of grace by faith. In America, with all of its freedoms, it’s hard for us to imagine the amount of faith and courage needed by Zwingli, Luther, Calvin, and the other Reformers to stand up to Rome in the 16th century.

* An interesting (and even comical) episode in Zwingli’s revolt against Catholic formalism and ritualism was the famous “Affair of the Sausages.” See here.

33,000 Protestant Denominations?

When defending the exclusive claims of the Catholic church in regards to ecclesiasticalDenom authority, Catholic apologists often point to the thousands of Protestant denominations and conclude God could not possibly be the author of such confusion. In their zealousness to press this argument, Catholics have been known to inflate the number of Protestant denominations to 20,000, 30,000, and, yes, I’ve even seen claims of 40, 000. But what is an accurate number?

In the article below, Scott Eric Alt scolds his fellow Catholic apologists for “cooking the books” when it comes to the alleged number of Protestant denominations. Bravo, Mr. Alt! Thank you for your honesty and objectivity.

My take? The early Reformers took many important initial steps in turning the church away from Catholic ritualism and legalism and back to the Gospel of simple faith in Jesus Christ. What may seem like incomplete and underdeveloped shifts in doctrine and methodology from our point of view were major steps at the time. Succeeding Reformers continued to shed beliefs and practices rooted in Catholic tradition. The process took place over many generations resulting in a large number of denominations. I don’t see that as a bad thing but a positive. Does anyone really desire to go back to 1517 when a monolithic church was ruled by a single dictator, where church and state were bound at the hip, and where all citizens were forced to join and be completely subservient to a religious system that had buried the Gospel beneath layers of ritual and superstition?

There have undoubtedly been many casualties along the way. Many of the mainline denominations have drifted into modern unbelief and apostasy. Many unsaved “protestants” began heretical religious movements. But in this unorganized mishmash called evangelical Protestantism that the world ridicules and scorns, the Gospel still shines brightly and the Holy Spirit still draws sinners to Jesus Christ.

“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:25-28

The world respects wealth, power, organizational structure, historical pedigrees, and the trappings of ritualistic pomp and ceremony, but the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head (Luke 9:58).


We Need to Stop Saying That There Are 33,000 Protestant Denominations
http://www.ncregister.com/blog/scottericalt/we-need-to-stop-saying-that-there-are-33000-protestant-denominations

See also…

The 33,000 Denominations Myth: A Call to Roman Catholic Apologists to Repent of the Use of Simple Dishonesty in Their Presentations
http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php/2007/08/22/the-33000-denominations-myth/

Rescuing the Gospel

Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the ReformationRG
By Erwin W. Lutzer
Baker Books, 2016, hardcover, 224 pages, currently $14.56 from Amazon (doesn’t include tax or shipping)

With the 500th anniversary of the Reformation coming up in the Fall of 2017, we can expect the publication of many books on the subject. Every evangelical should, at the least, be “somewhat” familiar with the struggles of the men and women of the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries who, led by God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, sought to return the church from Roman ritualism and legalism to the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

“Rescuing the Gospel” is an excellent introduction to the topic for those who want to get just an essential understanding. It’s basically a “Reformation 101” in an easy-to-read style and (very) attractively formatted with many small, color illustrations. It’s abundantly evident that this book was a labor of love for author, Erwin Lutzer, retired pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

The book begins by examining the corruption of the Catholic church in the Middle Ages. The church had devolved from preaching simple, saving faith in Jesus Christ into ritualism, legalism, superstition, and formalism, all tightly controlled by the increasingly despotic church leadership. In addition, many of the popes, cardinals, and bishops had adopted flagrantly wicked lifestyles. Early reformers like John Wycliffe in England and Jan Hus in Bohemia defiantly challenged Rome’s teachings. The bulk of the book focuses on Martin Luther’s rebellion against church authority beginning with the nailing of his 95 theses to the cathedral door in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther was a complex man with his share of faults but he was used mightily by the Lord to return the church back to the Gospel. Lutzer then turns to the important contributions of Huldrych Zwingli in Zurich and John Calvin in Geneva, as well as a few others. The Reformers had several failings and missteps (e.g., Luther’s liturgicalism and anti-Semitism, Zwingli’s alliance with civil government), which the author readily acknowledges. It would be up to succeeding Reformers to chip away at remaining vestiges of Roman error.

Perhaps the best part of this book is the final chapter: “Is the Reformation Over?” Today, some evangelicals clamor for unity with Rome despite the remaining fundamental differences in doctrine. Most importantly, the Catholic church continues to teach salvation by sacramental grace and merit in contrast to the “Good News” of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Some evangelicals hear “grace” and “faith” mentioned by Catholic representatives and proclaim, “Close enough!,” while purposely ignoring the fine print. Lutzer calls for evangelicals to continue to rescue the Gospel of grace from the Catholic church and all other groups and individuals who believe “that it is up to them to contribute to their salvation and that they must make themselves worthy to receive it “ (p.200). Lutzer suggests that our task to uphold the Gospel may be even more difficult than in Luther’s day because of the compromise with error WITHIN evangelicalism. It’s our unending job to rescue the Gospel of grace and to proclaim it! The Reformation continues.

If you’re interested in reading a basic examination of the Reformation without the challenges and obstacles of an academic tome, THIS is your book. It would also make a wonderful gift for anyone who loves the Gospel. I’m not one to collect books on a dusty bookshelf anymore, but this one’s a keeper!