Typical behavior on my part, I was listening to a recent podcast from apologetics.com. The episode I was listening to was called “How the Reformation saved Western Civilization.”
Some great stuff in this episode really got my thinking and this post may not make any sense at all:
The episode had a lot of topics that is covered and this is only some of them.
In many ways what Luther did, really saved Western Civilization.
Luther’s deal was giving priesthood to all believers, not just the rules: popes, bishops, princes, emperors, etc.
Luther influenced change. No longer should people hold one law for rulers and one law for civilians. Luther did not directly say or fight for democracy itself, but think about it.
What Luther said implies equality of all men.
It implies popular will. It implies that every person should have own right by God to choose integrity of own person and own people representatively.
Look at democracy and a government where voting is involved. Every individual has the right to popular will, to represent their own country and the integrity of that country.
Similarly, what Luther was saying is that every individual was created in image of God by God, every individual should have the right to conscience, to interpret the Scriptures on their own and come upon their own conclusions. Every individual person has these rights, not just the bishops, princes, emperor, and popes!
Remember prior to this reformation, only a prince (and other religious leaders-popes) could enforce the laws of God.
The Apologetics radio show made a good point: Immoral law is not a real law. Enforcing law for own appetite is actually against the law. Luther was fighting for this. (Augustine said these things before Luther.)
Here are the final words of Luther’s famous response to the emperor at Worms:
” Your Imperial Majesty and Your Lordships demand a simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted [convinced] of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted [convinced] by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”
These are common ideas in Protestant lands, like America: Rights of individual, freedom of conscience, etc. But it was not always this way and it still is not common ideas in other lands. Luther turned world upside down. Not just the church but the government system too!
A key factor to American Protestantism is the theology of essentials. Essentials must be the same no matter what church you belong to. These are things like: Jesus being the Messiah who conquered sin by dying on the cross, the Gospel Message. Then there are the non-essentials. For instance, whether you belief in baptism or not – having the belief of baptism is not what gets you into Heaven. In America, we have freedom of conscience on these non-essential issues. One church can freely believe and baptize thousands every weekend, while the church across the street gasps in disbelief thinking that all that baptism is meaningless.
Again these issues go back to Augustine! His ideas of “essential unity” and “non-essential charity.” This is why we have denominations: if we have disagreements about non-essentials, then you can start a new denomination! Without being forced to believe one thing or another.
Luther was arguing for the right to have arguments over non-essentials. But more importantly he was arguing an essential theological doctrine, indulgences. You can’t force me to recant things that are against my conscience. (indulgences.) he challenged them to look to Scripture and see if they can challenge anything that he took a stand for. And he was also taking a stand for the right for others to read Scripture.
A few hundred years later, a nation would be birth on the same ideas: You can’t force me to recant things that go against our conscience. Freedom of conscience comes from freedom of belief, comes from right of individual to think what he wants to think, comes from freedom of speech, and comes from freedom of assembly. It is a cycle!
This is America! You have the right to believe any anything and be as stupid as you want! And all of this comes from theology! Protestantism breeds Democracy!
Naturally it is a government system for sinful man to live in community and get along with other sinful Christians and non-Christians alike. The separation of powers flows from Biblical anthropology.
Think about it:
man is sinful/wicked
man gets power
man will do wicked/sinful things with power
Democracy helps to decentralize power. One could argue this is a consequent of reformation.
In the past, we have seen in absolute monarchy a lot of wicked kings and rulers. You might find maybe one good king, but they are all mostly wicked.
Then the podcast sifted to another topic that is somewhat related that I really liked also:
Law and Gospel distinction and the importance of both:
It is impossible for us (sinful man) to live up to the law fully. The Law is an oppressor. The Gospel comes and says, yes, but Jesus has taken on your responsibility of law. The Gospel is a liberator by Christ’s righteousness. The Gospel offers everything that the law demands. Christ did everything according to that law in our behalf.
Sermons need both the law and the Gospel. Law will say you ought to, you ought to, you ought to, but it hurts us to hear only law, because we can’t fulfill that! We need also to hear the Gospel message! Hearing the Gospel alone will not work either because then all of the prescriptions of how you are suppose to live due to law are missing and they are still necessary.
It has been argued that “The Law has nothing to do with us today because it has been fulfilled through Christ.”
It is true that we have freedom from law because it has been fulfill and the guilt of the law is now relieved. But saying that the there is no use for law anymore is not correct, or Biblical.
We live by grace. But the measure of sanctification is the law. Remember that Jesus kept the law. You know the two Greatest COMMANDMENTS (law) from Jesus was: Love God and love neighbor. This is law in summation of the Old Testament laws and 10 commandments.
Use of law today:
1. convict us of sin
2. order civics – points us to Christ, to know Christ
3. teach us how to live – in accordance of nature of Christ as a Christian
Love is a law. We have a Law of love.
This is not the Gospel! Christ died for sin that is the Gospel. Love is the law.
Love is a pursuit because you love the Beloved, and the best way to love is the following the law of the Beloved
Another neat point from the podcast is that Predestination and a lot of the ideas of John Calvin were not original. Much of his stuff came from Augustine.