Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Appendix A – Reformed and Dispensational Theology
Lesson 162 – Reformed and Dispensational Theology
11 Jan 2001
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’ll begin by looking at a promise. We are looking at this faith-rest drill, its three parts; to grab hold of, to remind or somehow remember a section or text of Scripture, and what I’ve been trying to do is just go to the classic locations in Scripture where there are promises and dig them deeper into our memories. And then illustrate the second part of that drill which is to circulate, think upon, and focus upon that promise, and then to trust it.
Ephesians 3:20 is another one of the classic promises in Scripture that’s very useful and it’s useful because the rationale involved in this particular promise is so clear, so direct, directly related to God’s character that I’ve found it over the years very useful. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,  to Him be the glory in the church” etc.
The first part of that is basically a promise that we can utilize in our daily lives, “Now to Him who is able,” and it goes back to what we’ve gone over time and again, and that is the essence of God: God is sovereign, God is righteous, God is just, the holiness of God, God is love, God is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresence, immutable, eternal and whatever other attributes we want to attribute to Him. But this promise focuses on His omnipotence. This one clearly looks at His omnipotence. It says “He is able to do” and then Paul qualifies it, “He is able to do exceedingly abundantly” which is a powerful adverb, and then it says, “beyond all that we ask or think.” The implication there is that it goes again to His omniscience.
Notice how often in Scripture from these promises, from Isaiah to Paul those two attributes keep coming up, God is powerful, His power is beyond comprehension and here again you see that incomprehensibility of God. His knowledge is far above all that we can ask or think. Later in the Church Age we’ll get into the power that works within us but right now we’re just looking at the bare outlines of that promise.
The rationale of that promise is God’s character that underlies it, and then we understand what the alternative to this is. What is the opposite of this? If this were not true, if God did not exist, then there is no personal meaning, there’s no personal power in the universe; it’s just basically the laws of physics and chemistry or chance, one or the other.
So the promise becomes a platform on which we can rest our faith and trust. “He is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think,” and if He is able to do that, above all that we ask, that means that He is able to do all things beyond what we can even pray for.
We’re going to move into Appendix A; it’ll probably take about three weeks to get through this Appendix. I want to deal with this problem because when we get into what we’re getting to on the events that we’re going to deal with this year … the first one we dealt with was the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, and even there we got into a problem in that the issue between Reformed and Dispensational Theology begins to split because it’s how we handle the session of Christ. One group handles it one way, one group handles it another way.
It’s not a terribly serious difference, but then we come to the next event we’re going to deal with, Pentecost, there are some more differences about what happened at Pentecost, about the implications of whether the church was new on the day of Pentecost or whether it existed before then.
Then we’re going to go into, and this is where it really gets heavy, when the church separates from the nation of Israel in the Book of Acts. And I’ll show you how that develops, but the two become two distinct entities and the question is how do you deal with that split? Then we go into the issue of church history and what God is doing. We’re not going to deal with all of church history; we’re going to show simply that the Holy Spirit brings the church to maturity through a sequence and a doctrinal development.
And finally the future of the church and the Rapture and we differ there.
All these events in this chain that we’re going to look at are seen differently by these two perspectives. In our evangelical circles we run into both of these, so it behooves us at least to know what they’re all about and what the differences are. We’re going to start by looking at Reformed Theology. I want to go back a moment in church history for this.
If we diagram the role of the Holy Spirit in building a church, and we will start it at the day of Pentecost because that’s where, from a dispensational perspective the church began. There was no church in the Old Testament. Then at this point we have certain things happen, we have the New Testament canon finished. When that New Testament canon was finished, at that point things began to happen to spiritual gifts, because the church was gifted.
In every one of these issues we deal with this difference. Right here, when the canon of the New Testament was complete, we have the simultaneous diminishing of certain gifts given in the church.
Then in this period for the first two or three centuries the church struggles along against the Roman Empire. The central concern and the doctrine that was fought over against all the heretics of the faith, was who is Jesus Christ. So we have Christology. We studied that, you can summarize the proper orthodox doctrine of Jesus Christ by saying He is undiminished deity, He is true humanity, united in one person forever without confusion. That only took a sentence, but that took 350 years of intense discussion and study of the Scripture before the church got that smoothly worded statement.
If you want to see the evidence look at the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and if you’re interested in the details one of the great books is Creeds of Christendom by Phillip Schaff, it’s a three-volume set, you can buy it in paperback. This is a complete set of all the creeds that the Christian church has ever put forward in history, maybe not all of them but 99% of them and it’s a great discussion.
The first basic creeds were all struggling to protect the nature of Christ against heresy, because if you do not get straight in your thinking [about] who Jesus Christ is, all the rest of it is just religious hot air. The issue is who is this Person, Jesus Christ, because until that truth is clear, we cannot be clear on the gospel, we cannot be clear on salvation, we cannot be clear as to who Christ is in our life and what eternity is all about.
That was the debate for the first three centuries. Simultaneous with that we have accretions develop and God always moves forward after we’ve slopped around. I mean, review your own Christian life, you know how it is. The best lessons you ever learn is when you get knocked flat on your butt. Then when you pick yourself up you really learn then. God has to get our attention that way by treating us this way sometimes. Not that He doesn’t care for us, but sometimes that’s the way we learn the lesson thoroughly.
The church began to pick up a lot of philosophy, began to pick up a lot of Greek ways of thinking. And the theology became encrusted. Plus when Rome fell, the church actually became kind of a replacement for the Roman Empire. It was an orderly society, power gravitated to it, the early bishops of Rome who later became the Popes bargained with the Visigoths and the Vandals and everybody else that came down the Italian peninsula said yeah, you can go loot Rome, but don’t burn it please. They made a few deals and that elevated the political stature. So basically the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church became very powerful. This is a classic rise of that period of time.
You go down through until you get down to the 1400–1500s. The precursor to the Protestant Reformation, believe it or not, was a health problem. During the time, just prior to the Protestant Reformation the plagues hit Europe. Village after village, we can’t even conceive of this other than by perhaps reading about the flu epidemic in 1917 when American soldiers came back from seeing buddies in the trenches of Europe piled high and they went to New York City, Chicago, Baltimore, and other cities and the corpses were piled higher than they were in the trenches of Europe. That’s how many people died in the flu epidemic of 1917.
So these epidemics can be critical. An epidemic hit Europe and something happened that God used that epidemic to break open a lot of areas. When the epidemic came in many of the leaders of the people fled, and most of the leaders who fled, think about it, in medieval Europe who were the leaders that fled the villages when everybody else got sick? It’d be the princes, it’d be the wealthy people who could flee and lo and behold, in many cases it was the priests who fled the villages.
This created a problem because now who in the villages is going to minister to people, and the deacons would be left there. No Bible, nothing, and there came out of that movement people saying we got to have the Bible. We don’t have the priests here, nobody’s explaining it to us, so there was a little bit of hunger here and there and it started with Huss, Wycliffe, and these other guys. There was just a ground swell to get into the Scriptures.
Then along came a guy by the name of Martin Luther, and also later John Calvin; Luther in Germany, Calvin in France and Switzerland. And these guys were just amazingly smart, well-placed believers. They weren’t believers until later in their lives, when they became young men, they weren’t believers from childhood. But Martin Luther sought how to be right with God. People, his critics, if you read the criticisms of Martin Luther, you always hear it said this guy was mentally imbalanced, and he was grotesque in the way he thought about himself. He always had a big guilt complex, this and that. He was a man who was driven to solve the problem of how can I be just before God.
He had a good concept, because Catholicism during this period did preserve a powerful view of God. The weakness was after you had the powerful and awesome view, what do you do? Because you feel condemned, you feel like I can never be acceptable to this kind of a God. Martin Luther saw that, there’s a long story, you can read about it, he found the answer in the book of Romans. That was one of the big breakthroughs of the doctrine of justification by faith. Turn to Romans 5 and you’ll see this.
We read it in our nice little Bibles, oh well, I’ve read that from Sunday School and so on, but stop and think what it must have been like when, in Luther’s day he was teaching Romans and he ran across this truth for the first time in his life … for the first time in this man’s life, seeking how he could be right with God, knowing as a priest that he had sin after sin after sin, knowing his own heart, realizing the church at that point was very corrupt, it wasn’t answering the question. So he comes to Romans 5. I’m not saying he came literally to this [can’t understand words] verses, I’m showing you just the doctrine.
Romans 5:1, “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Look at that! Do you notice what the tense is in the verb? First of all let’s look through the sentence as a sentence, and let’s do something they don’t teach you to do any more in school, they’re too busy doing pluralism or something.
Remember diagramming sentences, subject and verb? The main verb of the sentence, “we have peace,” have, “we have.” Is it “had” or is it future tense? No, it’s present tense, “we have peace with God.” So we observe from the text, present tense of the main verb, the object is peace, but it’s qualified by an antecedent clause that reads “having been justified by faith.” “Having been justified by faith,” so prior to this subject, prior to this we have an antecedent clause and what tense is the antecedent clause, past, present or future? It’s past. Past!
So prior to the present tense we have a past, and that is we are “justified.” So what does that mean? It means that he is justified and then he has peace. So in the logic of the sentence, how do you get the peace? You have to first be justified before God.
Let’s take this one step further. Follow me in the logic. If justification is a lifelong process, when would you have peace with God? It would be when you die if it’s a lifelong process, because clearly we have justification prior to having the peace.
The point is that Luther discovered that you can have “justify” as a past tense, you can be justified; over, complete, and begin to walk by faith. For the first time in his life he felt acceptable to God and clean. Why? Because he realized that this is a past action, and out of this both Luther and Calvin did something. They had the big breakthrough.
I want you to watch this breakthrough because it got distorted immediately in the process of the Reformation, and today it’s still plaguing us in our evangelical circles. Both of these guys, both of them, now they disagreed on a lot, but both of them were unified in defining, in defining faith as assurance. Faith is the same thing as assurance; those are not two different things. Why do you suppose they were so insistent on that? Think of this verse, Romans 5:1. In order to have peace what do you have to have? You have to have the assurance that you’re okay with God.
That’s the point that he is saying, that’s where the faith and the trust come in. So faith is defined by both of these guys as assurance; that’s not debated, scholars know that. So far I haven’t said anything that you can’t verify in the church history book. But here’s what happened. Luther and Calvin did their thing, and immediately right after that the Catholic Church decided they’ve got to stop this business.
So the Pope created a group called the Jesuits. The Jesuits job was to be sort of the shock troops of Roman Catholicism to destroy Protestantism. That’s the Jesuit’s task, that’s what they were founded for. They were brilliant men, they were well-trained and they went for the jugular. What jugular do you suppose they went for? If you were a Jesuit how would you attack Luther and Calvin? Here these guys have torn up Europe with the idea that people could be justified by faith and have peace now, not in the future, not to wait for the future but they’ve got peace right now.
The jugular the Jesuits attacked was that if you hold to faith is assurance that creates licentious living. You give Christians the idea that they are assured that justification is finished and they’re going to go out and raise hell; you’ve just opened the door to people abusing grace. That was the assault of Rome. So the Protestants had to come back and answer that.
Now here’s where things get greasy. The second and third generation Protestant theologians answered the Roman Catholics on this point of controversy by refining a definition of faith. They backed up from what Luther and Calvin originally said, and they said we’ve got to figure out how a person can think they’re a Christian and they tube it, we can’t let this person who professes to have become a Christian tubes out and that becomes embarrassing because the Roman Catholic Jesuits say see, what did I tell you, you Protestants get this assurance business and everybody just goes out and parties. That’s what you’ve created; you’ve created Pandora’s Box by doing this doctrine of justification by faith.
The Protestants had to defend that so when they have somebody that professes to be a Christian crater, oh, he wasn’t of the elect, he never was a believer. But it was a clever move because then they could say that he was never justified. And they could nullify the counter attack of Rome. This is a counter attack. Or you could say the Protestant attack, Roman Catholicism counter attacked; this is the counter to the counter attack.
Out of this came a trend. This is what I want to get at tonight. This is not saying that everybody believed this, everybody was monolithic. The thing you want to grab and take away is by the resistless force of logic, if you start somewhere you usually wind up over here. Given a certain set of premises you usually wind up here. Not everybody does that because not everybody is consistent. Not any of us are totally consistent, but there’s a trend and that’s all I’m saying, there’s a trend here.
Go back to Martin Luther a moment. Do you suppose that a man who went through the agony of Martin Luther in seeking to be justified before God, when he discovered that he could be clean and justified before God, do you suppose he took grace lightly? Not at all!
Think why Martin Luther would not have taken grace lightly; because he had a heavy theology of who God was. There wasn’t any danger if the theology is heavy enough to support this definition of faith, but you take somebody somewhere, and tell them that they’re justified by faith and they don’t have a clue about the God of creation or the God of the Scriptures, oh yeah, I went forward in a meeting, raised my hand and did all the rest of it. Faith is assurance … fine, fine, I’ll go out and keep partying, see you around. Obviously you’ve got a problem. What is the problem though?
What is the problem? Let’s look at this. What these guys thought was the problem was that the elect, those people who God decrees that are going to become His own people forever, the problem is that those elect become manifest in history. A person can go through the religious motions and never have been of the elect, and flake out, but the real elect people will never flake out and that’s how you prove that you are of the elect.
What do you suppose happened as a result of this trend? Up comes a group of people called the Puritans, powerful people and I admire the Puritans and it’s difficult for me because I love a lot about Reformed theology. I’m just going to have to disagree when they get over into the dispensational side. But I want you to understand we’re not negating the good stuff these guys did. These guys broke open a door or we wouldn’t be sitting here tonight if it hadn’t been for these guys.
We have a lot to owe to these Reformers and we have a lot to owe to the Puritans and nobody ever understands the Puritans because in high school classes around this county and every other county the first thing and the last thing any student ever hears about the Puritans is Miller’s The Crucible. Apart from marrying Marilyn Monroe, this guy didn’t have too much going for him. But he started this play called The Crucible. He couldn’t even get his play right. You go down to Blockbusters and read the jacket on it.
I laughed, the jacket is that these nasty Puritans burned witches, and you’ve probably heard at Salem they burned witches. They didn’t burn any witches, they drowned them, totally opposite. There’s a reason for that theologically. But it shows you how sloppy these people are. They want to take pot shots and they can’t even read their history books and get it straight. Nobody burned witches in Salem, NO ONE.
The issue was that things got out of control, there was a mob situation, etc. but that’s all the Puritans are ever known for. We forget that they were the ones that introduced the whole idea of law in this country. They are the tough people who started something in America that no place else in the world has ever been able to do.
The reason the Constitution exists is because a lot of the heavy Puritan theology, the insistence that these people said look, we’re going to live by the Word of God, we’ve gotten out of the cesspool called Europe, we’ve come to this country and we want a country built on the Word of God. They founded Harvard University. You can walk on the Harvard campus today and you see “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Isn’t that a joke for Harvard? But the sad thing is, that’s what Harvard University was originally for.
To make a long story short, these Puritans were characterized with these big commentaries, you can go to a Christian book store, you can go to used books and see these enormous things—Owen’s Commentary on Hebrews—it’s seven volumes long.
So you can go into these things, and we call these conversion morphologies, meditations … they’re very beneficial for devotional literature, but the emphasis is always trying to see the work of the Holy Spirit in my life to make sure that I am of the elect. It had a very interesting result in history. One of the results of this kind of thinking was the industrial revolution. You’ll never hear that one either in your church history course.
The industrial revolution, if you think about it, had to be financed. That’s why we’re going through the industrial revolution today, new industrial revolution of the internet and all the rest of it, and the issue is financing the dot/com’s and everything else and the stock market is going up and down because you can’t build new things without money and you’ve got to have money from somebody who did what? Saved their money.
Guess who was saving the money by the millions in Europe prior to the industrial revolution. It was a group of people, not the Puritans per se, but the trend, because if you weren’t economically prosperous what did that show? If God promised blessing for those who obeyed Him, and remember the blessings in Israel were physical and economic, so how would you prove you were elect? By saving your money and showing that you could be economically prosperous in business.
So there was a powerful trend in Europe; a lot of it was very healthy but buried in all this was a departure from this original idea. The second thing that happened was that these people, being the very smart people they were, well-educated, the way they defended themselves was they always built a creed.
In the notes, page 1, we’ll take up some of these themes. In the first paragraph I’m pointing out some of the trends, just the general names. This is not a course in church history; I’m just pointing some trends out. “Lutherans, for example, held to much of the Romanist liturgy,” if you go into a Lutheran Church you’ll see the priest, the altar, etc. They held to “infant baptism, to an amillennial eschatology, and to a strong view of Communion” called “(‘Consubstantiation’). Calvinists, while departing from Lutherans on liturgical aspects of the nature of Communion, nevertheless held on to infant baptism and amillennial eschatology. Those Christians” just two words, see the word “Lutheran” you can circle it, see the word “Calvinist” and circle.
The third word that I want you to look at, “Those Christians who insisted on believers’ baptism and were less committed to amillennialism (usually known as the ‘Anabaptists’) were persecuted and excluded politically and socially as ‘too radical’ for the general Protestant community.” Another word for the Anabaptists is radical reformers. If you ever see that in your history books, that’s who they are.
Why were they called “Anabaptists?” Because in this time in Europe most people by the time they were five they’d already been baptized. So these guys came along and said if you haven’t personally believed in Jesus Christ, then that baptism means nothing, so you have to be baptized again, “Ana-Baptists,” that’s why they were called that. They were called radicals because they started disassembling Roman Catholicism further than the Lutherans and Calvinists did.
Now go down to the bottom paragraph, this is what I said, the Protestants were under a lot of fire. “Intrigue, politics, councils, and violence followed.” We can’t imagine today … well, yes we can. Can you imagine a revival in Iran being non-violent? No, you couldn’t imagine that. That’s Europe, that’s what was happening. You had one religious group dominating society, suddenly threatened by this up-surgence of what is going on here. There was violence, politics was involved, everything, the whole of Europe was in convulsion over this issue.
Would to God that we’d be in violence and convulsion over something that was Scriptural. “The Reformers had neither the time nor the energy to wholly reform Roman Catholic theology.” Underline that because that’s the key in understanding a lot that went on. We cannot criticize these people. They did what they could do in their generation. They were lucky to survive with their lives, leave alone do anything else.
“What they did do was to affirm the primacy of Scripture over the church (i.e., sola Scriptura)” only the Scripture “and, out of that belief, affirm also the doctrine of justification by faith.”
Ron Merryman has done a very good work, his specialty is in church history and he’s got this neat little thing that he’s pulled together, a series of lectures, on the history of justification by faith. He goes into this whole thing. I gave you his Internet address. It’s a wonderful summary, it’s non-technical, it covers thousands of pages of church history. Church history books are voluminous. So it’s a quick way of bringing yourself up to speed on some of these issues. You underlined a critical sentence on that page. Remember what I said, we cannot criticize these guys because they did what they could do in their generation.
Here’s the downside of what they did, here’s the problem. They were very logical. We can admire that. But if you notice the middle paragraph on page 2, I have the title “The Structure ‘Freezes.’ ” That’s Clough’s terminology, I read that in a church history book, but that’s my way of expressing what happened here. They defined what they believed and they wrote these elaborate creeds.
Just to give you an idea of how much they believed in creeds, here’s volume 1 of this textbook. Here’s one of the outstanding professors of church history. This book is 1,000 pages thick in paperback. Do you know how much of this book is devoted to the Protestant creeds versus the Roman Catholic creeds before Protestantism? 200 pages out of 1,000 are devoted to the ecumenical creeds and the early creeds of Roman Catholicism. All of the rest is Protestant creeds. These guys wrote a creed every time they had a convention. Brilliant work because they sought to express their faith in a public-reasoned statement. That was good, because at least it brought it out into the open. Public debate was on point 17 of the creed, and you had to engage in this.
So they did wonderful things. The problem was they didn’t have time to go into eschatology issues. They didn’t have time to develop details of the Christian walk. They didn’t have time to think apart from being constantly attacked by Rome, and trying to defend themselves during the 16th and 17th centuries.
So the creeds sort of froze where they were. The problem with this is what got frozen in these creeds was an amillennial eschatology and for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, let me define three terms, PM, AM and PM. PM=premillennialism. What does that mean?
Pre=Premillenialism: Christ comes before the Millennium.
AM=Amillennialism: there isn’t any such thing as a Millennium, all those passages about the Millennial Kingdom, that refers to the eternal state.
PM=Postmillennialism: Jesus Christ is going to come after the church has set up the Millennium.
You notice of course how the church is setting up the Millennium all over the continents. So we have three views of eschatology.
Roman Catholicism traditionally was amillennial. The Protestants traditionally were amillennial. When these guys wrote the creed they didn’t bother to reform Roman Catholic amillennialism, they just froze it and kept going on. So the creeds had a weakness in that they locked up where the Holy Spirit had brought the church. The Holy Spirit had brought the church up to this point in time.
So this is Holy Spirit teaching, Holy Spirit teaching, Holy Spirit teaching, Holy Spirit teaching, boom-boom, going to lock it all up, throw away the key. We’ve got truth for the rest of the Church Age now; we’re not going to learn anything more. That’s the central concept behind what happened here, I believe, in Reform thinking.
Look at the last paragraph titled “The Structure ‘Freezes.’ ” “Three major thrusts were sharply resisted by Reformed Theology as it froze up to further reformation.” What I’m saying here is that the Reformation really got stopped by locking it up in the creeds. Then the next paragraph, here’s point 1, you can number the paragraphs if you want, there are three things here you want to observe.
Number one, “Reformed Theology continued the Roman Catholic practice of infant baptism (although modifying its meaning).” To be fair, they’re not saying they’re believing in baptismal regeneration. Although I came out of the Episcopalian Church which borrowed a Calvinist creed, if you look at the thirty-nine articles, you’ll see the article that defines baptism in the Anglican Church, and in America the Episcopal Church, speaks of baptismal regeneration.
So it really didn’t make a clean break, it sort of made a modified break of infant baptism with Catholicism. “Soon this practice came under fire. Students of the Swiss Reformer, Zwingli, following sola Scriptura noted that only believers were baptized in the New Testament. Since they insisted that people who in Europe at the time had nearly all been baptized as infants should be re-baptized after belief, they were called the ‘Anabaptists.’ Zwingli and his fellow Reformers savagely persecuted the Anabaptist practice.”
It’s hard for us to imagine why they did that. I think you’ll get insight into why they did it in the next paragraph. Number two: “A second trend toward a more consistent application of the authority of Scripture was the Anabaptist belief that the church cannot be identified with the State in any way. Whereas Reformed Theology continued the Roman Catholic practice of government sponsorship of one church within a jurisdiction,” what was the Protestant Church that dominated Germany? Lutheran.
What church basically dominated Switzerland? The Reformed churches. What churches dominated Holland? The Reformed churches.
So if you took a map of Europe you wouldn’t get multi-colors for each country, you’d tend to get one color for this country, one color for that country, one color for this. Why? Because however went the leaders, over here we have this state.
And of course the modern boundaries of Europe were different then, they weren’t established yet. But over in this jurisdiction the big boys would stay Catholic. Guess what all the little boys did? They stayed Catholic. Over here the big boys went with Luther. Where did all the little boys go? With Luther. Over here the guys went with Zwingli and Calvin. Where did the little boys go with? Zwingli and Calvin. So you had Europe fracturing up into these groups.
The problem was that the church, inside one group tended to be dominated by one group. The Lutherans didn’t mix with the Calvinists who didn’t mix with the Roman Catholics, so you had Europe sort of vulcanized in these groups. By the way, what went on in Eastern Europe still is going on. So government sponsorship of one church within a jurisdiction. Now here’s another vocabulary word you might read in your church history, that second sentence.
“Anabaptists determined to form what they called a ‘Free Church’ made up of those who voluntarily were baptized after conversion. The church and the state were two separate institutions with two entirely different requirements for membership. It was out of this belief that pacifism developed within Anabaptism because a church member, it was thought, could not simultaneously serve as a state magistrate.”
Out of Anabaptists we have the group in our country known for its passivism, the Mennonites. You can begin to see these people aren’t just making this up, these are trends of thinking, thinking in certain directions. The issue wasn’t so much the problem of soldiers killing, although that was a problem too for them. The real problem was they couldn’t see clearly how can I be a member of the church and carry out the decrees of the state when so often these are in collision. How do I act as an agent of the state while I’m a member of the church? They had a big problem with that.
The Calvinists didn’t. Do you know why the Calvinists and Lutherans didn’t? Because they just simply said we’re going to force the state to go with the church so there won’t be a divergence. We can’t dismiss these questions because they plague us today. That’s one of the neat things about church history; you learn that the questions we’re struggling with, Christians three or four centuries ago were struggling with the same thing.
“Such a separation” here’s the downer with the Anabaptists, “often tended toward a new monasticism of an attempted withdrawal from the world,” and the Amish are in the Anabaptist tradition. Now you can understand why, because they sought to pull themselves out of the world system, they locked up their culture, their dress, and everything else, the way it was back when they pulled out.
So there are reasons when you observe and you drive around and you visit different places and see these things, you see different churches, there are reasons why they’re the way they are and you need history to understand that. However, what happened was that the monasticism that developed wasn’t too far removed from the monasticism of the Roman Catholic Church. Both of them were seeking to get out of the world system when Christ said go into the world and be My witnesses.
The last sentence is why the Anabaptists got persecuted so badly. “Needless to day, this break” [blank spot, the quote says: with the “established” state churches was labeled by both Reformed theologians and Catholic authorities as a dangerous radicalism that threatened social unity.”]
Do you know where this is going to rise up and bite us right here in America? Home schooling. I predict that the moms and dads who have taken their kids out of the school system and I’m thankful they did because I think it’s a step forward, but I’m just saying that that act, just the act of taking your kid out of the public school system and deciding you’re going to teach them in your house, you are going to teach them what you want, you are not going to let some idiot PhD educator who has some atheistic theory, who goes along with the ACLU and won’t let the Ten Commandments be in a classroom.
I’m not knocking all public school teachers, we have public school teachers in this congregation; we pray for them, they’re wonderful people. They’re just fighting a bad system. So we have all these home schoolers, by the thousands.
At first they were tolerated, oh, we don’t have to worry about them. But the more people home school, what is happening to the money. Think about it. They say in investing, follow the money. Here you are in the educational establishment. How is your budget determined? How is the public school budget determined? By the attendees, numbers of people. Oh-oh, we’ve got a leak, all the kids are going out, and of all the kids that are going out, most of them are good. So now our best students are leaving. Everyone that walks out of the school, oh-oh, $5,000 out of our budget, $6,000 out of our budget. Multiply that by a couple thousand in one area.
See what’s happening? I predict that eventually this is going to catch up and we’re going to see some strong opposition to the home school movement. And it’s going to come out, oh, this threatens the unity of the community, and oh, these bigots, they’re teaching their kids all bad things and we’ve got to correct them, you know, we know so much more about educating them than they do. Of course, if you look at the scores of the SATs you’ll see who wins.
But the point is that the pressure is going to come, but the argument is just what this one is. It’s going to be viewed that the “spin doctors” are going to say this is a split in the unity of our community, it’s a violation of pluralism, etc. It’s the rise of parents teaching bigotry to their children, blah, blah.
The one quote that I have on page 3 is by one of the great church historians, Kenneth Scott Latourette. I just put it in there to review what I just told you, just so you know that I didn’t make all this up. We’ve done two things. One, we’ve said the Anabaptists versus the rest of the Reformers had a problem with infant baptism. Number two, the Anabaptists were Free Church, the Reformers were State Church; big differences here.
Here’s number three. “In addition to continuing Roman Catholic practices of infant baptism and state sponsorship, Reformed Theology also perpetuated Roman Catholic amillennial eschatology. Included in this eschatological view” now watch this, follow me as I read through this paragraph because this will put other things in place for you so you can catch what’s going to happen as we go through the church, the Christian life and all the rest of it. “Included in this eschatological view” and by the way, don’t be embarrassed or feel like eschatology is just a peripheral thing, it’s a very important thing. What was the strongest political movement in the 20th century? What was it that had us so scared we were on missile alert? The cold war, communism. Did communism have an eschatology? You bet it did. That was where it collided with capitalist west.
Communism, what was its eschatology? The eschatology was that we are going to bring in (they call it) the dictatorship of the proletariat, etc. but really it was their version of the Millennial Kingdom. We’re going to bring it in by armed revolution, we’re going to overthrow everybody, except our guys, they’re going to be in charge. So that was communism. Communism had an eschatology.
How could 16 and 17 year old soldiers in the North Vietnamese army stand up, get captured and when the US Army captured these guys and ran them through tests to find out the depth to which the communist propaganda had penetrated their heart, they discovered that the North Vietnamese had one of the finest training programs ideologically they’d ever seen. These kids weren’t just memorizing communism, these kids knew how to think in communist terms.
We would go in there and carpet bomb with B-52s and when B-52s drop 500-, 800-, 1000-pound bombs, the explosive force is enough to lift you up and if you’re too close to the blast it won’t kill you immediately, it just smashes every organ in your insides because of the shock wave coming off the bomb. And they kept up, kept up, they kept coming, and they kept coming. Why? Because they believed; they had an eschatology.
And that was one of our weaknesses, because we had so diminished the Christian faith we had nothing to counter. Who was the guy in Europe that faced the communists down? Almost single-handedly. The guy who was the Pope, Pope John. What did He do in Poland? He stood up to the communists. The communists couldn’t get their hands to totally control Poland because the Catholics had at least an eschatology. We would disagree with the details but they had an eschatology different from the communists.
So it was a total collision. It wasn’t a political program, it was belief about what? What is eschatology? Belief about our future. You’re motivated today by what you think your future is going to be like. And that’s what eschatology is. So, if you have a screwed up eschatology you’ve screwed up your hope, your vision for who you are and where you are going. So don’t dismiss eschatology, it’s very important.
Let’s watch what happened in the Reformation. “Included in this eschatological view were the idea of ‘replacement theology,’ ” you’ll see that again and again, “whereby the church replaced Israel in God’s plan.” So when you go from the Old Testament to the New Testament the church replaces Israel.
Now watch what that does, “the idea of allegorical interpretation of biblical texts—especially the prophetic texts,” because obviously if the church replaces Israel, is the church made up of physical Jews? No. Well if the promises in the Old Testament are to physical Jews, how do I get those promises to move over here and come down in the church? You’ve got to allegorize it; you can’t literally bring them over because they’re written to Jews, the twelve tribes. Where are the twelve tribes in the church? So the twelve tribes, all this 144,000 in the book of Revelation and all that, that can’t be the literal Jews so it’s got to be allegorized. That’s another thing, allegorical interpretation of biblical texts … big feature.
Continuing, “and the idea of the political-social dominance of the church whereby state laws would derive from Scripture and enforce the Christian faith upon all citizens. When Christians awoke to the sola Scriptura principle in defining the nature and destiny of the church, amillennialism was challenged,” because now people are studying the prophetic text and realizing we’ve got literal interpretation here and it doesn’t fit with amillennialist theology.
“A great variety of prophetic ideas” this is the downer, I’ve tried to give positive and negative here to be honest to what went on. The Anabaptists got in trouble right here. They challenged amillennialism, but they put forward some ridiculous and stupid views of eschatology that got themselves in hot water. And that’s why the mainline Protestants view any premillennialist or something like that as sort of latter day kooks that are derived from these amillennial people that got wild in Europe, thinking Christ was going to come next Tuesday morning or something.
They had those weird ideas, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t trying to do something right, they were just trying to get back to literal interpretation and it’s just very complicated stuff and you don’t knock it out in two days in a conference somewhere. This takes years of meditation and study by more than one person.
Continuing, “A great variety of prophetic ideas which were not well developed from the Scripture arose within groups like the Anabaptists. Eschatology is an exceedingly complex area of interpretation that takes much detailed study, something that was not possible during the post-Reformation era.” It was too chaotic, it was too upsetting, and people were fleeing for their lives, migrating from one place to another, getting thrown out of work, getting persecuted.
“Soteriology, not eschatology,” a key sentence—underline it, “was the central combat zone of the time.” What do I mean by soteriology? The doctrine of how you are saved. That’s what Luther and Calvin were arguing about, how am I saved? Am I saved through the Church or am I saved through belief in the Lord Jesus Christ; that was the issue. “The departures from classical amillennialism, therefore, were viewed with alarm by Lutherans and the Reformed churches. Political radicalism came to be associated with such departures so that Lutherans, Reformed churches, and Roman Catholics united against the so-called ‘radical Reformers’ who entertained fragmentary versions of premillennialism and other more literal approaches to the prophetic Scriptures.”
Our time is running out, but notice the next paragraph is TULIP. It’s an acrostic for five doctrines. That’s what we’re going to deal with next time, the content of the Protestant Reformation. On page 5 you’ll see T for the Total Depravity of man, U for Unconditional Election, L for Limited Atonement, I for Irresistible Grace, P for Perseverance of the Elect.
And on page 7 we come to Covenant Theology. And the word “Covenant” you will notice, Reformed groups will usually have the name “Covenant” in them. That’s not an accident, that’s because they believe in Covenant Theology. What’s that all about? We’re going to cover that. We’re going to go from a little departure from getting into the text and the historical things for a few weeks. I kind of apologize for not getting into the Bible text as such but I think it will benefit you because when we get back into the text and start working with the church and Pentecost and other things you’ll have a better perspective on what’s going on here.
Question asked, something about what was their relationship to Arminians and was his major point of theology the loss of salvation … were the Anabaptists related etc.: Clough replies: He has raised the issue of Anabaptists, Arminians, and others. Since you raised the question, turn in the notes because I talk about Arminians here. If you look at page 4, there is Arminius. Arminius was not an Anabaptist. Arminius was a Calvinist.
Notice, “A Reformed theologian … who had studied under Calvin’s successor, Beza,” so what we’re talking about here is second- and third-generation Reformed people. The Arminian debate came out of the Reformed group and community. He had questions about God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. He stated his opposition to some of the things Zwingli was teaching and created a big stink, and so in the classical behavior that I’ve mentioned, these big creed books, how do you suppose the Reformed theologians handled it? Called a conference and made a new creed, it was the Synod of Dort, and it was the Synod of Dort that hardened up and put in concrete TULIP. And they did it to oppose Arminians.
Now loss of salvation came kind of as a consequence of his position, but by that time, it’s ironic that what had really gone on was that the people who were against Arminius held to the fact that you could have false faith … let’s deal with a carnal Christian, or let’s deal with a (quote)”fallen” Christian who was once in the Christian camp who has fallen away.
How would the Arminian handle that and how would the Reformed person handle that. The Arminian would handle it by saying he was saved and lost it. The Reformed people would say he was never saved. So they’ve both got an explanation for it. Both of them, ironically, share a common idea that saving faith must show a certain pattern for it to prove its existence to the person, and make therefore assurance contingent upon behavior, both of them. The Arminian makes his assurance contingent on behavior to make sure he’s still saved. The Reformed person makes his assurance contingent on (quote) “fruit in his life” to be sure he’s saved, or was one of the elect.
So that’s the problem, and then if you say well I’m going to go back to Calvin and Luther and I’m going to say assurance is salvation, then how do we handle the issue that the Roman Catholics brought up that say wait a minute, if you know you’re saved …, and you’ll still get this because who was it, somebody … the priest was going to give sermons on salvation and his whole point was that you can’t know that you’re of the elect, I don’t know that I’m of the elect. See what I’m saying, that’s what he would say because if you don’t say that, how do you keep people towing the line?
There is an answer to this; I’m just throwing this out as a dilemma to get you to be sympathetic to all these guys that are trapped in this thing in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. This stuff was heavy stuff going all over the place. We can sit back Monday morning and tell the quarterback how he should have played the game. Yeah, we weren’t out on the field when the ball was in motion, it’s very easy to sit in the stands.
So Arminius had questions based on text. This guy wasn’t sitting there saying, “Gee, I don’t buy into your thing.”
Same guy says something: Clough says: 1 John 2:2. Which, by the way, was one of the big verses that figured in this controversy. Do you know why most people don’t understand these issues is because most people today don’t have the discipline to sit down and read long enough between commercial breaks to have an idea what these people are debating about. This is pretty thick stuff that was going on here. 1 John 2:2, what does it say? Imagine this. If Christ died only for the elect, what do we do with 1 John 2:2? It says, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.” So Arminius began to pull verses out like this and say you-hoo guys, when we set up our creeds we’d better be careful here.
Now I’m told by those who know more church history than I do and have studied this issue more than I have because this is not a specialty of mine, that the put-down of Jacob Arminius was pretty fast and slick. In fact it was so slick that he and his people, I think he had died or something by Dort time. I’ve forgotten the details, but his position was not even allowed to be discussed in its depth before they locked it up in this TULIP creed.
They were interested in squashing this one real quick, and the Reformed politicians were in charge. Not to say that they hadn’t thought through their case, it was just that it was one of these cases where things got a little hurried and we locked things up in creeds maybe before we should have. That’s all I’m saying tonight, that there was a lot of turmoil. These guys were under fire, they were defending themselves from God knows what tomorrow, so they wanted a fortress.
So they set up a fortress and they called it a creed. I’m not against creeds, by the way. I’m just saying if you construct one, think it through before you construct it and if you haven’t thought it through, don’t harden up the fence in areas where you’re still kind of thinking things through, that’s all.
So Arminius has come to mean loss of salvation, and the reason that is that it’s been adopted by, say, John Wesley. When John Wesley tried to reform the Anglican Church in England, the Anglican Church had in its prayer book sort of a mild version of Calvin and Reformed thought, because where did they go when they wanted to get their doctrine? They came up to England or they went down to Switzerland, one or the other. But the point was that the Anglican Church in England wanted to solidify itself so it went into Calvinism. Well John Wesley found a problem.
This is something else, when you look at church history something you want to watch is that repeatedly you will notice the pendulum swings. You’ll notice problems. And what happened in the Protestant Reformation, John Wesley had this problem, he said you know people are dead spiritually, we’ve got these great churches, we’ve got these great creeds and nobody is leading anybody to the Lord, the personal devotional life of people is in the pits, and it’s pretty bad news.
So Wesley said I’m going to start special disciple groups, and he had a method for doing this. They had a methodology they followed from which we get the word “Methodist.” That’s where that word came from. It was the programs that he used in his disciple groups.
So see where all these names come from, you’ll be so smart you can give a tour and tell people, well now see there’s a Presbyterian Church, that’s Calvinist, and there’s the Methodist Church and that came out of John Wesley. You could tell them anything and they’d probably believe you.
The point is that you want to know that there are these trends and what you want to learn here is that the Protestant Reformed tradition was great intellectually. It was weak in evangelism; it was weak in missions and there was always this reaction. But when these guys reacted they went into the Scriptures, poured their heart out to find what’s wrong, they weren’t systematic.
So guess which denomination fell first in the United States to liberalism? The Methodists. Because they got into the Scriptures but they got pieces. If you could ever get the systematics of the Reformed people so you’ve got coherence and logical coherence to what you believe, and you could get the fire and the devotion of your Methodists and some of your Arminians, you’d really have something going. But in church history there does seem to be this pendulum rocking back and forth, and we’ll see it time and time again.
Question asked: Clough replies: There’s a great quote, I don’t have it here but I refer to it in the footnotes, you’ll see it on the perseverance of faith, there’s a footnote that I have there and it’s Zane Hodges book Absolutely Free, where he has three or four pages of bibliography, I’m not referring to Zane himself, I’m referring to his bibliography, and in that bibliography you’ll see a PhD dissertation by a guy by the name of Kendall and Kendall went back and he found some juicy stuff.
He’s got the quotes from Luther and Calvin and not only does he have that, but he’s got the second- and third-generation Calvinists admitting they changed it. One of the great quotes, one of the great third- or fourth-generation Calvinists in our country was Dabney who was the chaplain to Stonewall Jackson in the Civil War, a wonderful man, but he has a book called Discussions and in it he says that the Reformers had to be corrected in their understanding of faith, and he openly writes that we in the third and fourth generation have had to redefine this.
Again, I’m not making this up; this is just the trend you’ll see in history. This is not an attempt to be a church history course. If you’re interested in that you can start with Ron Merryman’s little book, get a church history book. That’s not my objective.
All I want to do is expose you to the fact that when you get hold of an idea in Scripture, just understand you’re not the first person to get that. If you’ve got an original thought, that’s rare. Most of the time, there have been hundreds and hundreds of other believers before you came along that have seen that, thought about it, prayed about it, and tried to live it out, and found a little ooops, we’ve got to kind of turn here and do this maneuver. That’s what church history is all about, is how the Holy Spirit’s leading the church to finally get it into shape to finally be called to Heaven.
Question asked, something about walking away from the grace of God and if Christ returned at that time you would be lost, if sins were not confessed then they weren’t forgiven … and the verses that follow the verse in John 2 seem almost to reinforce that. Something said about verse 3 “if we keep His commandments” verse 4, “The one who says I have come to know Him and does not keep His commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in Him”.
Clough replies: Let me summarize quickly, 1 John and Hebrews are two hallmark epistles in the New Testament, because how you handle one part of each one of those epistles determines how you handle all of it. For example, all the warning passages in Hebrews, you’ve got to handle it one way, you’ve either got to make Hebrews addressed to a mixed group of believers and unbelievers and that the threats and the warnings are threats over salvation, or they are threats over temporal discipline and chastening.
The same thing with John. John’s epistle has got to be handled with John’s Gospel. At stake with John is, 1 John right from the beginning, that “if we confess our sins” passage, you either have to take that as the gospel and that that confession is believing on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, or you’ve got to take it as confession of restoration after you’re saved. That carries over in the passages like you’re talking about a liar, etc. The question is who are the liars etc, etc, and how does John use ginosko there, the word “know?”
But however you deal with 1 John, you’re talking about 1 John 2, there’s a passage in 1 John 3, “if we sin not,” there’s one in 1 John 5 about the sin unto death and all those have to be hooked together. They all are trees that are locked together, so you interpret this one this way they’ve all got to go together. So you raised a big question but it involves an entire exegesis of Johannine literature.
Same person says something: Clough replies: Excuse me, let me conclude tonight by just saying be careful because I notice you both did the same thing. Don’t think of the Anabaptists as Arminian; the Arminian controversy was something that happened apart from the Anabaptists.
The Arminian issue versus the Dort, TULIP, that’s something within the Reform churches. I can’t speak for the Anabaptist movement because that became fractured into history so you get Mennonites, Baptists, Amish, all kinds of groups come out of that Anabaptist tradition. They all have their own little thing and I have never been a student of their historical claim. I’m very close doctrinally to them but I don’t understand all the details of their history and never have had time to study it. So I can’t speak for them.
If nothing else tonight I think you’ll see that when you interpret the pages of the New Testament text and seek to find God’s will in there, there aren’t 150 different ways of taking it. There are only two or three different ways. And how you take it influences not just one passage, but the whole New Testament. It’s because of that that I’m trying to deal, up front, before I go any further in the New Testament, between Reformed thinking in general and Dispensational thinking. We’re not going to get into all the details because I can’t go through John; it’s just that it’s no small question that you asked.
Question asked: Clough replies: Well, we can’t say because they weren’t even dealing with that debate, they were dealing with another one, they had faith as assurance. [Same guy says something] Well, we can extrapolate where they would have come from because the way they would come from is that they would say that the threat passages, now the historical guys might not because they never dealt with the question, but if you’re going to hold that faith is assurance you can’t be sitting here basing your assurance on how many people you led to the Lord yesterday because if you are, you’ve admitted that when you became a Christian you weren’t assured. When you became a Christian you were assured of your salvation. So that transaction, “having been justified we have peace with God,” that had to happen back here, not way out here. You can’t hold to that idea. So what do you do about passages that talk about warning, etc?
The way you can handle that, given that position, is that you’re talking about something that they never even thought about. What was never brought up in these discussions was the hand of God temporally upon believers today. For the strange reason is that the Reformers could easily see … how did God discipline Israel?
When Israel sinned was she disciplined in eternity or time? Time; read through the threats of the Old Testament. It was all physical discipline, suffering, intense discipline, unto death.
Now think of Hebrews. It’s written to Jews. What’s the Jewish mind when they think of suffering and chastening, eternity or time? Time. It’s in Hebrews that I think you have a tip on how this all falls out.
Remember the passage that says if you be without chastening, you’re bastards. So here is, I think, the Scriptural way of handling it. Having faith as assurance doesn’t, or ought not to, stimulate loose living because the passages in the New Testament threaten if you do that. Our Father is not any less of a dad than our dads were and He’s going to swat our butts; that’s the warning.
We can’t presume it because we don’t know the individual will of God for everybody, but there’s depression, there’s suffering, there’s illness, it’s not that all of it is discipline, because there are five or six other reasons for it in Scripture, but the hand of God can be on us.
Probably in our day we don’t even recognize the hand of God against us because we’re so stupid when it comes to what His will is we don’t even know when we violate it. And our society is getting worse at it. Every day a new standard goes out the window. Where your standards go out the window you have no perception of measuring, you have thrown out the ruler. And if you’ve thrown out the ruler, you can’t take a measurement. And if you can’t take a measurement you don’t know where you stand.
So suffering and discipline and this and that, all kind of get mixed up in a big pot called suffering. Oh, I’m a victim. Well maybe you’re not a victim. A man came in this congregation one day and took communion, a long series of affairs had happened in his life and he defied the Lord, some of the people knew him, he was a Christian. But he was under discipline or something, and within days he died.
Now what have we been reading in 1 Corinthians 11 in communion service? What does it say? See, that’s a whole area, Hebrews 12, 1 Corinthians 11, this whole idea of physical discipline has never been discussed in church history. You can’t find a creed that deals with it.
That’s what I’m saying, you shouldn’t have locked it all up back in the 15th and 16th centuries, you should have said okay, let’s put justification by faith, we know that one, let’s take sola Scriptura, we know that one and leave the rest. We didn’t have to make these discussions about were amillennialists and premillennialists are all heretics. There’s no basis for saying that back in the 1600s. They didn’t know what the view was.
So that’s all I’m trying to show you is that at that point in history they locked things up prematurely and now you’ve prevented the Holy Spirit, every time He wants to teach anybody now new truths in the Scripture, like these dozens of disciplinary passages in the New Testament, they just go totally out the window, nobody pays attention to them. Every time they see the word “saved” we think of eternal salvation, [can’t understand word] in the Old Testament means what? Health, physical. Soteriological truth doesn’t just deal with eternity. So there’s a whole bunch of stuff in here, and as I say, the only thing I want to do is open your minds a little bit to some of these things and we’re running out of time and everybody is tired so we’ll see you next week.