Cultural Catch Up – Always Reforming

There’s an excellent article by Scott Clark over at The Heidelblog called ‘Always Abusing Semper Reformanda’. I didn’t realise the phrase Reformed, Always Reforming had such a recent history. To have the phrase quoted back at you kind of felt all wrong. To know what you mean, and have it twisted or mangled to mean something antithetical seemed like an own goal. But here’s for me maybe the main paragraph in the article:

“When Calvin and the other Reformed writers used the adjective reformed, they did not think that it was a thing that could never actually be accomplished. Late in his life, Calvin remarked to the other pastors in Geneva that things were fairly well constituted, and he exhorted them not to ruin them. He and the others thought and spoke of reformation of the church not as a goal never to be achieved in this life, but as something that either had been or could be achieved because they believed God’s Word to be sufficiently clear. That is, what must be known for the life of the church can be known and, with the help of God’s Spirit and by God’s grace alone, changes could be made (and were being made) to bring the doctrine, piety, and practice of the church into conformity with God’s will revealed in Scripture. That’s why they wrote church orders and adopted confessions—because they believed that reformation was a great but finite task.”

Note the phrase(s) in bold – that’s my emphasis BTW not Dr Clarke’s, though it’s certainly what he is saying. Like the article indicates it’s a common thing to have the phrase  ‘Always Reforming’ thrown in your face. In my own experience the ‘Always’ aspect of ‘Reforming’ is to do with modern forms of worship.

This brings us to the whole modernising enterprise. I should state that I absolutely love music – all kinds of music. I say because the assumption is that if there’s a problem with modern music in the church there’s a problem with music. This isn’t the case even though a false correlation is often assumed.

Hopefully, having cleared that up, there are styles of music that do not sit well with worshipping a Holy Sovereign God. I should also say I know a number of churches that employ a modern style of worship (choruses & upbeat songs – often but not always complicated to sing) and the Ministers of these churches are good men. However, my concern is for when these good men either move on to anther Pastorate, retire or die. The point should not be lost, made in Dr Clarke’s article, that Calvin was concerned that the gains made by the Reformation should not be ruined (see highlight above). That principle applies to our own day.

The Bible (and history) powerfully illustrates man’s propensity for DE-formation. Something I try to do is take a long-term view of what is happening now. Where will this take the Church in 10, 15, 20 or 30 years from now. One thing we know about De-formation is that it can happen quickly! Not only can it happen quickly but the long-term consequences can take generations before Reformation can take place. Clearly God is able to bring both about, De-formation as a judgement, or Reformation as a blessing. So I do not discount divine intervention – without it we are sunk. Even behind a (sometimes necessary) frowning providence…

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

William Cowper (1731 – 1800)

The Church is always trying to innovate, often out of good motives. Behind this desire to innovate in ‘Reformed’ or Evangelical churches then, is the phrase Reformed, Always Reforming. One important question then, that deserves a longer answer perhaps in another post, is has God spoken clearly on the matter of worship or is it open to our innovations under the guise of ‘Always Reforming’.

So rather than play Cultural Catchup, let’s be content with forms of worship that do not make my foot tap or my body sway in some sort of hypnotic manner. The Church will never be Culturally Relevant. The Culture moves too fast and the Church finds itself just looking stupid. We have something the Culture does not want, but desperately needs – The Gospel of God’s Salvation. Let’s not bury it under a mish mash of outdated so-called cultural relevance. The Gospel of the Grace of God is Always relevant.

Free ITunes University Lecture: The Reformation by Carl Trueman | The Domain for Truth

luther posting his 95 theses in 1517
luther posting his 95 theses in 1517 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Reformation Day

Here’s a great Reformation Gift via Jim over at Domain for Truth. Enjoy!

Free ITunes University Lecture: The Reformation by Carl Trueman | The Domain for Truth.

Reformation Discussion – Peter Lillback with Janet Mefford

The four main figures
The four main figures (Photo credit: keepps)

There was good Reformation introduction discussion on The Janet Mefford Show yesterday with Peter Lillback. Download HERE.

‘It’s Reformation Day and Janet will mark the occasion by talking with Westminster Theological Seminary President Peter Lillback. He’ll join Janet to discuss a new video series he hosts called, “The Protestant Revolt: A Study of the Protestant Reformation.”’

I didn’t know anything about the new Video series Dr Lillback talked about, but it sounds excellent. And I didn’t see anything on the WTS website either. I’ll post details when they become available.

Just in case there is anyone out there that actually thinks The Reformation started when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door – to be clear it, didn’t. It wasn’t like the second he stopped nailing – BAM, The Reformation was under way. A friend of mine (long since with his Lord) used to say when people start praying earnestly for revival – it’s already begun. And The Reformation is similar. God was already at work, and had been for some time. But The Reformation is a way of referring to an extended period of history all over Europe where The Gospel was being re-discovered. So why not celebrate October 31st as Reformation Day. It wouldn’t be a bad thing would it if Churches & individual Christians celebrated, talked about, discussed, lectured, read about, thought about The Reformation and the consequences of that great work brought about by God.

To listen to some excellent lectures go to my website here and scroll through for Reformation lectures. It’s made me think I should arrange a whole series on The Reformation for 2017. That will be 500 years after the nailing of The Theses. Watch this space!

If there were only two lectures to recommend it would be from 2005, Phil Arthur ‘Luther & The Bondage of the Will‘ and from 1984, Bob Sheehan on ‘The Legacy of Tyndale‘. Both speakers really know their onions!

Latimer – God’s Bulldog Lecture

Monday evening we had great lecture given by Pastor Jeremy Walker with the title ‘Latimer – God’s Bulldog. It was a pleasure to meet Jeremy in the flesh for the first time after communicating via blogs and email. We’ll have to get him back for 2014.

As soon as the Audio for the lecture is available you can be sure I’ll have a post to notify it.

We had put before us a real man, not a fantasy figure that bears no resemblance to reality but as Cromwell said the picture was painted with ‘warts and all’.

The lecture was presented in a lively manner and through the account of the execution quite moving – and why not! You could almost smell the musty cell, hear the crackle as the faggots began to burn and feel the heat of the fire as the flames licked those Holy men of God (Ridley was next to Latimer).

One of the human qualities of Latimer was how he didn’t come to the Reformed faith with a fully worked out theology as in fact few of us do. We mull things over in our mind; try to make connections and to piece it together to eventually emerge with a fuller theological conviction and knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. How we need people who will bear with us as we journey towards a greater understanding. It’s a blessing indeed to have someone come with us and not jump on our feeble and sometimes downright wrong and incomplete understanding.

Another quality that Latimer had was his earthiness and a consistency of manner and preaching. He was the same man wherever he was and his character consequently endeared him to all but those that sought to silence his plain Gospel preaching. And this is what he was primarily – a preacher. I wondered if those same earthy and endearing qualities would be ‘intellectualised’ out of men that go through ministerial training – I hope not!

All in all a great lecture and I commend it to you.

History Lecture Audio Available

The audio from Monday’s lecture by Dafydd Morris ‘The Legacy of the Protestant Reformation’ is now available.

Listen / Download it here:

or, follow the links to download – ROCHE or Bulkington Congregational Church and search for lectures.

The Legacy of the Protestant Reformation.

Bulkington Congregational Church Bulkington Co...
Image via Wikipedia

The Legacy of the Protestant Reformation‘ is the title of a lecture given by Daffyd Morriss last evening at Bulkington Congregational Church. The church, situated in the village of Bulkington,  is a smallish fellowship so it was a great encouragement for them to see so many there, even some in the balcony. The Pastor (Peter MacKenzie), thought it the best attended lecture since they took it over from Rugby Evangelical Free Church.

The lecture had three main points.

1) The legacy of a Bible in our own language, freely available for all to read. We should not take this for granted but be thankful to God for it and should therefore read it, study it and preach from it. He did make one very telling observation that there seems to be a move away from a Christ Centred understanding of the Bible and illustrated this with several quotations, especially from Martin Luther. There was a question about this during the Q&A at the end of the lecture.

2) The simplicity of a Relationship between God & Man. He described the complexity of Medieval Christianity with it’s multiplicity of holy days, fast days and the many stranded structure of priest, arch-deacon, bishop, etc etc. The Reformation brought a simplicity to our relationship with God and Daffyd illustrated this from among other things the Song of Solomon.

3) The Re-discovery of Justification by Christ alone. He gave a brief snapshot of Luther and the bondage he was in until God revealed that the Righteousness of God was not against him, but for him. Our Justification is purely and only on the basis of what Christ has accomplished for sinners on the cross. But there’s more. When a person casts their all upon Christ, it’s not just a clean slate that is received, but credited to the sinner is the life and obedience of Christ. This is salvation indeed! He also illustrated how this works out in sanctification through the life of William Gadsby the hymn-writer. We cannot fail to sin, we are going to continue sinning but Christ paid the price for it all – all of it, past, present and future.

The lecture will be posted soon on the Bulkington Church website and on My website. I commend it to you.