Tagged in: history

Recovering our Protestant heritage: Why Baptists should honor the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

“The loss of many Baptists to the cause of Protestantism is one reason why Rome has made such gains in the past century in the United States. It is [an] amazing…ignorance that now exists in many Independent Baptist churches and in the mainline Baptist denominations, about the Protestant Reformation…. It is only in the United States, where the majority of Fundamental Baptist Churches are really Plymouth Brethren assemblies, that Baptists claim they are not Protestants.”[1]

There has been a tendency—particularly throughout the twentieth-century—amongst both fundamentalist and reformed Baptists to want to distinguish themselves from Protestantism. Even the revered Charles Spurgeon is recorded as stating:

“We believe that the Baptists are the original Christians. We did not commence our existence at the reformation, we were reformers before Luther and Calvin were born; we never came from the Church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line up to the apostles themselves….”[2]

Continue reading…

A vindication of reformed Baptists and their Protestant heritage

There is a tendency among many fundamentalist and reformed Baptists to want to distinguish themselves from “Protestantism” as a whole. Some Calvinistic Baptists—persuaded though they may be of God’s sovereign grace in salvation—take issue with the label “reformed”. The reason for this tendency is often due to the fact that while Presbyterianism’s roots (for example) are traced with ease to the Protestant Reformation, many Baptists think they owe very little to that great historical movement of God because they are convinced that their history does not depend on a developing separation from Romanism. Many Baptists tend to be under the impression that their roots run parallel and distinct from Reformation history and do not depend on it. Contrarily, I think it is plainly demonstrable that all Christians—particularly Calvinistic Baptists—owe a great deal to the glorious Protestant Reformation.

It is quite possible that many of us Baptists—whether fundamentalist or reformed—have taken for granted the truth of a proposition like the one put forth by John Henry Blunt when he wrote that, “…Anabaptists were the fathers of the modern English Baptists”.[i] In the margin of my facsimile copy of his work are the following handwritten words: “no connection whatsoever”. It appears that particular reader knew something of the Baptists’ Reformational heritage.

It is my contention that the terms “Protestant” and “reformed” need not be used exclusively of Reformed and Presbyterian churches and others who proudly admit to their sixteenth-century heritage. While I understand the argument of both sovereign grace Baptists and fundamentalists that we must trace our doctrine and practice directly to the NT, such a claim need not be antithetical to acknowledging and admitting the debt we owe the Reformers.[ii] Tom Ascol corrects a common misunderstanding concerning the history of the Baptists:

“Sometimes Baptists live under the mistaken notion that they came into existence with little or no influence from any other evangelical group. Some even believe that Baptist churches have existed from the time of John ‘the Baptist’ to the present. While the principles that Baptists hold dear originate in the Word of God and have been found in various degrees of purity throughout church history, our origin as a distinct group can be traced to the early seventeenth century. We are a Reformational people.”[iii]

Some typical objections

As a case in point of this “mistaken notion”, W.R. Downing’s paper, ‘A Vindication of the Baptists’[iv], is one such attempt at finding an unbroken succession of “Baptistic” churches linking modern Baptists with the Apostles. Such an attempt necessarily implies a diminished view of “reformed theology” even by Calvinists because the assertion is that Calvinistic Baptists can trace their roots to the Apostles without going through Luther and Calvin.

I do not interact here with William Downing because he is a soft target. He is not. He is a most brilliant pastor, theologian and scholar, and has authored numerous excellent and robust theological works. I would recommend reading as much as you can get your hands on by Downing (some of which is available for free here). He is a dear brother in Christ and I have learned a great deal from his books. I published a very positive review of his epistemological tome The Bible and the Problem of Knowledge and have regarded his Lectures on Calvinism and Arminianism as one of the best resources available on soteriology both for its theological depth and acuteness and detailed historical survey. Downing has also written textbooks on Hebrew and Greek as well as many other scholarly works. Even the book from which this paper on Baptist history is taken is highly recommended for all of its other fine content. I chose to interact with Downing on this subject because he is not a decisional regenerationist, he is not an SBC traditionalist, he is not a fideistic fundamentalist, he is not an evidentialist and, according to his own testimony on Iron Sharpens Iron [time stamp: 17:52], he is not a Landmarker.[v] He is a consistent Calvinist with a high view of Scripture and holds to the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith with minor reservations. We are dealing with someone who is both “in our camp” and exceedingly qualified to speak to these subjects. So, in the big picture, of course, this is a minor point of disagreement I have with Downing. I simply use his paper as a launching pad to deal with some of the arguments put forth by modern Baptists as to their alleged non-Reformational heritage.

Downing takes issue with the term “reformed” Baptist because he believes we should trace our roots through the remnant of believers in history from apostolic times until now. Like many other Baptists, he takes issue with the term Protestant as it is applied to Christians in general (as opposed to Romanists):

“[We are] Baptists not Protestants. We did not come from the Protestant Reformation. Our forefathers, known under different, often derogatory names, have existed from the time of the New Testament. Modern Baptists are the inheritors and progeny of countless hundreds of thousands who have held to the evangelical faith, believer’s baptism and freedom of conscience through the ages.”[vi]

It is worth noting that in many ways the seventeenth-century Particular Baptists deliberately followed on the heels of the Westminster divines making no attempt to distinguish their Calvinistic theology and heritage from the Reformation. Greg Nichols notes that “the Reformed Baptist fathers were not embarrassed to copy verbatim from the Presbyterian fathers of the previous generation when they could do so conscientiously”.[vii] One would think if such a clear line of succession back to the Apostles were discernible three-hundred years ago, these early reformed Baptists would have capitalized on that historical data to help them justify their separatism and theological distinctives. Rather, consider the following by Kurt Smith:

“From an historical standpoint, Baptists have always been known as ‘people of the Book.’ By this identification, Baptists (since their emergence in 17th century England) had gained the reputation of being that Christian body within Protestantism, whose declaration of doctrine and practice was solely governed and ruled by the Word of God. In fact, the great Reformation principle of sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone) can be argued as finding its fullest expression with Baptists than with any other Protestant group.

This is why church historian, Robert G. Torbet, in his History of the Baptists, made the case that:

‘Baptists, to a greater degree than any other group, have strengthened the protest of evangelical Protestantism against traditionalism. This they have done by their constant witness to the supremacy of the Scriptures as the all-sufficient and sole norm for faith and practice.’[viii][ix]

Smith, following Torbet, rather than separating Baptists from Protestantism at large, is quick to point out that they were the most scripturally devoted body “within Protestantism”, and admits their seventeenth-century heritage.

The simple fact is, in order for anyone to trace Calvinistic Baptists (or any other Christian group) back to the Apostles, they are forced to go through a series of very questionable sects. Considering the preponderance of anti-trinitarianism amongst many so-called Anabaptist groups, “questionable” is putting it mildly. Not only is it unprovable that all of these various groups actually held to believer’s baptism by immersion, their doctrinal aberrations should more than disincline us to forcibly trace our roots through them. Consider the broad and diverse groups Downing must list in order to assert that Baptists can trace their roots to the Apostles:

“These believers and churches have been known by various names in history, such as Montanists, Novatians, Donatists, Paulicians, Vaudois, Paterines, Albigenses, Berengarians, Bogomili, Cathari, Gezari, Arnoldists, Petrobrusians, Poor men of Lyons, Waldenses, Lollards, Wyclifites, Bohemian Brethren, Hussites, etc.”6

This list contains some dubious groups indeed. We will not examine the doctrinal distinctives of each of them here, partly because of the lack of information available, partly for the sake of space, and partly because it simply cannot be proven that all of these groups held to believer’s baptism by way of immersion anyway. It is true that many have been lumped into the broad and practically useless category, Anabaptist, but even that label does not prove that they practiced baptism by immersion! More accurately, there have been various people branded Anabaptists simply because they were antipaedobaptists. Their aversion to infant baptism (Romish, or otherwise) did not imply that they held to the doctrine, mode and method of baptism that post-Reformation Baptists adhere to. Ronald Cooke, drawing largely on the work of Baptist historian Albert Henry Newman, writes:

“Newman…says here, plainly, the method by which the first Antipedobaptists of the Reformation were baptized was affusion, not immersion. One of the other Baptist historians…mentions in connection with this decisive step of the Antipedobaptists, that the first group to be baptized were baptized out of a bucket of water…. It is difficult to document immersion before the Reformation times” [emphasis mine].[x]

Church historian George P. Fisher likewise maintains that, “The practise [sic] of immersion was not in vogue at first among the Anabaptists.”[xi] And Earle E. Cairns points out that even the esteemed Anabaptist theologian Balthasar Hubmaier, along with three hundred of his followers, “were baptized by affusion.”[xii]

The lack of documentation that can even substantiate a clear history of immersionists prior to the Reformation alone discredits the idea that a direct path can be traced from modern reformed or fundamentalist Baptists through to the Apostles. Anabaptists were a mixed-bag. With no consistency in their mode of baptism and total absence of doctrinal parameters, the term, “Anabaptist” is rendered practically useless for our purposes. It tells us very little about any particular group, and most of the groups placed under that label are not ones any orthodox Christian would want to be associated with.

It is true that amongst the varied and diverse people Downing lists there existed true believers, but it cannot be sustained that they all practiced believer’s baptism by immersion, simultaneously holding to other Baptist distinctives. To acknowledge this is to acknowledge that Presbyterians and evangelicals can equally claim this “pilgrim church”[xiii] as fellow brethren belonging to the true bride of Christ, being a testimony to the truth that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. The existence of these pre-Reformation Christians only proves that God has always preserved His remnant. It does not prove that Baptists have the right to disregard the importance of the Reformation when discussing their history and theology. Furthermore, as we will see, many antipaedobaptists employed methods and embraced doctrines that any Bible-believing Christian would deride as unscriptural. Is it even worthwhile, then, for us to attempt to trace our roots through them?

Note that some of the groups Downing lists to support his thesis are at the least unorthodox or at most, completely heretical. These groups’ particular method of baptism and view of church-state separation becomes irrelevant at this point since primary doctrines (such as the trinity or proper Christology) were sometimes outright rejected by many of the so-called Anabaptists in history. It is surprising that a Calvinistic confessional cessationist[xiv] like Downing would want to share a common bond with montanists, for example, all for the sake of trying to establish an unbroken doctrinal succession to the Apostles.[xv]

In this paper, Downing has nothing critical to say of the Montanists and says that the “movement was orthodox in its doctrine”.[xvi] He makes no mention of the excesses and charismatic chicanery practiced by those within the movement. I think those not so inclined to trace their doctrine and practice in a continuous line to the Apostles would give a more objective assessment of the Montanists. While Downing claims that Montanists predate Montanus himself, I am not sure that such would insulate the group he is referring to from the charismatic behavior which has come to be identified with Montanism in general.

Regarding Montanus, it is noteworthy that like modern charismatics, “[he] gave utterances as though the Lord were speaking directly to him.”[xvii] Victor Budgen quotes such examples of Montanus’ twisted “revelations” and says, “Here was a man who was undoubtedly, in his own estimation, on a hot line to heaven.”[xviii] If it weren’t for Downing’s strained effort to find early Baptists in church history, we could be sure that Downing would himself repudiate practically everything they taught as recorded in the Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heretics.[xix]

The error of imagining a line of Baptists right through church history is more characteristic of fundamentalists, traditionalists and Plymouth Brethren then it is of confessional Calvinistic Baptists. Let us not fall into the same trap. There is no shame in our Protestant, reformed heritage, and acknowledging it means we don’t have to sidestep doctrinal aberrations and make excuses for heretical trends in history. Downing exhibits a very high view of the Reformers and the Protestant Reformation in his Lectures on Calvinism and Arminianism, but in discussing Baptist history the importance of the Reformation is diminished.

Given the choice, I think any Christian would be wise to embrace the heritage they owe to the Reformation over inventing a lineage that must necessarily pass through various antitrinitarians, montanists, violent social radicals and theocrats and other heretics who have all been put under the heading Anabaptist (so labeled simply because they repudiated paedobaptism). Following the clear NT pattern, it is very likely that early Christians baptized in the method of the Apostles and restricted the ordinance to believers only. Certainly, I am convinced along with Downing that such is the biblical method. But we must stop short of asserting what cannot be legitimately established with regard to Baptist history. We have limited knowledge of many of the early groups Downing lists, and often what we do know is not very good.

Downing admits that “the distinctive doctrines of the Donatists were identical with the Montanists and Novatians before them”. David Christie-Murray’s assessment is much the same, noting that the Novatian movement “was heretical in so far as it allied with the Montanists”, and that “the Donatists were in the main orthodox, although some of them were tinged with Arianism….”[xx] Should we not be at least a bit cautious in trying to trace our roots through these groups? I am not consigning all of these men and women to hell. There was most definitely a remnant that existed through the ages that never submitted to the mongrel faith-works monstrosity of Rome. I am simply trying to state the obvious; that much of the information available concerning these people would be enough to exclude them from membership in Downing’s own confessional church. If Downing wants to include Montanists in his Baptist family tree, it follows that he would likewise be obliged to extend their modern counterparts in charismania the right hand of fellowship. I do not think that is something he is prepared to do.

Cooke notes that there was a strong tendency toward antitrinitarianism even amongst many of whom Baptist historian Albert Henry Newman calls the “sounder” Baptists. He notes that Newman’s sympathies to the concept of an unbroken line of succession force him to have a sympathetic tone concerning the heretical nature of their teachings. Cooke writes:

“Some non-Baptists would not describe men who denied the Trinity as being sound in their theology. To say they ‘fell considerably short of the orthodox view of the Person of Christ’ is a euphemistic way of saying that they denied the humanity of Christ. And to say that such men who taught the Adoptionist Christology were like many of the medieval evangelicals is again stretching the point in an effort to save them from the charge of heresy. For some non-Baptists would be more apt to call such medieval men heretics rather than evangelicals. Yet, this is the line to which any Baptist unbroken line must be linked.”[xxi]

We have seen some of the difficulties in formulating an historical line of succession from the Apostles to modern Baptists. I will briefly address one more point with regard to our theological heritage.

Baptist covenant theology has a Reformational heritage

Coming out of dispensationalism, some of us held a low view of the historic creeds and confessions and possessed an abysmal knowledge of church history. I believe this was no accident, for to know church history would be to admit the newness of dispensationalism as a “unified interpretive scheme”[xxii].  I, for one, was merely Baptist by default. That is, I found no evidence of infant baptism in the NT and that was enough to dismiss such a practice as unbiblical. “Believer’s baptism”, seemed to be the method employed in the book of Acts, but I had no real grasp of the other historic Baptist distinctives.

Instead of regarding Presbyterians as compromising Christians who simply hadn’t purged a residual Romish tradition, a mere “trapping of popery”[xxiii], it would have been far more beneficial to have pursued a basic knowledge of the theory employed to justify infant baptism. In other words, I think many twentieth-century Baptists were merely Baptists in the sense that they immersed believers. They were unaware of the rich hermeneutical system which seemingly undergirded both the practice of paedobaptism and Baptist opposition to it. Only recently are we reclaiming our confessional and covenantal heritage. Today there is a wealth of literature available detailing the specifics of Baptist Covenant theology.[xxiv]

Downing embraces and defends Baptist covenant theology in multiple books and properly distinguishes it from both paedobaptist covenant theology and dispensationalism. But I think he would be hard-pressed to uncover a chain of local churches through which he might trace this comprehensive theological system back to the early NT church. We do believe that covenant theology (with its Baptist distinctiveness) is thoroughly biblical and extremely useful as a hermeneutical framework. But just like eschatological schemes, not all hermeneutical systems and doctrinal frameworks were formally and systematically worked out by the first-century church. Downing should simply admit what reformed Baptist author Pascal Denault notes, that “this approach to Scripture [Baptist covenant theology] was born of the Protestant Reformation”[xxv], and, unlike many modern Baptists, seventeenth-century Baptists

“were concerned with identifying themselves with the heritage of the Reformation. This explains the close relationship of their official documents to those of the other reformed movements. This desire for unity did not keep them from stating their distinct convictions within these same documents. Nevertheless, they always did it with irenic attitude.”[xxvi]

Conclusion

I close off this post with a final quote from Dr. Ronald Cooke:

“The Baptist movement of the sixteenth century was a great hodge-podge of many different ideas and teachings, some of which would definitely be classed as heretical today by just about every believer in a fundamental Bible-believing church. And there is scarcely one man, whose teachings we know anything about it detail, whom any Fundamental Baptist would agree with today. In other words, the only link that Baptists today would have with such men is water baptism, and even some of those, whom Newman classes as the sounder biblical Baptists of the sixteenth century practised [sic] affusion, not immersion….

“To say that we never came out of Rome because we were never in Rome cannot be documented at all by any historical evidence which now exists. Almost everything we know about the men of the lower middle ages, the men of the higher middle ages, and the sixteenth century dissenters, suggests that the reformatory movements came out of the hierarchical Church, or from some man who had separated from it.”[xxvii]

“…It was not until the time of the Protestant Reformation that a clear break was made which was based upon a sound hermeneutical approach to the Scriptures, and which resulted in a sound theology which taught clearly salvation by grace alone, justification by faith alone and that Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed to the believing sinner by faith alone.”[xxviii]

Fellow Baptists, let us celebrate the 500th year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation with our Presbyterian and reformed brethren and rightly recognize the great debt we owe those theological giants who went before us. I do not think I am being too liberal with the term “Protestant” in saying that we who adamantly protest the abominable false gospel of Rome should highly regard the Reformers’ protest and all of its fruits.

I, for one, consider myself both a Protestant and a reformed Baptist.

-Nick Sabato

[i] Blunt, J.H., The Reformation of the Church of England: Its History, Principles and Results, Vol. 1 A.D. 1514—1547 (8th edition), Longmans, Green, and Co., New York, 1897, p. 551.

[ii] Ryle, J.C., What Do We Owe the Reformation?, Protestant Truth Society, London, Obtain a reprint here.

[iii] Ascol, T.K., From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist Convention: What Hath Geneva to do with Nashville? (revised edition), Founders Press, Cape Coral, FL, 2013, p. 11.

[iv] Downing, W.R., Selected Shorter Writings, PIRS Publications, Morgan Hill, CA, 2013, pp. 231—283.

[v] “Landmark Baptists particularly emphasized the local, visible congregation as being the church in its true form, and they opposed the idea of an actual universal church” (Bush, L.R., and Nettles, T.J., Baptists and the Bible, Moody Press, Chicago, IL, 1980, p. 378). In contrast to Landmarkism, the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith 1677/1689 affirms the existence of a universal church. This is partly why Downing has an affinity for the First London Baptist Confession of Faith (1644/1646) (see Downing, ref. 4, pp. 257—59 and ref. 14, pp. 165 & 461). Sam Waldron comments that “The New Testament does speak of a universal church (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 1:22; 4:11—15; 5:23, 24, 25, 27, 29, 32; Colossians 1:18, 24; Hebrews 12:23). Such passages refute Landmarkism and its denial of a universal church” (Waldron, S.E., A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith [5th edition: revised and corrected], EP Books, UK, 2016, pp. 366-367). While Downing claims he is not a Landmarker, it is sometimes difficult to see precisely where he differs from Landmarkism.

[vi] Downing, ref. 4, p. 236.

[vii] Nichols, G., Covenant Theology: A Reformed and Baptistic Perspective on God’s Covenants, Solid Ground Christian Books, Birmingham, AL, 2011, p. 5.

[viii] Robert G. Torbet, History of the Baptists (revised edition), Judson, Valley Forge, PA, 1963, p. 483.

[ix] Smith, K., The only rule, Founders Journal 104, March 14, 2016.

[x] Cooke, R., Some Modern Baptists and the Protestant Reformation, Truth International Ministries, Max Meadows, VA, 2007, p. 15.

[xi] Fisher, G.P., History of Christian Doctrine, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1916, p. 319.

[xii] Cairns, E.E., Christianity Through the Centuries, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1981, p. 306.

[xiii] Broadbent, E.H., The Pilgrim Church (1931), Gospel Folio Press, Port Colborne, ON, 2009.

[xiv] Downing, W.R., Theological Propaedeutic, PIRS Publications, Morgan Hill, CA, 2010, p. 162.

[xv] Again, Downing does not claim to be a Landmarker, but his arguments here seem to be characteristic of that camp.

[xvi] Downing, ref. 4, p. 262.

[xvii] Budgen, V., The Charismatics and the Word of God (2nd ed.), Evangelical Press, England, 1989, p. 116.

[xviii] Budgen, ref. 17, p. 117.

[xix] Clifton, C.S., Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heretics, Barnes & Noble, New York, 1992, pp. 98—99.

[xx] Christie-Murray, D., A History of Heresy, Oxford University Press, New York, 1976, p. 96.

[xxi] Cooke, ref. 10, pp. 20—21.

[xxii] Erickson, M.J., Christian Theology (2nd edition), Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI, 1998, p. 1168.

[xxiii] While I agree with this assessment of paedobaptism by Shaun Willcock (Trappings of Popery, New Voices Publishing, Cape Town, South Africa, 2007, pp. 20—24), to ignore the particular version of covenant theology used to undergird the practice by Presbyterians means we have failed to interact with them at any intellectual level. Some of the strongest opponents of Romanism have retained paedobaptism not because they have some innate desire to retain papal traditions but as a “necessary” consequence of their own particular covenant theology.

[xxiv] Consider the work of Reformed Baptist Academic Press and Founders Ministries.

[xxv] Denault, P., The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology, Solid Ground Christian Books, Birmingham, AL, 2013, summary page.

[xxvi] Denault, ref. 25, pp. 10—11, footnote 13.

[xxvii] Cooke, ref. 10, p. 23.

[xxviii] Cooke, ref. 10, p. 24.

Roman Catholic Endeavors to Overturn the Reformation, by Richard Bennett

The following is an article by former Roman Catholic priest Richard Bennett (above). Bennett’s work has been a tremendous blessing to me, and his website is a storehouse of information pertaining to Romanism’s history and heresies as well as other subjects. At the end of this article he asks the reader to share and post it on the internet. A link to the original is here.

Roman Catholic Endeavors to Overturn the Reformation

by Richard Bennett

May 24, 2016

Just as the primary response of the Roman Catholic Church to the Biblical faith of the Reformers was the Counter-Reformation through the Jesuits, now Pope Francis a Jesuit leads the Roman Church’s endeavors to overturn the Reformation. Thus it is of vital importance that we understand want is involved in these endeavors so as not only to impede them but to advance Reformation faith.

In the sixteenth century, the most important response of the Roman Catholic Church to the biblical faith of the Reformers was the Counter-Reformation through the Jesuits.  In an aggressive manner, they led a movement to restore to the Roman Catholic Church the political and ecclesiastical power it had before the Reformation.  The Jesuits led the main Counter-Reformation efforts for four centuries by upholding Papal authority, restoring the sacramental system, and promoting mysticism along with superstitions to those many nations that had been touched by the biblical principles of the Reformation.  They sought out persons of position and power and worked at gaining favor by those who were in their circles of influence, particularly by teaching their children.

This Jesuitical practice was incorporated into Vatican Council II of 1962-1965.  Its major accomplishment was a planned strategy of false ecumenism.  The resolve was that all other “Christian” institutional denominations and their members are now to be drawn back into full communion under Papal Rome.  Thus, since Vatican Council II, Papal Rome has been working tirelessly to have itself recognized as the only Christian Church.  All others, especially Evangelicals, are designated as “separated brethren.” and may only obtain recognition as authentic Christians by returning to union with the Mother Church.  Thus the Roman Church continues to work towards the time when she will be accepted as in fact the Head of Christendom.

Endeavors to Overturn the Reformation through the Lutheran World Federation (LWF)

In 2016, the skilled Jesuit, Pope Francis, leads the Roman Church’s latest activities to overturn the Reformation.  It is of vital importance that we understand what is involved in these activities so as not only to obstruct them but also to advance Reformation faith.  On January 25, 2016, the Catholic News Service reported that Pope Francis would visit Sweden on October 31, 2016,

“to participate in an ecumenical service and the beginning of a year of activities to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  Pope Francis will lead the ecumenical commemoration in Lund alongside Bishop Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation, and the Rev. Martin Junge, federation general secretary, said a joint press release by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the LWF.”[1]

The apostasy of the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation has already been attested to, when on October 31, 1999, they together issued an accord entitled, “The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.”[2]  The official common statement under the heading entitled, “The Justified as Sinner,” stated, “We confess together that in Baptism the Holy Spirit unites one with Christ, justifies, and truly renews the person.”[3]

Biblical truth, however, is that the believer’s faith cannot be based on any physical work whatsoever, as true faith is in Christ Jesus’ perfect life, and sacrifice alone justifies a person by grace alone through faith alone.[4]  To claim that the causative effects “in Baptism” justifies an individual before the Holy God is to attempt to negate the Lord’s grace and His finished work on the cross.  It is “to preach another gospel.”[5]  Justification by God’s grace alone through faith alone was Martin Luther’s great principle, the very principle that the Lutheran World Federation totally compromised in 1999 through an extended ecumenical dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church.  

The Rome Church Advances its Ecumenical Grip on the Church of England

Furthermore, on February 9, 2016, the same Catholic News Service reported that,

“…[the] archbishop of Westminster hosted an evening service at the former home of King Henry VIII.  It is the first time a service has been conducted at the palace’s Chapel Royal according to the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church in more than 450 years.”[6]

This latest intrusion was predictable since Pope Benedict XVI made a Papal visit to the United Kingdom in September of 2010.  The visit was called “an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen ties between the United Kingdom and the Holy See on global initiatives, as well as the important role of faith in creating strong communities.”[7]  The Pontiff addressed the British civil society at Westminster Hall [both houses of Parliament].” [8]

Although King Henry VIII broke politically with Papal Rome, he personally never renounced Roman Catholic doctrine.  Consequently, the present-day Church of England, represented by the Archbishop of Westminster and mimicking Roman Catholic doctrine, is being ever more closely united with the apostate Roman Church by ecumenical dialogue, precisely as Vatican Council II document No. 32 stated is the Papacy’s objective.[9]  

Now, in 2016, the two reports that we have documented announce the realization of 500 years of papal efforts to “nullify” the Reformation.  It is necessary, therefore, to review the historical facts of the Reformation in order to demonstrate that the intended Roman Catholic ecumenical meetings with both the president of Lutheran World Federation {LWF) and the Archbishop of Westminster are specifically intended to promote apostate betrayals of the Reformation faith. 

Authentic Reformation Faith

Martin Luther in Germany; John Calvin, Lefevre, and Farel in France; and Zwingli in Switzerland all represent authentic Reformation faith.  The essential nature of their Reformation faith was salvation before the Holy God by His grace alone.  United by the truth of God’s Word, they believed that each individual is saved by God’s grace alone as Scripture states, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”[10]  They each taught the biblical truth that,  “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…that he [God] might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”[11]

The Reformation possessed definite characteristics, many of which set it apart from any other revival in history.  One of the distinguishing features was its territorial outreach.  It began simultaneously and independently in various European countries.  Men such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Lefevre, and Zwingli preached in unison against rituals of Romanism and exalted faith in Christ alone as the sole means of salvation.  Although Luther is called the originator of the Reformation, the other Reformers, also proponents of Scripture alone, being the basis of truth, preached the same gospel of grace.

Sola Scriptura: The Power Principle of the Reformation

After what seemed endless years floundering in the heretical Papal Tradition, seeing the light of the Reformation, Europe began to come to biblical Christian faith.  Martin Luther spoke eloquently to the heart of God’s people when he said, “Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason–I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other–my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen.”[12]  Indeed, Luther had simply discovered what had been the standard attested to by our Lord and His Apostles.  In the wilderness temptation, the Lord Jesus three times rebuffed the prince of the devils, saying, “It is written.”  For example, “he answered and said, it is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”[13]  In stating, “It is written,” the Lord used the precise phrase that is used eighty times in the Holy Bible.  This repeated phrase underlines its importance.  The Lord’s complete acceptance of the authority of the written Word is evident in His words, “Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For verily, I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.”[14]  So elsewhere it is written, “Thou hast magnified thy Word above all thy name.”[15]  The Reformers bowed in submission to the sole authority of God’s Word, as the Apostle Paul had taught them, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”[16]

Thus, Luther and the Reformers whom the Lord raised up at that time knew that a person’s conscience is bound to God’s written Word: “Thy Word is truth.[17]  Indeed, all true disciples must acknowledge that there is an absolute standard by which a thing may be judged to be truth or falsehood, and afterward pleasing or displeasing to God.  It is not possible to own Jesus Christ as Master or Lord and simultaneously refuse the rule of the Father’s Word in and by Him.  If a person loves God he will love His Word alone; that is, without the contamination of tradition.  “Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.[18]  A person cannot say he loves God and not love His Word; for the marks of authentic spiritual affection are obvious in Scripture: “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.”[19]

Having placed their faith in subjection to God’s written Word, the Reformers could not do otherwise than condemn the false Roman Catholic dogma that “Sacred Tradition” was essential to the knowledge of the truth.  Yet this untrue belief remains the system of belief of the Church of Rome as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together and communicate one with the other.”  The Catechism of the Catholic Church also states, “And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit.”  “As a result the [Roman Catholic] Church…does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the Holy Scriptures alone.  Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.”[20]

Learning the Way of Truth and Life for the Reformers

At the time of the Reformation, scholarship and the pursuit of truth had become a staple of life.  A great friendship and fraternization developed among the Reformers, as the movement grew across Europe and the British Isles.  A frequent interchange of ideas ensued, and hospitality was freely extended.  One of the surprising features of the Re-formation was this extent of contact and cooperation among the Reformers as they encouraged each other in their efforts.  The Reformation spread with great rapidity.  Of course consolidations, refinements, and extensions were inevitable; but it is difficult to imagine so tremendous a revival on such a vast scale could be executed in so short a time, bringing with it a complete change in thought and in peoples’ lives.  This was necessarily providential; for at that time there were educated men who knew the Hebrew, Latin, and Greek necessary to read the Bible as it then existed.  And it was essential that the Bible be translated into the common language of each country so that the people would have the privilege of reading the Scriptures in their own tongue.  This task demanded scholarship.  All the preaching of many Luthers, Latimers, Zwinglis, Knoxes, and Wisharts would have failed to accomplish the Reformation if, at the same time, the Bible in the common language had not been provided for the people.  If at the moment Latimer was preaching at Cambridge, it had not happened that Tyndale, who had fled to the Continent, was smuggling back thousands of copies of the English New Testament so that every Englishman could read the way of salvation for himself, there would have been no Reformation in England.  A similar situation occurred in Germany, France, and other countries.

The Reformation proper, the break with Roman Catholic totalitarianism, was accomplished in a relatively short time.  The Reformation was a constant, all-encompassing moving of the Holy Spirit.  It was truly a glorious spiritual awakening when multitudes were freed from bondage of the superstition and ritualism of an apostate Papacy, and converted by the Gospel of Grace.  The recovery of the sole authority of Scripture led to obedience to God and His Word, just as the rediscovery of the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone led every true believer into direct and personal contact with the God of revival.

The Heritage of the Reformation

What then is the heritage of the Reformation?  How are we to learn from it for our time?  The Reformation itself was a revival, grounded not only in the Word of God, but also in prayer as each previous and subsequent revival has been.  Spurgeon clearly described the prayer that was the support sustaining the Reformation.  Spurgeon said, “Think not that Luther was the only man that wrought the Reformation! There were hundreds who sighed and cried in secret, ‘O God, how long?’: in the cottages of the Black Forest, in the homes of Germany, on the hills of Switzerland, in the palaces of Spain, in the dungeons of the Inquisition and the green lanes of England.”[21]  Thus, prayer was the bedrock of this great movement as the dedicated prayer requests of numberless hearts across Europe pleaded the Lord to send a mighty moving of His Spirit.

The first great awakening after the Reformation occurred in the 18th century in both America and Britain, which was associated with Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield.  Prior to the outpouring of the Lord’s grace, we find prayer in the lives of these men and in the lives of their associates.  Also, in Ulster Northern Ireland in 1859, and the end of the 19th century, and in the beginning of the 20th century at Wales, prayer anticipated these Reformations.

Conclusion

The Reformers proclaimed in their biblical teaching that God alone is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in His being, goodness, holiness, justice, power, truth, and wisdom.  Thus, He alone hears prayers; He alone is the all Holy One; He alone is the Holy Father; in a word, to God alone be the glory. Thus, plans for Pope Francis to visit Sweden on October 31, 2016, and the Archbishop of Westminster hosting an evening service at the former home of King Henry VIII, are obvious examples of the Roman Church’s apostasy.  In 2016, sin indeed abounds.  The holiness of God, the fear of God, the conviction of sin, and the gospel of grace are necessary.  With all this abounding sin and deception, how do we live and reign with Christ Jesus at this time?  The Scripture gives us the answer, “For if by one mans offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.”[22]  As you receive the abundant grace given by Christ, you are redeemed from the dominion of death; you will live and reign with Christ as you are sanctified daily through His Word by the Holy Spirit, and by constant fellowship with Him.  Also with Him, you shall reign forever and glorify Him for all eternity.  Believe on Him alone and you will be secure in Him, “to the praise of the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved.”[23]

It is by the power of grace of the Lord Jesus Christ alone that we can truly live the Christian life, as did the Reformers in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.  The Lord’s sacrifice is for the believer, in that He substituted Himself in the place of sinners who would come to believe, and thus satisfied the law on their behalf.  So authentic was this substitution that His sacrifice for them eliminated all necessity of punishment.  In becoming the substitute for His people, Christ Jesus took their legal responsibility.  In the wonderful words of Scripture, “when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”[24]  The Lord God has promised to be a Father to true believers—that they shall be His sons and daughters.  This is the greatest honor possible.  What rank ingratitude that anyone should slander such a gift and spurn Christ Jesus and eternal life in favor of the apostate Roman Catholic Church.  Hence, the Lord promised, “all that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”[25]  Those who come at the call of God are given to Christ, because it is through His blood alone that they can be saved.  The Lord God, by His Spirit, convinces of sin, righteousness, and judgment those who acknowledge their iniquity and their need of salvation.  Is the Lord God calling you?  Only in the Lord Jesus Christ is found freedom and eternal life!  By His grace believe on Him and Him alone, “for by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”[26]

Please make the article below known to your family and church members, and if possible have it posted on the Internet.

I would like to have your response to the article with any proposals that you may have. You can email me at; richardmbennett@yahoo.com  Or else send your comments to Pastor Glenn with whom I work at; bereanbeaconmail@yahoo.com

Thank you,

Richard Bennett

[Link to original here]

[1] www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2016/01/25/pope-francis-to-visit-sweden-for-reformation-commemoration/   2/23/2016

[2] www.bereanbeacon.org/new-blog/2015/10/17/the-catholic-lutheran-accord

[3] Lutheran-Catholic Accord, “The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,” October 31, 1999, Sect. 4.4

[4] John 6:29; Romans 2:28, 29; Ephesians 2:8, 9; Colossians 2:11; Romans 3:21-26

[5]  Galatians 1:9

[6] www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3439293/Hampton-Court-Palace-chapel-holds-Catholic-service-Henry-VIII-broke-away-Rome-16th-century.html  5/18/2016

[7] https://zenit.org/articles/uk-queen-government-welcome-papal-visit

[8] http://www.zenit.org/article-28654?l=english

[9] Vatican Council II Document “Reflections and Suggestions Concerning Ecumenical Dialogue”  August. 1970

[10] Ephesians 2:8-9

[11] Romans 3:23-24, 26

[12] http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1501-1600/martin-luthers-most-noble-words-11629925.html

[13] Matthew 4:4

[14] Matthew 5:17-18

[15] Psalm 138:2

[16] 2 Timothy 3:16, 17

[17] John 17:17

[18] Psalm 119:140

[19] Jeremiah 15:16

[20] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Para. 80, 81 and 82

[21] www.the-highway.com/revival-reformation_Lamb.html 2/23/2016

[22] Romans 5:17

[23] Ephesians 1:6

[24] Galatians 4:4-5

[25] John 6.37

[26] Ephesians 2:8-9

J.C. Ryle: “No peace with Rome…”

“…The spurious liberality of the day we live in helps on the Romeward tendency. It is fashionable now to say that all sects should be equal, that all creeds should be regarded with equal favor and respect, and that there is a substratum of common truth at the bottom of all kinds of religion, whether Buddhism, Mohammadanism or Christianity! The consequence is that myriads of ignorant folks begin to think there is nothing peculiarly dangerous in the tenets of papists — any more than in the tenets of Methodists, Independents, Presbyterians or Baptists, and that we ought to let Romanism alone, and never expose its unscriptural and Christ-dishonoring character.

The consequences of this changed tone of feeling, I am bold to say, will be most disastrous and mischievous, unless it can be checked. Once let popery get her foot again on the neck of England — and there will be an end of all our national greatness! God will forsake us, and we shall sink to the level of Portugal and Spain!

With Bible reading discouraged,
with private judgment forbidden,
with the way to Christ’s cross narrowed or blocked up,
with priestcraft re-established,
with auricular confession set up in every parish,
with monasteries and nunneries dotted over the land,
with women everywhere kneeling like serfs and slaves at the feet of clergymen,
with schools and colleges made seminaries of Jesuitism,
with free thought denounced and anathematized,
with all these things — the distinctive manliness and independence of the British character will gradually dwindle, wither, pine away and be destroyed, and England will be ruined! And all these things, I firmly believe, will come unless the old feeling about the value of Protestantism can be revived.

I warn all who read this message, and I warn my fellow churchmen in particular, that the times require you to awake and be on your guard. Beware of Romanism, and beware of any religious teaching which, wittingly or unwittingly, paves the way to it. I beseech you to realize the painful fact that the Protestantism of this country is gradually ebbing away, and I entreat you, as Christians and patriots to resist the growing tendency to forget the blessings of the English Reformation.

For Christ’s sake, for the sake of the Church of England, for the sake of our country, for the sake of our children — let us not drift back to Roman Catholic ignorance, superstition, priestcraft and immorality! Our fathers tried Popery long ago, for centuries, and threw it off at last with disgust and indignation. Let us not turn the clock back and return to Egypt. Let us have no peace with Rome — until Rome abjures her errors, and is at peace with Christ. Until Rome does that, the vaunted reunion of Western churches, which some talk of, and press upon our notice, is an insult to Christianity.

Read your Bibles and store your minds with scriptural arguments. A Bible-reading laity is a nation’s surest defense against error….

I entreat my readers, beside the Bible and Articles — to read history, and see what Rome did in days gone by. Read how she trampled on liberties, plundered your forefathers pockets, and kept the whole nation of England ignorant, superstitious and immoral….

And do not forget that Rome never changes. It is her boast and glory that she is infallible, and always the same.

Read facts, standing out at this minute on the face of the globe, if you will not read history. What has made Italy and Sicily what they were until very lately? Popery. What has made the South American states what they are? Popery. What has made Spain and Portugal what they are? Popery. What has made Ireland what she is in Munster, Leinster and Connaught? Popery. What makes Scotland, the United States, and our own beloved England the powerful, prosperous countries they are, and I pray God they may long continue? I answer, unhesitatingly, Protestantism, a free Bible and the principles of the Reformation. Oh, think twice before you cast aside the principles of the Reformation! Think twice before you give way to the prevailing tendency to favor popery and go back to Rome!

The Reformation . . .
found Englishmen steeped in ignorance — and left them in possession of knowledge;
found them without Bibles — and placed a Bible in every parish;
found them in darkness — and left them in comparative light;
found them priest-ridden — and left them enjoying the liberty which Christ bestows;
found them strangers to the blood of atonement, to faith and grace and real holiness — and left them with the key to these things in their hands;
found them blind — and left them seeing,
found them slaves — and left them free!

Forever let us thank God for the Reformation! It lighted a candle which we ought never to allow to be extinguished or to burn dim. Surely I have a right to say that the times require of us a renewed sense of the evils of Romanism, and of the enormous value of the Protestant Reformation!”

-J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (1879).