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October 26, 2020 12:01 am
When the Reformation faced opposition in the 16th century, John Calvin wrote to explain why restoring the church to the teachings of Scripture could not wait. Today, W. Robert Godfrey gathers insights from Calvin for the church today.
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Today on Renewing Your Mind.
Paul has to write to the Corinthian church to reform to get them back in shape and so the notion that the church constantly needs to be reformed. Shouldn't be a huge surprise and thus we want to try to study what if you discovered that the priorities of new church and the priorities found in God's word different worlds apart. That's exactly what happened in the 16th century women like Martin Luther and John Calvin worked to bring the church back to a biblical standard all this week on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. W. Robert Godfrey will make the case that reformation is needed today just as much as it was then beginning a new topic today and the topic is the necessity of reforming the church then and now and were taking that title largely from John Calvin. Calvin is good for so many things as stealing a title is another good thing to do.
John Calvin wrote a treatise about 120 pages entitled the necessity of reforming the church will talk about why he wrote it and why he wrote it the way he wrote it, but it seems to me that it is a helpful treatise to get us thinking about the church, the importance of the church. The centrality of the church.
We all remember the Christ said I will build my church on the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Establishing the church is the very center and heart of what Christ was setting out to do in his redeeming work. Jesus is gathering of people. Jesus is creating a new humanity, and that is the church that he is building and when you look at the history of the church knew very soon discover that over and over again. The church needs to be reformed. The church needs to be reordered, renewed, revived, restructured, reshaped all the readings re-comes from Latin meaning again while we have to do this again. We have to form it again. We have to make it new again, and this is a continuing need not because Christ's work wasn't finished in perfect not because God's word isn't clear in directing the church. But because of this will come as a terrible shock to the church is composed of sinners, you probably never knew that but it's true. The church is composed of sinners and sinners not only get things wrong, morally but they get things wrong intellectually and theologically and liturgically an ecclesiastic life, and every other kind of late it's it's a problem that the church is constantly going off track. We see that in the Old Testament. Psalm 80 gives voice to that where the psalmist wrote restore us, O God, let your face shine, that we may be saved or Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people's prayers. The people in the old covenant experience that alienation from God that occurred from time to time and had to pray that they might be restored and we see it already in the New Testament. Don't wait that a Paul has to write to the Corinthian church to reform to get them back in shape. It should come really as as a surprise to us that a church founded by an apostle who spent protracted time with them could so quickly get so much wrong and yet that's exactly what we find in the New Testament, and so the notion that the church constantly needs to be reformed. Shouldn't be a huge surprise and that's what we want to try to study the. The case being made by John Calvin in the 16th century on the reform of the church and what we can learn from that for our day because again I don't want to shock you.
The church is imperfect today. The church is imperfect today.
But not only is this treatise about the church and the centrality of the church and the reform of the church to bring it closer to God's ideal for the church but Calvin is talking about the necessity of the reform of the church. What what Calvin is saying is there are times in the history of the church where the D formation of the church has become so serious, so problematic that we can't wait for reform. We have to do it now. There is a necessity for reforming the church now one of the questions will one look at his army persuaded that there is that necessity for the reform of the church now, so were going to try to follow the mind of John Calvin, in looking at his day and then try to take the insights of John Calvin from his treatise on the necessity of reforming the church to look at the church for our day one of the things we'll see is that Calvin lived in a very different day from our day.
Calvin world was a different world. Calvin society was a different society and while that sometimes makes it a little difficult for us to get back into that world and understand entirely the argument he's making.
In light of that world. It also means that this treatise coming from another world, not quite another planet but from another another time comes to us with a quite different perspective which I think will help us see ourselves more clearly know it's sort of like if you had the opportunity to spend some time in another culture or another part of the world. Suddenly you see yourself more clearly than you had seen yourself and all your very presence causes the people you're visiting.
Perhaps to see themselves in ways I never seen themselves before, and that's what I hope will happen for us as we think along with Calvin on how and why you wrote the necessity of reforming the church for his own day and then how that helps us see the church in our day and what we should aspire to in terms of the reform of the church today so we need to begin by looking at the setting for this treatise.
The treatise was written in 1544 1544 now. You all remember all that was happening in Europe in 1544 so there's no maybe I should review just a little bit what's happening in Europe in 1544. Calvin is a relatively young man about 35 he's already been a pastor in Geneva and then been exiled to the city of Strasburg and going back to Geneva so he didn't have a glittering success first time round is a pastor but he's already established himself as a marvelous theologian as one of the most talented of what we might call the second generation reformers and so he's he's a rising star we could almost say in the horizon of theologians amongst the Protestants.
Luther is still alive. Luther dies in February 2015 46. So at the beginning of 1544 Luther is nearing the end of his life. The end of his career, but he still very much a presence and power, and things have been extraordinarily complicated and difficult politically in Europe and 1544. The two greatest political powers in Europe are at war with each other. The Emperor Charles V is at war with King Francis the first of France and they are at war a good deal of time that there on the thrones with each other. This is a regular problem and it's a regular problem because Charles V as the holy Roman Emperor rules not only of what we usually think of as the Holy Roman Empire, namely Germany and Austria in that region. But he also rules the Netherlands and Spain and a significant part of Italy so there's this sort of circle of the imperial power in Europe and what's of the center of the circle. France so Francis feeling very much encircled and threatened and France has the advantage of being a single concentrated country and Charles has the disadvantage of a vast lands but there were spread out all these various lands have their own traditions, their own politics, their own ways of behaving their own languages and they all expect Charles to be living with them.
So what is in Spain. The Dutch are upset when his in the Netherlands, the Spanish or upset when he is in Italy. Everyone's upset and it's it's a huge problem of governance and there's constant, almost constant war between the Emperor and the king of France and that's going on right there in 1543, a new war had broken out and France so desperate in this situation has made an alliance of military alliance with the Turkish Sultan Suleiman the magnificent.
This is outraging Europe a Christian king has allied himself with a Muslim ruler who is constantly threatening Europe. Suleiman has already overrun Hungary. He's almost to the gates in Austria are Europe is threatened in a very serious sort of way, and the king of France has made an alliance with this man against the holy Roman Emperor, so there sort of all these scandals going on of political alliance of warfare and Charles is also facing the growth of Lutheranism in the Empire, particularly in Germany.
There are no significant numbers of Lutheran territories in the Empire.
Lutheranism seems to keep growing and the Emperor is very upset about this is a wonderful new biography of Charles V. It's just been published: Emperor it's it's really quite readable and an interesting ROI for since Bob what you find interesting.
Not everyone finds interesting, but I a purist in history inspected by Jeffrey Parker wonderful historian wonderful writer what what comes through in this biography is that Charles apparently never seriously thought about Protestantism as an option.
He was never tempted to think about religion. He was a traditional rather pious, putting aside the issue of women pious Roman Catholic, so he was persuaded that the Roman church was the true church and that these heretics needed to be opposed and so he would regularly return to his German territories to a meeting of what was called the diet. The diet is roughly like a parliament. It's a gathering of princes and leaders of various territories and cities, and the diet has to meet because the diet has to approve taxes and the levying of troops. Now if you're at war you need money and you need troops.
These are these are foundational and one of the things that really strikes me in reading this biography of Charles V is that in the 16th century governments by large had to pay for wars with ready money. There was a paper money. They couldn't print money. There were limits to what they could borrow and so you can only fight a war if you had money and you had to get then the diet to approve the collection of taxes they actually had stop wars because they run out of money. I mean it's a whole new thought to me but that was the problem. So he's coming in the midst of war facing the enemy in the East and the enemy in the South in France and he's desperate for money and for troops and the Lutheran princes know is desperate and that means they have leverage and that means that the religious question is going to be talked about again at the diet diets could meet, inspire, there was a meeting of the diet inspired not far from Voorhis back in the 20s 1526. There was a meeting expire. And that's where the Protestants got their name.
Very often on protestation to the Emperor and they became known as Protestants. After that, and they were granted expire in 1526. A measure of toleration. The game they played at these diets is the Emperor would say well you're all heretics and the Protestants would say who says so. And the Emperor would say the Pope says so and the Protestants would say well you know this really needs to be discussed at the General Counsel will present our case to account solicit what counsel says and the Emperor would say okay will postpone this until General Counsel. If you let me taxes and troops and so this game is been played several times and now were coming back to spire 1544.
He thought I'd forgotten all about the student. We come back to Inspiron 1544 and it's exactly the same situation. The Protestants are looking for toleration, the Emperor doesn't want to grant toleration, but he's willing to delay opposition in order to get money and troops to fight against the French and the Turks, and so in preparation for this diet. Martin boots are the great reformer at Strasbourg says we need a written document to make our case before the diet and who can we get to write a defense of what we've been doing, and Blitzer says let's ask Calvin to do. That's an interesting choice because there were not always good relations between the Lutherans and the reformed, but Calvin was not all that well known in 1544 so he was not as controversial to some of the Lutherans as he would become later, and in any case, boots are asks in Calvin writes the treatise and later Calvin's right hand man Theodore Baeza will say it was a brilliant treatise, a brilliant truth. So here we have laid out a brilliant treatise. Three. Presented to the Emperor at the diet on the necessity of reforming the church now this setting is crucial because it very much influences how Calvin writes the treatise if you're smart and you're asked to write something you'll ask the question for whom am I right, to whom is this directed who's going to read it. What's the outcome we want from this and we have to be really clear as we approach the streets. Calvin is not being asked to explain the whole of the Reformation. He's not being asked to present a careful theological argument for all that the Reformation is about, he's being asked to write basically to laypeople, not to theologians or ministers or priests or bishops. He's not being asked to offer a closely reason biblical exegesis or theological argument he's being asked to lay out the case why the church must be reformed now and that's what he does in a really rather intriguing way but as we go along. We need to keep in mind he's addressing non-theologians. Now I know everyone's a theologian, but some people are more self-consciously theologians than others, and he's addressing people who were not very self-consciously. Theologians and he's trying to move them, get them thinking near the beginning of the treatise.
He even says I'm directing this at the moderates. Now I wonder if he smiled when he wrote that because there weren't very many moderates left most people would made up their minds, we don't. Are they about living in a polarized society but 16th century Germany was very polarized, you have the Catholics on the one side and the Lutherans on the other and most of them were pretty convinced of their point of view there. There wasn't a huge amount of movement anymore and so I think Calvin is trying to to express a desire to be reasonable to address anybody who might be thinking about the problem of the church, but he's he's laying out a case then kind of on the most obvious issues he's going to talk about things that Lehman would notice and that's going to be his focus and we need to bear that in mind it's it's a very deliberate and a very interesting strategy that he pursues that were going to try to look at that and then try to apply it to our own time so he he writes this treatise and he divides it into three parts. The first looks at the present evils of the church. What's bad and then he looks at the remedies the Protestants have introduced what's changed and then he looks at the reason they had to do it right away without waiting. So he looks first at the evils then at the remedies and then at the necessities for change and really try to follow him and not accept or give us a report evils and remedies together and were going to ask what needs doing. That's for the evils and remedies part what needs doing in the church then and in the church now and then we'll look at the how to do it. The necessity of reform without waiting. So what to do how to do it. Interestingly, for me, that second part how to do it, but the necessity of reform without delay.
Calvin gives 45% of the treatise to that we might've thought he'd give a lot more attention to what needs doing, but he gives a lot of attention to how to do it. So were looking to spend quite as much time on how to do it or how to do is maybe not as complicated as it was in Calvin's time but that's what were going to try to do together were going to look at what needs doing. How to do it.
And Calvin in each of his sections talks about four topics so if you think about four topics of what needs doing what four topics would you look at what would be your topics out via a fun enterprise.
If we were to write down one of the four topics that we want to address. If we were writing a treatise on the necessity of reforming the church, what would we address.
Calvin addresses for topics. First of all, he addresses worship kind of interesting worship course is not a controversial topic in our day will come back to worship is the first topic, salvation is the second topic, sacraments is the third topic and church government is the fourth topic by my pause and think a minute, what's not on that list but we might immediately think biblical authority is not on that list relic comes in at several points but but these are complaints that Calvin calls the soul and body of the church, the soul of the church, and so is the soul remember is what makes your life. What's the difference between a living body, and a corpse. Calvin was set a soul that's the difference when the soul leaves the body becomes a corpse since it's the life-giving element that's what soldiers and the life-giving element of the church is worship and salvation and the body then, which is the instrument through which the sone were sacraments, and we will study those elements of the church in the coming days here on Renewing Your Mind within her teaching fellow Dr. W. Robert Godfrey is leading us through the study. His years as a church historian that really shine through in the series, as he explains important periods of Reformation in the church that this is the first time were airing these program so I hope you'll contact us today to reserve your copy of the series will send you the six messages on one DVD when you give a donation of any amount to look at your ministries.
You can reach us by phone at 800-435-4343. You can also make your request email@example.com the theology they grew out of the Reformation points to the foundation on which the church was built. It's interesting to note that I am large. The Reformation did not reach the Spanish-speaking world and so the announcement that the Reformation study Bible has been released in Spanish is truly monumental.
It's a study Bible that contains more than 1 million words of verse by verse and topical explanations plus theological notes, articles, and historic Christian creeds and confessions were thankful for your donations because you're the ones who make this work possible. Throughout history, the church is drifted into confusion on many topics tomorrow.
Dr. Gottfried continues a series with a look at the importance of reforming our understanding of salvation. If we get that one. We did everything we hope you'll join us tomorrow for Renewing Your Mind