Monday, August 17, 2009

God's Sovereignty, History, and the Reformation

Darlene (Eastern Orthodox) wrote:

"Could not one use the same kind of reasoning as to why Islam emerged and flourished for why cults have become so popular in the U.S. or for that matter, why there are so many different Protestant denominations?

Your argument is: The Orthodox were a poor witness of the gospel by their actions and false teachings. Therefore, this led the way for Islam to emerge, becoming a driving force in the regions of the EO churches.

Now, apply it to the Protestant Reformation. The reason there are so many disputes/disagreements within Protestantism is because of the Reformation, when conscience and Sola Scriptura were put before the authority of the Church."

The short answer is that God in His sovereignty has allowed all the problems in history; both the rise of Islam and the Protestant Reformation and the dis-unity in Protestantism. But much of the dis-unity within Protestantism is a lack of applying Sola Scriptura, not Sola Scriptura itself. Local church authority with qualified elders and proper application of church discipline is certainly part of the need of the modern church today. The later flourishing of many different Protestant groups is more related to the breakup of the Medieval Synthesis and the breakup of the marriage between church and state and the freedoms of the modern world. The more unbiblical expressions of Protestantism put subjective experience and “conscience” before Sola Scriptura.

But ultimately, just as God allowed Islam to over run areas that were Christian, God, in His sovereignty has seen fit to allow all the disunity and false doctrines and violations of Sola Scriptura. (see I Corinthians 11:19) I will flesh this out more in future posts.

Also, if you back up and realize the disunity in Protestantism is not the fault of Sola Scriptura per say; but the false claims of Sola Scriptura with subjective experience and bad exegesis of Scripture.

But you need to back up a little in history on the Protestant Dis-unity. Peter Kreeft rightly lays the blame for the Protestant Reformation on the Roman Catholic Church itself, for failing to preach the gospel: “This is the root issue because the essence of the gospel is at stake here. How do I get right with God? This was the issue of the first century church at Galatia, a church Protestants see as making the same essential mistake as the Catholics — preaching the gospel of good works. Protestants dare not compromise on this issue or they would be turning to what Paul calls “another gospel”. Thus his harsh words to the Galatians, the only church for which he has not one word of praise:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel — not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. “ [from Galatians 1:6-9]

How do I resolve the Reformation? Is it faith alone that justifies, or is it faith and good works? Very simple. No tricks. On this issue I believe Luther was simply right; and this issue is absolutely crucial. As a Catholic I feel guilt for the tragedy of Christian disunity because the church in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was failing to preach the gospel. “ Peter Kreeft, “Toward Re-Uniting the Church” (my emphasis)  (no longer there)

Update:  Unfortunately, Peter Kreeft has re-written his article, and for what I remember, Scott Hahn really criticized his statement here, and he then re-wrote this, which was in early editions of one of his books.  


Darlene said...


I read your response to me. Thank you for taking the time to do so. I need to gather my thoughts and contemplate what you have written. I'll comment when the time is right and I have thought things through.

May you be blessed this day in Jesus and always.


Ken said...

Thanks Darlene,
I hope you saw the other responses in the combox; and also the new post I put up on "Why and How did Churches become Mosques in the Middle East?"

This should become an interesting series.

I hope and pray that the God of the Scriptures, the Holy Trinity, will give you true peace and strength and guidance from the hardships and turmoils that that cultic group dealt to your heart and mind.

Darlene said...


Thank you for your kind words. It is the Blessed Triune God who gives me comfort indeed. Much of the cult baggage has been stripped away thanks to His love and mercy. Still, I have no doubt strains of it linger, of which I may not even be aware. I've had to learn of Christ's forgiveness, being compassionate toward those who offended me. It has been a hard yet joyful lesson.

I've been away from COBU (abbrev. for Church of Bible Understanding) for over 20 yrs. Many born-again Christians that I met after leaving there didn't know what to make of me. Some thought I had a demon, others told me they wanted nothing to do with my "cult baggage," some were astonished that I could have been taken in so easily. Didn't I read my Bible, they would ask. Read it? We studied it profusely. We memorized large passages of Scripture. We prided ourselves on "rightly dividing the word of truth." We knew how to debate Scripture better than most Christians. That was our hallmark.

So, when I am encouraged by Reformed Christians to "read the Scriptures and pray" to discover the truth of the Reformed position it reminds me of the very thing we said in COBU to proove OUR position. And you can probably gather that we weren't Reformed; not by any stretch of the imagination.

The irony of it all is that there were many who were changed by God's grace and encountered Christ while there. I certainly did. Truly, our Lord Jesus is merciful and overlooks much foolishness on the part of us humans. :)

As regards the Reformed position, I cannot be persuaded by it. Perhaps it's due to having attended a Wesleyan-Methodist College. Or my time spent in COBU in which we fiercely opposed OSAS. Even though at that time I hadn't yet heard of the term TULIP, I recall that we opposed the teachings of what ULIP meant. Total Depravity would have been the only tenet we would have defended.

Many of our friends fr. COBU who had left joined a Reformed church. Eventually my husband & I followed suit and became members as well. I became very familiar w. the doctrines of grace. Suffice it to say, though try as I may, and with a sincere heart and mind, I could not be convinced of Calvinism. After attending that church for 10 yrs., we moved on. There was no bitterness or hard feelings. Our closest and dearest friends are still Calvinists so I am reminded of TULIP & Calvinist doctrine frequently.

I am still inquiring into Orthodoxy and will meet with Father 'N' this week. Still, I pray, read Holy Scripture and entrust my soul to a faithful Creator.

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

Never once in all his fourteen epistles does the Holy Apostle Paul has anything bad to say regarding good works. (Quite on the contrary). The Judaizers he preached against did not teach his Churches to do good works, they taught them that their faith in Christ and their fruits of repentance (i.e., good works) are worthless without the keeping of the Law of Moses: circumcision, dietary laws, and ritual washings.

P.S.: word-verif. = "partake"

Ken said...

Interesting story. I was amazed when I googled this "church of Bible Understanding" that I had not heard of this before.

You may want to try listening to and reading John Piper.

His sermons are free on line.

He does a great job of explaining TULIP
Go to sermons and you can look them up by Bible book.

or Dr. White at

Also, Chosen for Life, by Sam Storms

When God Weeps, by Joni Ereackson Tada and Steve Estes is the best book I have ever read on God's sovereignty and suffering.

Darlene said...

Hello again, Ken,

You said of John Piper, "He does a good job of explaining TULIP."

Ken, I was "TULIPED" out. My husband and I used to meet with Calvinist Christians and read A.W. Pink, Martin Lloyd-Jones & Spurgeon. My husband has a collection of C. H. Spurgeon's sermons in pamphlets and "Lectures to My Students." While I haven't read all of Calvin's Institutes, I am familiar with a sufficient portion of this work.

Our pastor at the Reformed Calvinist church was a staunch 5 pointer and his sermons were based on Calvinist theology. My closest friend of at least 25 yrs. is a Calvinist. My husband's two closest friends are Calvinist.

I know the TULIP backwards and forwards, upside down and inside out. Each petal has been carefully plucked and withers on the ground.

From my experience, it seems Calvinists can't accept that anyone could accurately understand TULIP and reject it. Just recently I had a discussion with my Calvinist friends in which I let them know I don't adhere to TULIP. You could hear a pin drop afterward! The air was so thick you could cut it with a knife! But then, I so kindly reminded them that they are not from the purest strain of Calvinism, being Reformed Baptists and all; 1689 London Baptist Confession, bah! Whasupwithat?? T'aint the Westminster Confession good enough? Or what about the Belgic Confession? Seems some Calvinists are closer to Calvin's beliefs than others. :) Hope ya know this is just a bit of good-natured banter.

I was greatly influenced by John Wesley's teachings, such as his quadrilateral of Scripture, Tradition, Reason, & Experience. But, I'm closer to Luther in my understanding of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. And I lean toward the Mennonites as regards pacifism.

But, I am evermore and increasingly drawn to Eastern Orthodoxy.

So what does this make me, schizophrenic? :D

Ken said...

"each petal has been plucked . . . "

So, you don't believe in the total Depravity of human hearts?

Genesis 6:5 "every imagination of the thoughts of man's hearts was only evil continuously"

Mark 7:14-23

Something I don't understand about Eastern Orthodoxy, is that they reject the doctrine of original inherited sin (They say this comes from Augustine's bad reading of Romans 5:12 from Latin; cause Augustine didn't know Greek very well.)

John Murray covers this in his "the Imputation of Adam's sin"

Theosis or Deification is a problem in EO of what it communicates. Santification and glorification and being conformed to the image of Christ, yes; Deification, no.

For me, I would go crazy without the bedrock stability of God's sovereignty and effectual grace.

God has to draw us by His powerful effectual grace. John 6:44

He has to take out our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26-27

He has to make us alive from our deadness in sin. Ephesians 2:1-5

He has to free us from the bondage of our wills in sin. John 8:31-36

He has to open our hearts. Acts 16:14

He has to give us repentance. Acts 11:18; 5:31; 2 Timothy 2:24-26

Once we understand the T and the I (the Effectual power of grace to overcome a sinful, prideful, dead, bondage of the will, hard heart);

The other parts of TULIP fall into place.

But, you are right in once sense, you have many other voices from all those other theologies crowding your heart and mind; it seems.

Ken said...

some more friendly theological banter:

Yes, to me, the believer's baptism view is the most biblical view. This is probably the earliest doctrine where the early church started drifting from the Scriptures, by interpreting it as "baptismal regeneration". Luther could not pull himself away from his RC background on that issue. (Lord's supper issue also)

Calvin's "covenant infant baptism" was a step in the right direction; but we are all friends and that is a secondary issue.

See a good group of Reformed folks, Presb. Baptist, Bible, independents, Dispensational, "Charismatic Calvinists" --
"Together for the Gospel"

Wesley's "reason and experience" and traditon over-ruled a proper interpretation of Scripture on many issues.

As for the pacifism of the Mennonites; that viewpoint was definitely the majority view of the Early church for the first 380 years; and is a great contrast with the first 400 years of Islam.

However, remember the old gutted Orthodox church picture that James Swan put up on his post that began the interactions with you here? I have been in that church, in Fethiye, Turkey. there are many others like that today in Turkey.

Another example of my theme of "what happened to the early church and how did the churches become Mosques?"

Without a balanced understanding of separation of church and state and that the state has the right to defend itself and wage "just war"; based on Romans 13:1-8; Europe would have been run over by the Arabs in France (732 AD, Battle of Tours) and later in Vienna, (1500s)etc., if they the Christian cultures had not adapted the "just war" theory of Augustine and separation of powers that Calvin seems to have developed.

ephremgall said...

My name is Bill Gall; I was in COBU from 1975-79. After twenty years with the Christian Missionary Alliance, the Baptists, and the Mennonites, and seeing the intractible alternative positions on matters relating to salvation in Christ, I jettisoned reliance on individual Bible interpretation and embraced the Eastern Orthodox way of understanding how the Faith is to be understood and passed on. The Russian word 'sobornost" describes it fairly well.
We do believe in original sin, though not as Calvinist's do; original death might be a more precise way to say it. Deification is a term for what 2 Peter 1:4 speaks of.
You're the first other ex-cobuer I've found that has explored Eastern Orthodoxy. I would be glad to talk to you about it.

ephremgall said...

My (Bill Gall) main email is