Discussion Thought for the Day:
3 Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 there is one God and Father of all people, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all. Ephesians 4:3-6 (TEV)
2 The desire was also expressed for deliberation on what might be done about the dissension concerning our holy faith and the Christian religion, and to this end it was proposed to employ all diligence amicably and charitably to hear, understand, and weigh the judgments, opinions, and beliefs of the several parties among us to unite the same in agreement on one Christian truth, 3 to put aside whatever may not have been rightly interpreted or treated by either side,1 4 to have all of us embrace and adhere to a single, true religion and live together in unity and in one fellowship and church, even as we are all enlisted under one Christ. (1)
For, whereas we saw that there was need of peace to deliver and preserve the commonwealth from the many impending dangers, we found all things replete with enmities and dissensions; above all, the princes, to whom well-nigh the whole direction of matters has been intrusted by God, at enmity with each other. Whereas we deemed it necessary that there should be one fold and one shepherdc for the Lord’s flock, in order to confirm the integrity of the Christian religion, and the hope of heavenly things within us; the unity of the Christian name was well-nigh rent and torn asunder by schisms, dissensions, heresies. Whereas we could have wished the commonwealth safe and defended from the arms and insidious attacks of the unfaithful, yet, through our transgressions and the guilt of us all,—the wrath of God, forsooth, hanging over our sins,—Rhodes had been lost; Hungary harassed; war both by land and sea had been intended and planned against Italy, Austria, and Illyria; whilst our impious and ruthless enemy, the Turk, was never at rest, and deemed our own mutual enmities and dissensions his fitting opportunity for carrying out his designs with success (2)
I was messing around with some changes in my Logos Software last week, and I came across a crazy idea.
You see, my Bible software can take any of the thousands of texts and break them up into chunks. You can read them over a week, a month, 6 months a year or more.
So I figured I would use it, starting November 1st, to read through the Bible again in a year. While I was at it, it updated some of my books, so I thought about adding the Book of Concord, and just reading a small section of it over the next year. (Not academic reading, just a light survey. And for some reason, I then decided to add another work. Looking through the works, I saw various works of Luther, and Melancthon, of other works ranging from Martyn Lloyd Jones ( a famous British preacher) and Joseph Ratzinger (aka Pope Benedict XVI.)
For some reason, my mind kept coming back to The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent.
For those who are not theologians, putting the Book of Concord (which is the Lutheran accumulation of Doctrine in its early days) and the works Trent (which was somewhat written to counter the Lutherans, Calvinists and other early reformers) is like putting a Oklahoma and a Nebraska football fan in the same room. Or a room with a Red Sox and a Yankee Fan…. or splitting an atom. The two schools of thought are diametrically opposed to each other on many items (though on some they aren’t.)
They won’t match up, point against point, but this is not going to be an academic exercise, I am thinking of it more as a devotional exercise, a way to go back 500 years and see the heart of men who professed to follow God, and struggled to put what that means in writing. They were under pressure, both had an added incentive of trying to appease Kings so a war could be fought together against the Turks. They both had stubborn folk involved. Like I said, these documents were written back when wars were waged, and people killed over differences in doctrine.
What will come of it? I don’t know, Probably a few dozen blogs, probably some shaking of heads at my silliness. Maybe more confusion on my part. Hopefully some great discussions….
So far, one of the things that amazed me was the desire for the church to be one, they both shared that in the quotes above. I think they said it, hoping to convince by scripture and logic, and if not by force, the entire church to be one. Yet, that goal at least will be the same. They see the unity of the church as the basis of the survival of life as they know it, the ability to stand together.
Five hundred years later.. we still stand divided. I don’t commune with my friends who are Catholic priests, they don’t commune with me. Some of peers rejoice in this, some of our peers, like us, weep that a church could be so broken. But rarely do we sit down and strive for unity, rejoicing in the Christ who died for us, who on the day of His return will unify those He has called His children.
Maybe I am a hopeless daydreamer to think anything will come of this… then again…we’ve been given a ministry of reconciliation, of healing brokenness as people are drawn to Christ Jesus. So a little time spent pondering our common doctrine, and our radical differences, may be beneficial, if not, it should be at least interesting.
I would ask people who read this, and if any follow, over the next three years, to pray for all the people of God, no matter the name of their denomination, brotherhood, synod, or even the name of their church sign. Pray that we could find healing for our broken church in Christ and that brothers could eventually break bread together, or at least look forward to the day we can, as we stand before His throne, at the wedding feast of Jesus, and His Bride.
and Lord, have mercy on us all…..
(1) Tapperrt, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 24–25). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
(2) Buckley, T. A. (1851). The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (pp. 1–2). London: George Routledge and Co.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. 20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. John 17:14-21 (NLT)
236 A firm resolution: to abandon myself in Jesus Christ with all my wretchedness. Whatever he may want, at any moment, Fiat—let it be done! (2)
Four Hundred, ninety-seven years ago, a professor at a University posted the above as the introduction to discuss Ninety-Five thesis about Indulgences.
As far as I have read, his intent wasn’t to start a reformation, yet it is the anniversary of the publishing of this event that history notes as the start of the Protestant Reformation.
To quote one of the characters in a WEB Griffin novel, “i regret that it is was necessary”.
Indeed, I dread the celebration of the events that would follow, as the works of Luther went viral. As that viral nature exploded, as the conversation that he was intent on having didn’t occur. As the church began to splinter apart.
Please understand me, I fully acknowledge that the discussion was necessary, the truths that Luther re-discovered, especially that we cannot merit salvation on our own, that God comes to us in our wretchedness, Yet this was not Luther’s truth alone, and it needed to be understood, both head and heart.
What causes the regret is the division in the Body of Christ. The idea that one group can be kicked out, while another group can walk away. An idea that know has morphed into the idea that I can belong to a church, or denomination, and simply ignore that which it teaches that I don’t agree with completely.
Teachings on the sacraments? Who cares! Teaching about what is sin, and what isn’t? Don’t need to bother with that! Teaching about the gifts of the Spirit and the role of the church? Why bother, it doesn’t really affect me today, does it? Teaching about how to care for sinners, based on the love of Christ seen in His treating us who are sinners? Not necessary, just condemn them as an abomination. This is what the church has resulted in, because we choose to divide, rather than to reconcile.
Some treat the Protestant Reformation as if it was a spiritual “Independence Day”. As if it were a celebration a small portion of the church is now completely independent of the body of Christ. But the Body of Christ cannot be divided, the Invisible church is always that of one Lord, whom we trust in, One faith in Him, one Baptism where we are united with Christ. Given the ministry of reconciliation, not of further division, and definitely not of celebrating the division.
Celebrate what Luther discovered in regards to the gospel of Christ – AMEN! An awesome thing to celebrate. But not the division that occured then, in fact, maybe it is time to have those discussions, to pursue the truth that is found in Christ Jesus, to work to see the Church reconciled in Him, to abandon our wretchedness and find the glory of being united in Him.
Lord have mercy on us sinners….
(1) Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses.
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1004-1005). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.