Friday, December 29, 2006

Thomas Bradwardine, an Englishman, was also medieval theologian and scientist. He was born about the year 1290 and died during an outbreak of the plague (Black Death) in 1349. Bradwardine was one of the great intellects and scholars of his day. He was given the title Doctor Profundus (the Profound Doctor) because of his great ability and knowledge. He was, for a time, chaplain to King Edward III, and for a short time before his death, he was ordained Archbishop of Canterbury.

Bradwardine was an Augustinian in matters of salvation. He is one of the great medieval defenders of what has since come to be called Calvinism, though lived two hundred years before John Calvin was born. The good doctor’s best known work is entitled “De causa Dei contra Pelagium” (i.e. The Cause of God Against the Pelagians). Here is a quote from Bradwardine:
What injustice and cruelty can be charged to God because He chooses to predestinate and create one of His creatures for the service of another creature and both of them for His own service, praise, glory and honor? This is particularly true, since he punishes no man with eternal damnation unless such a man deserves it, that is to say, unless through his own sin he deservedly and justly requires eternal punishment.
This treatise is a very strong defense of the doctrines of predestination and election, written long before the Protestant Reformation, against those in the church at the time, who opposed doctrines of Grace and were teaching a salvation by works theology.

In this treatise the good doctor gives a strong defense of God’s predestining some unto eternal life and others unto reprobation. He also does a fine job defending the doctrine that we call the 5th point of Calvinism, which is the perseverance of the Saints. He argues that is so because the elect individual is predestined and the Holy Spirit preserves him in the faith and good works.

I truly believe that Calvinism is a doctrine found in Scripture and those who would to it and teach it do so from the Word of God. It is a doctrine which was taught and defended in Christ's Church, by godly men, long before John Calvin was born. I am sure Calvin would be alarmed that his name has been attached to this clear teaching of Scripture, because he would know that sinful men would only use his name as another excuse to shrink and hide from the Scriptures at this point.

Coram Deo,

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Who Are our Brethren?
I believe that the Roman Catholic Church, as a denomination, has very serious and dangerous errors in its doctrines and practice. If I did not believe this I would be a Roman Catholic today. Some Protestants believe that the Roman Catholic Church is completely apostate and not a “Church” of Jesus Christ at all. I do not believe this to be so.

Some Protestants believe that a Church cannot have doctrinal error and still be “Christian” Church. Of course these very same Protestants bleong to denominations that have their own errors, this is so because every church and every Christian is in error at some point. I think it is important to look at the Scriptures to find the biblical pattern of what is a (the?) true Church. Every church and every denomination today, every denomination in the past and in the future will err in doctrine and practice at some point(s). This does not necessarily make any of them apostate.

I have a broader understanding of what a true Church is than many (most) Reformed Christians. I believe the ancient creeds are a good measure and limit of what can be considered a “true” church. The Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Creed of Saint Athanasius and the statement of Chalcedon dealing with dual nature Christ, are the limits that we can go to in considering what is a Christian Church. Those outside these statements are no Christian Churches.

The Roman Catholic Church falls well within those broad parameters. I was baptised in the RCC and I received true, Trinitarian, Christian baptism.

When Paul was on his missionary journeys he went to the synagogues in each city that he visited. These synagogues were not the place to find the whole truth. They did not preach Christ and Him crucified; yet they were formerly true houses of worship. Paul did not shun them but went there to bring the truth.

If you read the epistles of Paul, you will find that most of them are written to churches that have grave doctrinal errors, yet in almost every case he greets the members of these churches as “brethren.” For example The Corinthian Church had serious problems, on many fronts. Some of its problems were moral, another problem was it’s was division into camps and there were doctrinal errors, yet in spite of this Paul writes and calls them “brethren.”

To the church of the Colossians he says, “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse.” Yet we know these believers had very serious errors in doctrine. They even prayed through intermediaries other than Christ, and Paul had to reprove them for this serious error.

To the churches of Galatia Paul admits these churches to be “true” churches. Notice also, that even to these most of erring of believers, after some very harsh words, Paul still refers to them as “brethren.” Remember these are “brethren” who are receiving “another” gospel, which is not a Gospel at all. Still Paul deals with these churches as Christian churches and with these people as Christian brethren.

I would also invite you to look at the seven Churches addressed in the book of Revelation. Here we have the Lord himself addressing these churches in Asia Minor. Some are solid and others are horribly in error, yet they are all addressed as churches of Jesus Christ.

I am Reformed. I hold to Covenant theology and paedobaptism and worship our covenant keeping God in that light. I believe that religious syncretism is sin and we should shun it. I do believe that the Roman Catholic Church has not done this at all points, but this does not mean that they are not a true church, nor does it mean that I cannot go there with my grandfather, who is a Roman Catholic and a man who loves Christ.

I do those Christians who disagree with me on this point will look carefully at the churches in the New Testament. They have, at times, serious and dangerous errors, and these errors are dealt with by the Apostles or Christ, sometimes they are dealt with severally, yet these same churches are considered real churches and the members of these churches are addressed as brethren.

I strongly believe that the Bible gives a broader view of what constitutes a “true” church then many modern Christians will admit. I also believe that the Word of God shows who we are to consider “brethren” is broader than many church members today will agree with.

Coram Deo,

Sunday, December 17, 2006

In my own theology I'm Reformed, that means I believe in the absolute sovereignty of God, I believe in election and predestination and I hold to what is known a Covenant theology. While this is my theology, in the last several months my family and I have worshipped at churches associated with the ECUSA, Southern Baptist Church, Presbyterian (PCA) and Roman Catholic Church. I also have a growing interest Apostolic Succession (I don't know where I will fall on that topic, but it does interest me).

My theology is Reformed (solidly so), but I count all who adhere to the Apostle's and Nicean Creeds (implicitly or explicitly) as brothers and sisters in Christ.

I can not compromise or deny my particular Christian beliefs or theology, but that does not mean that I can not embrace other Christians as members of the one Body of Jesus Christ. The medieval Church had unity with great theological diversity. That unity was rent asunder by Catholics and Protestants alike.

We need to begin working toward unity (catholicity) again. This does not mean compromise, but it does mean charity and love for the brethren and the Church of Jesus Christ.

Desiderius Erasmus, in a 1523 letter, listed a number of the items then in dispute between Lutherans and Roman Catholics. After mentioning several important theological areas of conflict between the parties, he writes, "These things used to be argued to and forth by scholastic theologians. If I were a judge I would not dare to condmn a man to death for taking a stand on any of these issues; nor would I be willing to suffer death for them myself."

I do not agree with all that Erasmus says, but I agree with him that the issues that then split the Western Church had been debated for a number of centuries within the Medieval church, without the explosion and fragmentation that took place in the 16th century. I do believe there are theological truths worth dying for (but none worth killing for). The truths, expressed in the Nicene and Apostles Creeds, are worth dying for. They express the outer limits to the Christian faith. Those outside the doctrines of these Creeds are outside the faith, but to those who are within their boundries, I believe, should be given the benefit of the doubt and (until proven otherwise) we should consider them brethren in the faith. That is MHO.

Coram Deo,