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Are the Westminster Standards Contrary to the Reformers?

westminster-abbey-1235681In the book, Scripture and Worship, Muller and Ward analyze some of the exegetical background of the confession and debates surrounding the writing of the Directory of Public Worship. They also argue against suggestions that the confessions and catechisms were a rejection or distortion from the original thought of the Reformers. How can this be measured? The most fruitful way is in tracing the exegesis of Scripture between the Reformers and the generation of Reformed Orthodoxy, the context the Westminster Standards were created in.

The first essay focusses on comparing Annotations upon all the books of the Old and New Testament, a two volume exegesis of the entire Bible with over 2,400 pages, (English Annotations) with the Westminster Standards. It is important to note first of all that there is no official relationship between the two works. Cornelius Burgess (one of the major members of the Assembly) argued against associating the Annotations with the Westminster Assembly. It is true that some of the members who compiled the Annotations were members of the Westminster Assembly, but the Assembly never ordered the work, nor did it review the finished product.  (more…)

Reformer of Basel: Johannes Oecolampadius

Johannes_OecolampadiusIn the discussion of Reformed liturgies and worship there are many men that will enter the discussion. One of those that is of significance that may go overlooked is Johannes Oecolampadius (1482-1531). In another sense, his significance is also that he is arguably regarded as the spiritual father of Calvin and the entire Reformed Church. Among other things, Oecolampadius initiated church discipline, challenged Roman Catholic doctrines using his extensive knowledge of patristics, and reinstated the office of elder. 

I think Oecolampadius will be a man to be explored deeply as scholarship grows in the area of the Reformation history. Perhaps one of those benefits will be that some of his works will finally be translated into english. For example, none of his commentaries on Genesis, Job, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Matthew, Romans, Colossians, Hebrews and 1 John are in english. 

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Schaff: The Veneration of Saints began as a Remembrance of Martyrs

2012-10-24 12.45.48In the first three centuries the veneration of the martyrs in general restricted itself to the thankful remembrance of their virtues and the celebration of the day of their death as the day of their heavenly birth. This celebration usually took place at their graves. So the church of Smyrna annually commemorated its bishop Polycarp, and valued his bones more than gold and gems, though with the express distinction: “Christ we worship as the Son of God; the martyrs we love and honor as disciples and successors of the Lord, on account of their insurpassable love to their King and Master, as also, we wish to be their companions and fellow disciples.” Here we find this veneration as yet in its innocent simplicity.

The Sermon in the Medieval Church

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This quote from Schaff’s History of the Church is telling.

“The great majority of priests were too ignorant to prepare a sermon, and barely understood the Latin liturgical forms. A Synod of Aix, 802, prescribed that they should learn the Athanasian and Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer with exposition, the Sacramentarium or canon of the mass, the formula of exorcism, the commendatio animae, the Penitential, the Calendar and the Roman cantus; they should learn to understand the homilies for Sundays and holy days as models of preaching, and read the pastoral theology of Pope Gregory. This was the sum and substance of clerical learning. The study of the Greek Testament and the Hebrew Scriptures was out of the question, and there was hardly a Western bishop or pope in the middle ages who was able to study the divine oracles in the original.” Hefele, III. 745.

Contrast this with the movement of the Reformation. In the time of the Reformation,  some of the best Greek and Hebrew exegetes were on the side of the Reformers. We may be too quick to come down hard on these churches in the medieval era, while giving a pass to the modern day evangelicals who could also be represented here. Let us not be guilty of working to study the “divine oracles” in the original. We may not be Dan Wallace or Waltke but having a working knowledge in the original tongue is too important to faithfully dissect God’s Word.

The Fathers Aren’t What They May Seem

Who were the Fathers? I was listening to a discussion on Jason Stellman (the apostate PCA minister). One of the issues he mentions in his conversation is that after he had been researching different Protestant doctrines and challenged on them, he was then “ambushed” by the Fathers. I pictured the scene from the movie Braveheart where out of nowhere from the trees come the Fathers on horseback. I felt bad for him because I knew that even a quick look through the Fathers and they discredit themselves from having too much authority.

Stellmen in his interview talked about the task of having to search through the 37 volumes to legitimize the doctrine of imputation. Definitely a daunting task when understood like that, however it was terribly presumptuous and not what he thought. The Fathers are bigger than 37 volumes and though they’re important, helpful and fundamental, they’re not always a source to trust in all matters of doctrine. (more…)

Where Calvin Differs With the Fathers

Wherefore, let no one be perplexed because ancient writers labor to distinguish the one from the other. Their views ought not to be in such esteem with us as to shake the certainty of Scripture. For who would listen to Chrysostom denying that remission of sins was included in the baptism of John (Hom. in Mt. 1:14), rather than to Luke asserting, on the contrary, that John preached “the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins?” (Luke 3:3). Nor can we admit Augustine’s subtlety, that by the baptism of John sins were forgiven in hope, but by the baptism of Christ are forgiven in reality. For seeing the Evangelist clearly declares that John in his baptism promised the remission of sins, why detract from this eulogium when no necessity compels it? Should any one ask what difference the word of God makes, he will find it to be nothing more than that John baptized in the name of him who was to come, the apostles in the name of him who was already manifested (Luke 3:16; Acts 19:4). Institutes, Book 4.15.7