If you have been following the discussion in the various Reformation posts, you, as I, may have been surprised at the conclusions that NewSpring’s representatives have arrived at. We have had one contributor argue that there’s no important difference between the Protestant and Roman Catholic church, so history’s verdict is that the Reformation was pretty much a waste of time. Another complained that Luther’s 95 Theses and the great documents of the Reformation were old and dated. As I survey the comment thread as I write, the arguments have not yet been refuted by another NewSpring member or leader, so we are left to assume that their NS colleagues don’t see a problem with the arguments or don’t think they’re important enough to clarify or denounce.
In case no-one comes along and does that, let’s set down a few Pajama Axioms.
- Numbers are meaningless unless they are linked to an underlying truth. NewSpring supporters commonly point to the number of people responding to altarcalls or attending on a Sunday as proof that the church is a Good Thing. Numbers can count some aspect of an item, but they can’t always measure its value. Let’s consider some recent examples.
- In 2001 Barry Bonds put hit 73 home runs, yet that number masked the likelihood that it was drug enhanced.
- Through the late 1990s, dot com businesses made millions of dollars on the stock market, until it became apparent that the actual businesses weren’t really businesses.
- For last decade or more, American housing prices have been increasing, proving that the housing market was strong, until it became obvious that those prices masked a great deal of bad debt.
Numbers aren’t an entirely useless argument, but when they are used on their own, you may just be hiding a big fat zero.
- God’s mercy is not a sign of his approval. On a few occasions, NewSpring’s boosters have claimed that if God wanted NewSpring to fail, the church wouldn’t be there. Because it is there, he must want it to succeed. The lack of a lightening bolt from the heavens is taken as proof positive that everything the church is doing must be of God. It is an argument for an ethical system based on fatalism, and goes something like,
- God has the power to wipe out evil things.
- Some thing exists.
- Therefore, the thing must be good.
It assumes that God only stays his hand for the righteous, and immediately and publicly punishes the wicked. How many times did David wish that were true? If God always acts in history as a noisy morality cop, how do you account for the longevity of the Holocaust, tyrants, abortion, and Billy Mays?
- The persistence of error does not diminish its threat. One commentator on the Reformation threads supposed that the endurance of the Roman Catholic church after the Reformation meant that it wasn’t obvious which side was correct, but that we’d find out when we meet God after we die.
Almost 500 years of debate has not defeated either side. It seems that if one was so much more right than the other–someone would have won by now.
Just as God doesn’t wipe out evil as soon as it appears, he also doesn’t immediately eliminate error. Peter’s warning against false teachers in 2 Peter 2:1-3 puts the threat into a future perfect tense: there will be false teachers among you. The early church was warned about encroaching heresies, and Peter’s warning reaches down to us today. Until Christ’s return, sin and error will be with us. Even–and especially–error in the church. This is the great danger of stripping away the creeds and turning your back on the Reformers; these were moments in the history of the church when sober men guided by the Holy Spirit stood up to persistent error. If we ignore their teaching now, we’ll likely slip into the heresies they once fought against. Are we so much smarter than all the saints who have come before us?
- The age of truth does not diminish its power. One of the most disappointing arguments in the last 24 hours came from a NewSpring insider who reasoned that we could ignore the creeds and Reformers because they were old and out of date.
I’m thinking those creeds were written by a man, and for a certain time period since Luther were wanting to invoke the church leadership to go deeper, could it be possible that they could be alittle out of date? Obviously, he didn’t intend for them to be the basis of a reformation so does that make some of these reformation documents old and out dated?
This, folks, is what we feared. This is why we don’t trust you when you talk about reformations. What truths no longer apply today? What sections of the Apostle’s Creed, the 95 Theses, or the Westminster Confession are worn out? God is the source of truth, and he does not change. If these majestic documents describe God accurately, their power and authority endure.