Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Katherine Parr: Reformation Queen of England and Ireland

To be useful in all I do.”
Queen Katherine Parr

The year was 1512.   Michelangelo’s magnificent Sistine Chapel frescos were unveiled.  Twenty-nine year old Martin Luther earned his Doctorate in Theology at Wittenberg U,  but didn’t understand  justification by faith.     And a precocious three year old named Jehan Cauvin  was  busy exploring his world in northern France.    God was setting the stage for a Reformation that would soon rock the world.

Sir Thomas Parr  and  his wife Maud Greene,  a prominent couple from Westmoreland,  welcomed  their  baby daughter  into the world that  year.    Katherine, named after King Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon,   received a fine education learning several languages fluently.    But by the age of twenty-one,  she had lost both parents and her first husband. 
 


The Parr family was acquainted with some of  the early Reformers and Katherine  zealously embraced this  “New Religion”.
"[Catherine] lamented the fact, that she had once been an enthusiastic  Papist.  ‘I sought’,  she confessed,  ‘for such riffraff as the Bishop of Rome had planted in his tyranny and kingdom,  trusting with great confidence by virtue and holiness of them to receive full remission of sins.’  … That she underwent conversion, as all the first generation of Reformers did is clear.”1
Devoted wholly  to Christ,  Katherine’s  life  motto  became  “to be useful in all I do”,  even if it meant sacrificing her own happiness.   

A QUEEN


After losing a second husband,  Katherine’s piety  caught the attention of King Henry.   Denying her heart’s desire to marry  Sir Thomas Seymore,  Katherine  accepted the King’s marriage proposal.    On July 12, 1543   the attractive  31 year old widow became the sixth and  last wife of King Henry VIII.    Without  fanfare   Katherine  was proclaimed  Queen at Hampton Court Palace.     Her affection for Henry was sincere,  although the prospect of marrying a man who had sent two of his wives to the scaffold must have been terrifying!    Just months before the marriage, a plot  to execute Reformers in Henry’s household had been underway at the  behest of  Stephen Gardiner,  bishop of Winchester.

Henry remained Catholic after breaking from Rome to form the Church of England when the Pope  refused to grant him an annulment from his first wife.   Desiring a wife who could produce a male heir to the throne the King set his sights on the captivating  young  Evangelical,  Anne Boleyn. 
“Anne understood her providential mission to be this: to bring the Reformation to England and to employ every single instance of patronage and influence to that end. … In fact it was through Anne that the New Religion entered England.”2
Anne Boleyn,   the most controversial of Henry’s wives, was  beheaded on  trumped up charges of adultery, incest, and  treason,   leaving behind her little daughter Elizabeth. The new Queen’s kindness and motherly affections  endeared her to Henry and  his children; Mary, Elizabeth,  and young Edward.
“besides the virtues of the mind,  she was endowed with very rare gifts of nature, as singular beauty,  favor  and  comely personage,   being things wherein the king was greatly delighted.”3
But Katherine would not allow herself to be caught off guard by Henry’s affections as  he was a fickle man,  sending both  Catholics and Protestants alike  to the Tower  for  execution—Catholics  for treason and Protestants for heresy.

While Henry turned a blind eye,  his wife hosted  Bible studies and prayer meetings  at court.   Katherine’s guests included influential  preachers and numerous high ranking women including  Anne Askew  and the young  Lady Jane Grey.

A CLOSE CALL

In an attempt to destroy the Queen,   Katherine’s  Catholic enemies  had  Anne Askew arrested and tortured.    Their attempts  to get her to implicate the Queen for heresy failed  and Anne was burned at the stake for denying the literal presence of Christ’s body in the Mass.    

Stephen Gardiner's  evil intentions were not about to thwarted.    As Henry’s health declined his legs became severely ulcerated and Katherine  would minister to him in  his chambers.   She used these opportunities to bring up spiritual matters and on one occasion when Gardiner was present   Henry became angry.  
 “A good hearing it is when women become such clerks  [clergy];  and a thing much to my comfort to come in my old days to be taught by my wife!’”
Gardiner seized the opportunity  to fan the fires  of suspicion by suggesting  those who would dare to  argue with the King verbally might also overthrow him by their actions.    Henry’s heart was turned against  the Queen and orders were drawn  up  to send  Katherine and three of her ladies to the Tower for execution.   

Providentially,  the papers  sealing  Katherine’s fate  fell  into  the Queen’s hands,  unbeknownst to Henry.    The  discovery  caused   Katherine to  have a nervous  breakdown.    The  King  had  confided in his  physician the plan to execute  his wife and when  Henry  learned that Katherine had become ill,   he sent Dr. Wendy to check on her.   The doctor was fond of the Queen and secretly advised her to play ignorant  and try to dissuade her husband.

Wise as a serpent and harmless as dove,  Katherine  refused the temptation  to engage in religious discussion when Henry  brought up the subject.    Instead,  she  stated  that  her opinions as a woman were   inferior and  unimportant,  and declared Henry to be her “only anchor,  Supreme  Head and Governor here on earth,  next under God.”5     Convincing  her husband   that she had merely  argued  religion with him in order  to divert his attention away from his physical suffering,  Henry forgave her and  their disagreement ended  with a kiss.

When Henry’s henchmen  came  to arrest Katherine  they were raked over the coals,  while Katherine responded graciously in their defense.   This  wise and humble woman showed  “no limit of self-denigration, and self-disparagement.”6 

A  SCHOLAR 

Katherine was as talented in literary endeavors as she was generous in spirit.   Proving  the pen can be mightier than the sword,  Katherine’s  books—Prayers or Meditations  (1546)  and The Lamentation or Complaint  of a Sinner (1547) became instant successes,   making her the first English Queen to publish an original work under her own name.    Additionally,   Katherine financed the English translations of  Erasmus’  Latin Paraphrases of the  Gospels, which were important texts for  Reformed scholars. 

[Katherine] championed the language of the people, encouraged academia to put Christ before Plato, urged Henry to bring England closer to the Reformation,   commissioned scholarly translations of Erasmus, and brought a royal English family together.   In Katherine’s day, her books became examples of the bold Reformation spirit.   Her brilliant mind captured the souls of her people and the respect of the Reformers themselves"7
 A BITTERSWEET END

During Christmas of 1546  the King became  terminally ill  and  isolated himself  at Whitehall to make final preparations.   The historian John Foxe (1516-1587)  records that Henry made peace with God in the end.   Henry ignored Stephen Gardiner in his Will,  sent the Duke of Norfolk and his son to the Tower for treason,  and then  called  for the  Reformer  Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.   Unable to speak,   Dr. Cranmer exhorted Henry  to put his faith in Christ alone  by showing—
“…some token with his eyes, or with hand, as he trusted in the Lord.  Then the King holding him with his hand, did wring his hand in his, as hard as he could, and so shortly after departed,” 8
On January 28, 1547 King Henry VIII  was dead.   Though leaving his wife generous  provisions of wealth and honor,  the King  did not appoint her  as  Queen Regent. 

Finally free to pursue her own happiness, Katherine  hastily married Thomas Seymore.  Tragically, her marital bliss ended abruptly when Thomas made advances towards  Katherine’s teenage  stepdaughter,  Elizabeth.      After three childless marriages  Katherine  bore a daughter before  the last enemy struck again.    On September 5, 1548,  four days  after  giving birth,  Katherine  developed  puerperal fever and died at the age of 36.   

Like Priscilla (Rom. 16:3-4), Queen Katherine was a true servant and a scholar who was willing to take great risks for the furtherance of the Gospel.   As a result, God used Katherine's  determination “to be useful in all I do”   to profoundly  impact on the advancement of the English Reformation.   
“The fact that the Reformation was preserved in England can be attributed to the amazing presence of mind, and maturity of Katherine Parr.” 9
_____________________________________ 
  1. Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey;  HarperCollins Publishers; 2003;  pg. 701.
  2. Five Women of the English Reformation by Paul F.M. Zahl; William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI. 2001; pg. 26
  3. John Foxe-The Acts of the Monuments
  4. ibid.
  5. ibid
  6. Five Women of the English Reformation by Paul. F. M Zahl;  Eerdman’s Publishing; 2001; pg.45
  7. John Foxe -The Acts of the Monuments
  8. Five Women-Paul F.M. Zahl; pg.40
ADDITIONAL SOURCES
The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century by Roland H. Bainton; Beacon Press; 1963
Lady Jane Grey: 9 Day Queen of England  by Faith Cook;  Evangelical Press 2004 
Women of the Reformation in France and England by Roland H. Bainton;  Fortress Press; 2007;  
Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey;  HarperCollins Publishers; 2003; 
Five Women of the English Reformation by Paul. F. M Zahl;  Eerdman’s Publishing; 2001; 
A Lamentation or Complaint of a Sinner (1547)  by Queen Katherine Parr 
Katherine the Queen;  by Linda Porter;  St Martins Griffen; NY
The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation, by Michael Reeves B & H Academic,  2010
Katherine Parr image:  National Portrait Gallery - London


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Captive to the Word of God


If I had to pick a significant event of the Protestant Reformation, it would be Martin Luther's trial at the Diet of Worms on April 17, 1521. This was nearly four years since he nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. In the intervening time, Luther continued publishing critiques against the Roman Catholic Church's teachings on indulgences and the treasury of merit, which were not well received. Thus the process began of prosecuting him in both church and civil courts. Prior to Worms, Luther met with church officials to debate his position. Rather than supporting their stance from Scripture, Rome's arguments lay in the fact that the practices objected to were sanctioned by previous popes and church councils. Thus Luther was put in the unenviable place of stating that popes, theologians, and councils can err. By the time the Diet of Worms convened, he had already been excommunicated. This trial, presided by Emperor Charles V, was to seek civil penalties, likely execution, if he refused to recant. There was no opportunity for further debate on April 17, 1521. Luther was merely presented with a stack of his books and asked to identify if they were his, which he acknowledged. He was then asked to recant and promise to never teach such heresy again. Yes or no? His voice was barely audible as he requested another 24 hours to consider the matter. After spending the night in prayer, Martin Luther returned to the council the following day and delivered his famous speech. There was no turning back.

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason - for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves - I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.

I will never be a pivotal figure in church history like Martin Luther, but there is much I can learn from his example. As a Baptist, I don't have a pope, but it can be easy to defer to a "pope" of my own making when it comes to spiritual matters. I greatly respect my pastor and other theologians past and present who have greater knowledge of the Bible than I do. Yet even if they are right, they can't learn or think for me. This does not mean that I go to a desert island with just my Bible and the Holy Spirit and see what pops into my head. Bad idea. No, the process of examining the Scriptures to see if these things are so takes place in the context of the local church. But I will miss out on so much if I short-circuit digging into the Word and wrestling with doctrines myself by taking another person's word for it. Likewise, I need to respect those who are in the same learning process. In my enthusiasm, it can be easy to bowl someone over by the strength of my convictions and sway them to come to "my side." But this deprives my brothers and sisters of the joy and benefit of searching the Scriptures for themselves.

So I want to take a leaf from Martin Luther's book. May "I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God... God help me. Amen."


Sources:
Reformation 500 - A site dedicated to the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It has a very helpful timeline of events with associated articles.
The Trial of Martin Luther - Another timeline.
What Luther Said - What did he really say at the Diet of Worms?
Progress to Worms from Luther and the Reformation - Lectures by R.C. Sproul

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Why Do We Need Proverbs?

"A stitch in time saves nine."
"The early bird catches the worm."
"Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."

These are examples of well-known proverbs, wise sayings meant to help a person make good decisions. Biblical proverbs are similar. They are wisdom sentences that are brief, grounded in experience, reflect everyday life, meant to be pithy and memorable, and give insight. For example:

He who despises his neighbour lacks sense, but a man of understanding keeps silent. (Prov. 11:12). 

That's a helpful bit of counsel: watch your tongue.

Or how about this one?

As a ring of gold in a swine's snout, so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion. (Prov. 11:22)

The lesson there? A beautiful woman will not look so beautiful if she's indiscreet.

You can see how these are useful. Even someone who never gave much thought to the Bible would see the benefit of such counsel. It's just good sense. So, what is the difference between that kind of proverb and another? It has to do with the source of the wisdom being offered. Biblical proverbs are rooted in the fear of the Lord (Prov. 9:10). If we do not fear the Lord, we will not appreciate his wisdom. When we fear the Lord, we will seek his wisdom and live it out in every day situations.

Our faith is expressed in the mundane, ordinary situations, the kind that Proverbs depicts. Wisdom is required not only so that we will have a good life, but so that we will live in a way that honours God. There is a reason why indiscretion is discouraged: it means we are not using our speech to honour others or God. Pursuing wisdom means we pursue God. Christ is the complete revelation of God's wisdom (I Cor. 1:30). To follow Christ is to pursue wisdom.

Wisdom demands that we think about the decisions we make. We live in a culture where feelings are regularly exalted above reason and thought. Because someone feels something, it must be right. If I feel like I need to say something that is ultimately harmful, it's okay, because I shouldn't deny my feelings. Employing wisdom means that we have to think through the matter, setting aside emotion. When emotion is in control, we don't stop to think. Just think of some of the most foolish things you have ever done; was emotion running high at the time? For most of us, times when we are hurt or angry are the times we are most likely to make foolish decisions.

The beauty of Proverbs is how practical they are. And we do love the practical things, don't we? But they are more than just practical advice; following them means we must fear the Lord, and that is something that will change us and shape us entirely.

If you are interested in learning more about Proverbs, here are some recommendations:
  1. God's Wisdom in Proverbs, Dan Phillips. This deals with the theme of wisdom in Proverbs.
  2. Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary, John Kitchen. A verse by verse exposition of the Proverbs.
  3. Proverbs: Wisdom That Works,  Raymond Ortlund. A look at themes in the book of Proverbs. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Anne Askew: The Extraordinary Life of a Reformation Martyr


"But as concerning your mass, as it is now used in our days,   I do say and believe it to be the most abominable idol that is in the world:  for my God will not be eaten with teeth, neither yet dieth he again.  And upon these words that I base now spoken, will I suffer death." 1   Anne Askew  (1521 - July 16, 1546)

 On October 31st   many of us will celebrate Reformation Day.  When I think about the modern church's growing tolerance of divergent  teachings,  I wonder how many Christians today would be willing to die for the truths the Reformation martyrs died for.   These heroes of the faith understood the necessity of drawing lines in the creedal sand and would rather die than acquiesce to the idolatrous teaching of transubstantiation.  

J.C. Ryle wrote:
“The principal reason why they were burned, was because they refused one of the peculiar doctrines of the Romish Church.   On that doctrine,  in almost every case,  hinged their life or death.   If they admitted it — they might live;  if they refused it — they must die!   The doctrine in question was the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the consecrated elements of bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. 2
One such martyr  was  Anne Askew,  a  highly educated  young English woman who was an anomaly amongst  her peers.    Critics viewed her as  a truculent fanatic while supporters saw her as a courageous heroine.

HER FAMILY
Anne was born in 1521 to  Sir William Askew of  Lincolnshire and his wife Elizabeth Wrottesley four years after Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to The Castle Church door at Wittenberg, Germany.     We don’t know when Anne was converted to the “New Religion”, but we  know the early years of the Reformation knit together a tight band of advocates to which her family had ties.  

Anne was forced into an unwanted  marriage  with Thomas Kyme, a wealthy landowner and Catholic who had been engaged to her deceased sister Martha.    The constant friction  over Anne’s Protestant beliefs lead Thomas  to throw her out.    One of the accusations against her was  ‘that she was the devoutest woman he had ever known,  for she began to pray always at midnight, and continued for some hours in that exercise.' "3     Anne petitioned unsuccessfully for  a divorce and had  to leave her two  young children behind.      

Resuming her maiden name,  Anne handed out tracts and literature  and  became known as a “Gospeller” for the  public speeches she gave  in London.    She debated doctrine with the local priests  and was “seen daily in the cathedral reading the Bible, and engaging the clergy in discussions on the meaning of particular texts,”4

ROYAL TROUBLE
Sir William had been knighted by King  Henry VIII and Anne’s  youngest brother Edward  served as the King’s cup-bearer.     The family connections at court presented the opportunity for Anne to become  one of the ladies-in-waiting to the Evangelical  Queen Katherine Parr,  Henry’s sixth and last wife.   While the King  looked the other way,  this close knit group of women , which included the young Lady Jane Grey,  met regularly to pray,  study the Scriptures,  and to hear from the Evangelical preachers Huge Latimer and Nicholas Ridley who  were later martyred.

The Reformation was as much about politics  as it was about  faith.   The self indulgent nominally  Catholic King was an equal opportunity tyrant and Catholics were just as likely to be executed for treason as were Protestants  for heresy.

When the Queen’s enemies noticed  her religious influence over others they plotted against her.   Worried that the Protestants would gain power when Henry died  Stephen Gardiner,  Thomas Wriothesley,  and Edmund Bonner  struck circuitously at Katherine's brightest lady, hoping she would implicate the Queen. 

 
  “Not daring to strike at the throne directly they found an easier target:   Anne Askew, bright, articulate and fearless, was a lady-in-waiting to the Queen.   Had she not been diligently promoting the spread of evangelical literature amongst the London apprentice boys?   She had even been heard to say ‘I would sooner read five lines in the Bible than hear five masses in the church’.   Such words were heresy in Catholic eyes.   Anne was seized, imprisoned and interrogated cruelly by Bonner” 5

TRIED BY FIRE
Anne’s first arrest and  interrogation  took place  in March of 1545  and she was jailed for 12 days.    She wrote detailed accounts of this and her second “examination” in June of 1546 which were edited and published separately by Bishop John Bale and  martyrologist John Foxe.  Anne's replies are spirited and articulate:
"As for that ye call your God, it is a piece of bread.   For a more proof thereof... let it but lie in the box three months and it will be mouldy and so turn to nothing that is good.  Whereupon I am persuaded that it cannot be God" 6

“Then the bishop’s chancellor rebuked me, and said I was much to blame for uttering Scripture. For St. Paul, he said, forbade women to speak or talk of the word of God.  I answered him that I knew Paul’s meaning as well as he, which is, in I Cor. xiv, that a woman ought not to speak in the congregation by way of teaching: and then I asked him how many women he had seen go into the pulpit and preach?  He said he never saw any.   Then I said he ought to find no fault in poor women, except they had offended the law.”7
 Anne was taken to the Tower of London and  tortured on the Rack  until  her bones were pulled out of joint and she fainted.    Her tenacious  loyalty to her friends could not be broken even by such cruel attempts to get her to divulge names.

A  final refusal to recant her beliefs  landed Anne a conviction  of heresy for denying the doctrine of transubstantiation and she was sentenced to death.   Unable to stand, she was carried on a chair to Smithfield just outside the London  Wall.     She was fastened to the stake by a chain wrapped around her waist to hold her up and then burned alive alongside three fellow martyrs.    These men were so greatly comforted by Anne’s  “invincible constancy”  and persuasions  that “they did set apart all kind of fear.”8


HER LEGACY
Whatever one’s opinion about this extraordinary woman might be,  her courage and determination to be true to Christ and the Scriptures in the midst of adversity cannot be argued.   Anne has left behind a legacy of encouragement  to live, and if necessary, to die for Christ with the utmost zeal.
"And thus the good Anne Askew, with these blessed martyrs, … having now ended the long course of her agonies, being compassed in with flames of fire,  as a blessed sacrifice unto God, she slept in the Lord A.D. 1546,   leaving behind her a singular example of Christian constancy for all men to follow.9

A Prayer of Anne Askew
 “Lord,  I heartily desire of thee,  that thou wilt of thy most merciful goodness forgive them,  that violence which they do, and hath done, to me.   Open also thou their blind hearts, that they may hereafter do that thing in thy sight, which is only acceptable before thee, and to set forth thy verity aright,  without all vain fantasies of sinful men.  So, be it, O Lord, so be it!
By me,  Anne Askew “10
__________________________________ 
1. Select works of John Bale D.D. Bishop of Ossory: edited by Rev. Henry Christmas
2. Five English Martyrs by J.C. Ryle  
3. Memorials of Baptist Martyrs; J. Newton Brown; 1854
4. The Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 2  By Sir Sidney Lee; Macmillan, 1885;  pg. 190
5. Lady Jane Grey: 9 Day Queen of England  by Faith Cook;  Evangelical Press 2004  page 47
6. The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe:  Rev. George Townsend;  1837-41
7. ibid.
8. ibid. 
9..ibid.
10.ibid.

Additional Sources
Five Women of the English Reformation by Paul F. Zaul; Eerdmans Publishing; 2001
Women of the Reformation in France and England by Roland H. Bainton; Fortress Press; 2007
The Book of the Church by Southey, Esq. LL.D;  1823
Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey;  Harper Collins Publishers; 2003; 
Women of the Reformation:  Anne Askew; Gospelling in the Fire by Diane Bucknell
Anne Askew: Wikipedia 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Feeding the Frenzy

Once again Christian social media has been inundated with harangues centered upon well-known ministers. Perhaps the more accurate way of putting it is that Christian social media is still inundated, because I'm not entirely convinced it ever stops. Providentially, the latest round has coincided with my church's study of 1 Corinthians, particularly Chapter 1. As I've been reading over Paul's frustrations with the church in Corinth I've been struck by how the factions he speaks of still exist today, in some measure. While we may not be aligning ourselves with Paul, Apollos, or Peter, there is still a great deal of following in Christian circles - be it a certain pastor or denomination.

In my study of 1 Corinthians, I came across this quote by David Prior,
Whenever Christians give their allegiance to any human personality, such as a gifted preacher or pastor, they have taken their eyes off Jesus Christ and there will inevitably be disunity (source).
If Prior is correct (and I believe he is), it's no wonder there is so much fighting among Christians. My pastor recently gave an excellent sermon on disagreements within the church. (His advice is well-taken.) All of this reading and listening has led me to ponder how we, as the Body of Christ, chew each other up in our attempts to be theologically correct. I confess I have done my share of looking down my nose at those who don't agree with me. And while I agree with J. Gresham Machen who said, "Indifferentism about doctrine makes no heroes of the faith", I wonder if we don't take our concern that we may be indifferent to the extreme.

I've meditated and prayed over this, and the Lord brought to mind the example of a well-known and respected minister who took in another after he was called out in his denomination. The former offered the latter a safe place to be mentored, counseled, and held accountable. This, this is a picture of the gospel. If he disagreed with the offending minister, I don't believe he ever stated so publicly. He took some hits for his actions because there were many who couldn't believe he would do such a thing; they argued he was colluding to cover the sin. It seems that rebuke is not genuine unless it is made public.

What your eyes have seen
do not hastily bring into court,
for what will you do in the end,
when your neighbor puts you to shame?
- Proverbs 25:7-8 (ESV)

With all the social media platforms out there, it's incredibly easy to bring someone before the court of public opinion. We often do so without thinking. Meanwhile our neighbors - believers and unbelievers alike - are watching. How long will it be until they put us to shame by bringing us before that same unforgiving court?

In his book Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World, Michael Horton discusses the cultural evolution of ambition from a vice to a virtue. The church has not been immune to this change. In fact, Horton argues, our drive to achieve notoriety within our churches causes us to focus on self and pulls us away from our brothers and sisters, something the New Testament writers warn against (see James 3:13-18; 1 Cor. 12:15-26)
This isn't every person for himself, but all for one and one for all: Christ for us and then us for each other. It may not make any sense to people around us, but when a brother or sister falls down, we do not keep running, much less demean them, but turn back to pick the person up. If necessary, we carry him or her to the finish line...'Above all,' Peter exhorts, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins' (1 Pet 4:8). Peter isn't saying that our loving acts atone for sin. Far from it! Peter's astonishing point is that love hides the faults of others rather than making a spectacle of them. (Horton, 92)
We can extrapolate this argument to the universal church. Yes, doctrine matters. Yes, we must battle heresy. But it is far more wise - not to mention, loving - to point out error in private than to jump on the bandwagon of public criticism. If I acknowledge the unlikelihood of a Christian celebrity reading what I post about him or her on a social media platform, I must question my motive for posting it.  Even if that person were to come across my post, what am I accomplishing? My time is better spent by privately going to a friend who may be affected by that person's ministry, rather than airing my disagreement publicly.

I was reminded of this recently. A friend of mine is a member of a church led by a pastor whom many consider controversial. I knew the swirling storm was hurtful to her; she has been wounded by people seeking to wound her pastor. I contacted to her express my sympathy for her pain. I don't know her pastor or anything about him, really. I do know my friend, and I ached for her. She was grateful to have someone reach out to her and although I didn't ask her about it, she told me what she has witnessed. Her reply reminded me that it's nearly impossible to see the full truth for the mud slung in a media (or social media) frenzy. And underneath all that mud is a church of believers splattered in the cross-fire. There are family members dirtied simply for standing beside their loved one. There is a person in need of a Savior.

And so am I.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Thirty-Four on the Three in One: Which Are Not True?

In his little book Delighting in the Trinity, Michael Reeves calls the Trinity "the governing center of all Christian belief" and "the cockpit of all Christian thinking."1 In other words, it's not an irrelevant or secondary doctrine, but of primary importance.

How well do you know this central doctrine of Christianity? I've put together a little quiz so you can test yourself. Here are 34 statements related to the Trinity. Which ones are not true? (There's a link to the answers at the end of the post.)
  1. There is one God.
  2. God is one person.
  3. God is one being.
  4. There are three persons in the Godhead.
  5. The three persons in the Godhead are related eternally as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 
  6. Each of the three persons of the Godhead is one-third of God.
  7. The Father is fully God.
  8. The Father has the whole fullness of God’s being in himself.
  9. The Father is eternal.
  10. The Father is not the Son.
  11. The Father is not the Holy Spirit.
  12. The Son is fully God.
  13. The Son has the whole fullness if God’s being in himself.
  14. The Son came into being at the time of the incarnation. 
  15. The Son was brought into being in eternity past.
  16. The Son is eternal.
  17. The Son is not the Father.
  18. The Son is not the Holy Spirit.
  19. The Holy Spirit is fully God.
  20. The Holy Spirit has the whole fullness of God’s being in himself.
  21. The Holy Spirit is eternal.
  22. The Holy Spirit is not the Father.
  23. The Holy Spirit is not the Son.
  24. The persons of the Trinity are distinct.
  25. In their nature, the Son and the Holy Spirit are co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. 
  26. The Son and the Spirit are subordinate to the Father in their essence or nature.
  27. The Trinity is unique.
  28. There is both unity and diversity in the being of God.
  29. The persons of the Trinity have distinct primary roles.
  30. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are simply different names for the one person of God showing himself to us in three distinct roles.
  31. A right understanding of the Trinity is vital to right worship of God.
  32. A right understanding of the Trinity is vital to a right understanding of redemption.
  33. Any analogy used to explain the Trinity will not represent it completely accurately.
  34. The doctrine of the Trinity cannot be derived from the biblical text.
Answer key.

1] Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity, page 16.

This quiz was first posted on my personal blog several years ago.