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Pre-Reformation in the Medieval World
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

Dr. Nathan Busenitz documents very well in his book "Long Before Luther" (Moody, 2017) that the idea of justification by faith alone was most definitely believed and taught by many of the early church fathers in the first five centuries of Christianity.  However, what about the Middle Ages?  For a thousand years between the end of the Roman Empire until Wycliffe, Hus, and Luther, did the idea of justification by faith alone in Christ alone just evaporate?  Did no one believes or teach this truth?  

Busenitz does a great job (again) in pouring through the writings of famous Medieval churchmen (like Anselm or Bernard of Clairvaux) and lesser known clerics (the Venerable Bede) to demonstrate that truth was not irretrievably lost.  Here are a few quotes:

Idelfonsus of Toledo (c.607-667)-- "Behold, he [Paul] preached the beginning of faith which, when it is in Christ, is justification for the believer...God, who makes the unclean clean and removed sins, justifies the sinner apart from works."

Julian of Toledo (642-690)-- "[This is] the righteousness of faith, by which we are justified.  This faith is that we believe in him whom we cannot see, and that, being cleansed by faith, we will eventually see him in whom we now believe."

Bede (673-735)-- "The Apostle Paul preached that we are justified by faith without works."

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)-- "Nobody will be justified in His sight by works of the law...Grace freely justifies me and sets me free from slavery to sin."

There is much, much more in this book.  So, if someone tells you that Luther made up the whole idea of justification by faith alone, tell them that there is a long line of believers in this truth stretching all the way back to the apostles.  Then give them Dr. Busenitz's book. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018, 08:40 PM

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Long Before Luther
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

Were the main ideas of the Protestant Reformation (sola fide and sola scriptura) novel ideas unheard of before Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses in 1517?  One Protestant historian, Alistair McGrath claims that the idea of justification by faith alone (sola fide) was a brand new idea created by Luther.  Is such a claim true?

Not at all, claims Nathan Busenitz, author of the book "Long Before Luther".  Dr. Busenitz is the Dean of Faculty and an assistant professor of theology at The Master's Seminary in California.  He has done yeoman's work in this book, tracing the doctrine of justification by faith through the original "church fathers" (the apostles Paul, Peter, John, etc...) and the early church fathers from the late first century through the fifth century.  He also traces this doctrine, a cornerstone of Reformation theology, in medieval saints and theologians as well!

Here are a few quotes from the ancient church fathers:  Clement of Rome (died c. AD 100)-- "And so we, having being called through his will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves or through our wisdom or understanding or piety, or works that we have done in holiness of heart, but through faith, by which the Almighty God has justified all who have existed from the beginning; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen."

Polycarp (c AD. 69-160)--"Though you have not seen him, you beieve in him with an inexpressible and glorious joy (which many desire to experience), knowing that by grace you have been saved, not because of works, but by the will of God through Jesus Christ."

Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 130-202)--"The Lord, therefore, was not unknown to Abraham, whose day he desired to see; nor, again, was the Lord's Father, for he had learned from the Word of the Lord, and believed Him; wherefore it was accounted to him by the Lord for righteousness.  For faith towards God justifies a man.

Origen (c.182-254)--"He [Paul] is saying that the justification of faith alone sufices, so that the one who only believes is justified even if he has not accomplished a single work."

And it goes on from there.  This is just a smattering.  The good doctor provides ample proof from such luminaries as Hilary of Poitiers, Basil of Caesarea, Ambrose, Augustine, and John Chrysostom that the early church preserved the idea that people are saved by faith in Christ alone...and not at all by their own efforts or faithfulness to rituals or ceremonies.  

Fascinating reading!  Dr. Busenitz has done good work.  


Tuesday, January 30, 2018, 09:42 PM

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12 Strong-- A Threat to the PC Crowd
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

I saw the movie "12 Strong" starring Chris Hemsworth and Michael Pena.  Pretty good war flick.  Not as good as "Lone Survivor" or "American Sniper"-- it definitely needed more character development-- but still a pretty good movie that kept me entertained for nearly 2 hours.  

The movie is a true story about a team of Army Special Forces (they really don't like being called "Green Berets") who are inserted into Afghanistan only five weeks after the September 11 Massacre.  Their job is to find our ally (a tribe led by the mysterious General Dostum) and coordinate air attacks with our B-52s against Taliban positions.  The movie concludes with our guys getting drawn into a shoot-em up land battle, with our guys leading a cavalry charge against the Taliban!  Our guys win; the barbarians of the Taliban lose.  End of movie.  

But if you read the movie reviews online you will see one criticism after another about how this film glorifies war.  It's jingoistic, ultra-patriotic, full of machismo, yada yada.  This film glorifies war?  Really?  Twelve men against thousands.  Twelve men flying in a helicopter through a blinding snowstorm at night, at an altitude never attempted before.  Men charging into a maelstrom on horseback--- leading a CAVALRY charge with machine guns against TANKS---this movie is not glorifying war.  It is glorifying courage.  It is glorifying honor.  It is glorifying what real men are supposed to do.

What has happened when men criticize such virtues?  It means this to me: spineless men despise real, selfless, strong, brave men who charge into battle to defend the freedom of their people.  Apparently that kind of courage and selflessness threatens them, and they know no other way to handle such heroism.  They can only disparage it.  

Want a feel good movie where the good guys win and the bad guys lose?  Go see "12 Strong".  


Sunday, January 28, 2018, 06:25 PM

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Death at the Local School
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

A little over two weeks ago a teenager at Perry High School, near Canton Ohio, committed suicide.  That is the SIXTH suicide in that school district in the past five months.  Last week at the same school a teenager was arrested for threatening "to go Columbine" and massacre students.  At nearby Jackson High, a teenager committed suicide.  Just days ago a student shot and killed two other students (and wounded 17 others) in a Benton, Kentucky high school.  A student at Uniontown Area Senior High School in Uniontown Pennsylvania had planned to massacre students.  He had a rifle, a shotgun, a pistol, throwing knives, and machetes.  Last week, in Italy Texas, a teenager shot and seriously wounded another student.

Kentucky governor Matt Bevin said that our nation "celebrates death" in our entertainment, and "our culture is crumbling from within".  

What is going on?  Why are our teens murdering others and taking their own lives?  The immediate reason are manifold:  bullying, addictions, breakup of the family, no sense of absolute morals or the value of life.  

No truth, no hope, no future for many.  At least... that's how it may seem to many.

Could it be that the way out is the way back....back to the absolute truth that there is a loving God who cares, desires our companionship, and has prepared a future for those who follow Him?

Acknowledging that would require a lot of old fashioned humility and repentance.  I hope that we can begin now, and not hear of another high school tragedy next week...

Saturday, January 27, 2018, 07:38 PM

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Darkest Hour
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

After watching "Darkest Hour" the other day with my family, I am reminded of this quote by Winston Churchill:

"...Still, if will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival.  

There may even be a worse case.  You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish, than to live as slaves."

Amen.  We need more Winston Churchills today, and no more Neville Chamberlains.

Friday, December 29, 2017, 05:14 PM

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Past Posts

Long Before Luther
12 Strong-- A Threat to the PC Crowd
Death at the Local School
Darkest Hour
December 26
Christmas 1942
The Ghosts of Christmas Past -- 1941
The Ghosts of Christmas Past--1776
Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation (Part 2)

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