The Death of Thomas Cranmer

by Nathan Busenitz

A brief sketch from the pages of Reformation history.

Cranmer

Four hundred fifty eight years ago, a crowd of curious spectators packed University Church in Oxford, England. They were there to witness the public recantation of one of the most well-known English Reformers, a man named Thomas Cranmer.

Cranmer had been arrested by Roman Catholic authorities nearly three years earlier. At first, his resolve was strong. But after many months in prison, under daily pressure from his captors and the imminent threat of being burned at the stake, the Reformer’s faith faltered. His enemies eventually coerced him to sign several documents renouncing his Protestant faith.

In a moment of weakness, in order to prolong his life, Cranmer denied the truths he had defended throughout his ministry, the very principles upon which the Reformation itself was based.

Roman Catholic Queen Mary I, known to church history as “Bloody Mary,” viewed Cranmer’s retractions as a mighty trophy in her violent campaign against the Protestant cause. But Cranmer’s enemies wanted more than just a written recantation. They wanted him to declare it publicly.

And so, on March 21, 1556, Thomas Cranmer was taken from prison and brought to University Church. Dressed in tattered clothing, the weary, broken, and degraded Reformer took his place at the pulpit. A script of his public recantation had already been approved; and his enemies sat expectantly in the audience, eager to hear his clear denunciation of the evangelical faith.

But then the unexpected happened. In the middle of his speech, Thomas Cranmer deviated from his script. To the shock and dismay of his enemies, he refused to recant the true gospel. Instead, he bravely recanted his earlier recantations.

Finding the courage he had lacked over those previous months, the emboldened Reformer announced to the crowd of shocked onlookers:

I come to the great thing that troubles my conscience more than any other thing that I ever said or did in my life: and that is, the setting abroad of writings contrary to the truth, which here now I renounce and refuse, as things written with my hand [which were] contrary to the truth which I thought in my heart, [being] written for fear of death, and to save my life.

Cranmer went on to say that if he should be burned at the stake, his right hand would be the first to be destroyed, since it had signed those recantations. And then, just to make sure no one misunderstood him, Cranmer added this: “And as for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ’s enemy and antichrist, with all his false doctrine.”

Chaos ensued.

Moments later, Cranmer was seized, marched outside, and burned at the stake.

True to his word, he thrust his right hand into the flames so that it might be destroyed first. As the flames encircled his body, Cranmer died with the words of Stephen on his lips: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”

Online Source: The Cripplegate

Persecution and Prayer

by Jonathan Master

Christians have always been persecuted.  Peter reminded his readers of this in the earliest days of the church: “…knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by the brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:9b).  But it does seem as if the suffering of Christians – whether at the hands of Muslims, Hindus, or totalitarians of another stripe – has been in the news more lately.  The testimonies of our brothers and sisters in these places are sobering; but often they are also encouraging examples of grace-fueled perseverance.

I sometimes wonder how I would feel or pray if I was faced with serious persecution.  Would I be self-pitying?  Vengeful?  What are the key theological truths which need to be grasped most tightly during these times?

In Acts 4, we read about a prayer meeting which follows right on the heels of intense persecution.  Peter and John had just been released by the temple officials, but they had been ordered not to speak about Jesus any more.  The threat of suffering and death was real, and they had just experienced a foretaste of it.  So what did they pray upon their release?  What would you pray?

There are four main truths they meditated on in their prayer – four key teachings about God which they held tightly.

The first is that God is the sovereign creator: “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea and everything in them” (Acts 4:24).  The truth of God as creator is revealed to us in the very first chapter of the Bible.  It is foundational to everything that follows.  God’s authority and his work as creator insured that he was over and above anything else that might come against them.  What a comfort in times of persecution!

The second main truth is that God had promised judgment for those who opposed him.  This is found in verses 25-26, and is mainly encapsulated in a quotation from Psalm 2.  Psalm 2 begins with a rhetorical question about human rulers: Why do they oppose God, since it is ultimately in vain?  God’s response to their opposition is laughter and anger and he promises swift judgment upon them.  In our day, we shy away from affirming the judgment of God, but when facing God’s enemies, God’s righteous judgment is not an embarrassment, but a great comfort.  God will make all things right; he will judge those who oppose him.  Their ultimate end is in his hands.

Thirdly, these early persecuted Christians focused on the fact that God predestines.  Specifically, they affirm his predestination in the death of Jesus Christ.  Although those who killed Jesus are held responsible for their sin, yet nonetheless God had predestined for it to occur.  If that was true of the most wicked injustice in all of history, how much more was it true of whatever unfair persecution they or we might undergo?  Once again, we shy away from this doctrine of predestination and of God’s perfect plan.  But when we are faced with persecution, it becomes a sweet and significant truth.

Finally, these Christians knew that not only had God worked in creation, not only had he promised judgment, not only had he predestined that which takes place, but, in addition to all these things, he was at work even in their own day.  We know this because in verse 30 the Christians pray for God’s continued work: “…while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  God had not left these disciples on their own.  He was not sitting distantly aside, merely watching what transpired in their persecution.  No.  He was still at work through his church.  This persecution, painful as it was, did nothing to thwart God’s work at all.

In the midst of all this, the earliest Christians prayed for boldness (29), and we should pray for this today as well.  We need to be bold and clear in our presentation of the gospel.  But as we pray for boldness, let us remember these four doctrines which meant so much to them.  They are truths much maligned today, but they are vital to our lives as pilgrims here on earth; and to those of the brotherhood around the world who are suffering even now, they are simply indispensable.

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Jonathan Master (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is professor of theology and dean of the School of Divinity at Cairn University. He is also director of Cairn’s Center for University Studies. Dr. Master serves as executive editor of Place for Truth and is co-chair of the Princeton Regional Conference on Reformed Theology.

The Osteen Predicament — Mere Happiness Cannot Bear the Weight of the Gospel

 

Wednesday • September 3, 2014

Online source

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The evangelical world, joined by no shortage of secular observers, has been abuzz about the latest soundbite of note from the Pastors Osteen — this time offered by Victoria Osteen as her husband Joel beamed in the background. It is a hard video to watch.

In her message, Victoria Osteen tells their massive congregation to realize that their devotion to God is not really about God, but about themselves. “I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God–I mean, that’s one way to look at it–we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we are happy. . . . That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy. . . .”

She continued: “So, I want you to know this morning — Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. . . . When you come to church, when you worship him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?”

As you might predict, the congregation responded with a loud “Amen.”

America deserves the Osteens. The consumer culture, the cult of the therapeutic, the marketing impulse, and the sheer superficiality of American cultural Christianity probably made the Osteens inevitable. The Osteens are phenomenally successful because they are the exaggerated fulfillment of the self-help movement and the cult of celebrity rolled into one massive mega-church media empire. And, to cap it all off, they give Americans what Americans crave — reassurance delivered with a smile.

Judged in theological terms, the Osteen message is the latest and slickest version of Prosperity Theology. That American heresy has now spread throughout much of the world, but it began in the context of American Pentecostalism in the early twentieth century. Prosperity theology, promising that God rewards faith with health and wealth, first appealed to those described as “the dispossessed” — the very poor. Now, its updated version appeals to the aspirational class of the suburbs. Whereas the early devotees of Prosperity Theology prayed for a roof over their heads that did not leak, the devotees of prosperity theology in the Age of Osteen pray for ever bigger houses. The story of how the Osteens exercised faith for a big house comes early in Joel Osteen’s best-seller, Your Best Life Now.

According to Osteen, God wants to pour out his “immeasurable favor” on his human creatures, and this requires a fundamental re-ordering of our thinking. “To experience this immeasurable favor,” Osteen writes, “you must rid yourself of that small-minded thinking and start expecting God’s blessings, start anticipating promotion and supernatural increase. You must conceive it in your heart before you can receive it. In other words, you must make increase in your own thinking, then God will bring those things to pass.”

There is nothing really new in this message. Anyone familiar with the New Thought movement and later books such as Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich will see a persistent theme. The important issue is this — Prosperity Theology is a false Gospel. The problem with Prosperity Theology is not that it promises too much, but that it aims for so little. What God promises us in Christ is far above anything that can be measured in earthly wealth — and believers are not promised earthly wealth nor the gift of health.

But to talk of the promises of God to believers is actually to jump outside the Osteen audience. The Osteen message does not differentiate between believers and unbelievers — certainly not in terms of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In their sermons, writings, and media appearances, the Osteens insist that God is well-disposed to all people and wills that all flourish, but there is virtually no mention of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No reference to sin as the fundamental issue. No explanation of atonement and resurrection as God’s saving acts; no clarity of any sort on the need for faith in Christ and repentance of sin.

Instead, they focus on happiness and God’s “immeasurable favor” to be poured out on all people, if they will only correct their thinking.

As a thought exercise, let’s just limit the consideration to those people who have identified as Christians throughout the centuries. Does the Osteen message come close to their experience? Would it even make sense?

Just consider the fact that most Christians throughout the history of the church have been poor, and often desperately poor. They were not hoping to move into a suburban mini-mansion, they hoped to be able to feed their children one more day. That picture is still true for millions upon millions of Christians around the world today.

And that is just the start of it. What about all those who are even now suffering persecution for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? What about the loved ones of the martyrs in Mosul? What about the Christians forced out of their homes and threatened with genocide? What about the children of Christians slain in Iraq and Syria just in recent weeks, or those martyred by Boko Haram in Africa? How does Prosperity Theology work for them? Can anyone look them in the eye and say that God’s plan for believers in this life is to know Your Best Life Now?

In her recent work on Prosperity Theology, historian Kate Bowler traces the shift from what she calls the “hard prosperity” message of the early Pentecostals to the “soft prosperity” message of modern preachers like Joel Osteen. As Bowler explains, the new “softer” version of the prosperity message has “become the foremost Christian theology of modern living.”

Well, maybe. Prosperity Theology certainly sells books and draws crowds in the United States, but what does it possibly say to a grieving Christian wife and mother in Iraq? How can it possibly be squared with the actual message of the New Testament? How can any sinner be saved, without a clear presentation of sin, redemption, the cross, the empty tomb, and the call to faith and repentance? Prosperity Theology fails every test, and fails every test miserably. It is a false gospel, and one that must be repudiated, not merely reformatted.

Victoria Osteen’s comments fit naturally within the worldview and message she and her husband have carefully cultivated. The divine-human relationship is just turned upside down, and God’s greatest desire is said to be our happiness. But what is happiness? It is a word that cannot bear much weight. As writers from C. S. Lewis to the Apostle Paul have made clear, happiness is no substitute for joy. Happiness, in the smiling version assured in the Age of Osteen, doesn’t last, cannot satisfy, and often is not even real.

Furthermore, God’s pleasure in his human creatures centers in his desire and will that they come to faith in Jesus Christ and be saved. The great dividing line in humanity is not between the rich and the poor, the sick and the well, or even the happy and the unhappy. The great divide is between those who, in Christ, have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s glorious light.

Mere happiness cannot bear the weight of the Gospel. The message of the real Gospel is found in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” That is a message that can be preached with a straight face, a courageous spirit, and an urgent heart in Munich, in Miami, or in Mosul. 

If our message cannot be preached with credibility in Mosul, it should not be preached in Houston. That is the Osteen Predicament.

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I am always glad to hear from readers. Just write me at mail@albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/albertmohler

Kate Bowler, Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013). Section cited is on page 78.

Riots in the Street: a Biblical Perspective

by Jordan Standridge, Source: The Cripplegate

In April of 1992, a jury found two white police officers “not guilty” for their conduct in the arrest of Rodney King a year earlier. The verdict sparked week-long riots in Los Angeles; at least 63 people were killed, 12,000 arrested, and one billion dollars of damage was done.

On May 3 (a Sunday), 1,000 US Marines and 600 soldiers were deployed to the streets of Los Angeles to supplement 6,500 National Guard troops already there.

It was the first Sunday since the riots had begun, and Grace Church (where John MacArthur was in his 23rd year as pastor) is only a few miles away from where the King beating took place. Already five people had been murdered in rioting only blocks from the church, and there were questions as to weather or not it would even be safe for the church to meet that day.

The church did meet, and MacArthur paused his normal sermon series, instead preaching a message titled:  The Los Angeles Riots: A Biblical Perspective

He began by saying:

The problem in our city is not lack of opportunity or lack of education. The problem in our city is not too much possessions, materialism. Those are only symptoms of a problem. The problem in our city is the problem of the wretchedness of the human heart. And nobody escapes that. It knows no race. It knows no color. It knows no location. It is pervasive. Sin is the degenerative and damning power in the human stream that pollutes every man and every woman and every part of life.

He went on to explain why pastors were in many cases part of the problem, not the solution:

We live in a city with churches on every street corner. But most of them don’t make any difference, any impact in their community at all. And as long as these people keep meeting, these reverends with no churches and these churches with no gospel, and as long as politicians and policemen and whoever else meet, presidents and congresses and councils, and try to solve the problem of man educationally or economically, they will never succeed. It cannot be solved there. It is not an environmental problem, it is a nature problem. It doesn’t come from the outside in, it comes from the inside out.

The main point of his message was essentially that the human heart is source of evil and rebellion, but God mitigates against this depravity through common grace. He establishes government to be an authority, and he establishes family to teach the importance of respecting authority.

But Los Angeles as a whole had experienced a culture of corruption in authority, and a culture that systematically dismantled the family, and thus any concept of respect for authority.

This resulted in the riots. But he went even more specific than citing a breakdown in civil authority and family discipline. He went on to identify 13 different causes that combined to make Los Angeles a city engulfed by violence. Last week someone encouraged me to listen to this message, and I did (you can too, here). Today I want to repost his 13 reasons—13 conditions in society that lead to racial riots:

  1. THE TERRIBLE TRAGEDY OF LIVING FOR PLEASURE

He described Los Angeles as a society into cheap thrills, wanting mindless kicks. The entertainment culture created a people that don’t think deeply about issues because they are simply into fun, feelings, and pleasure. People that only live for highs and who take pleasure into wickedness. He pointed to 2 Peter 2:13 which says, “They count it pleasure to riot” and showed how that was what was happening in that day.

  1. THE TERRIBLE REALITY OF SELFISHNESS

Racism, stealing, and pride are all manifestations of selfishness. When athletes claim that they are “the greatest,” and people think that kind of declaration is noble, then it reflects how selfish society has become. This selfishness causes people to adopt a mindset that “I matter above everyone else.” This is why the Bible says that God hates pride (Prov 8:13).

When people become consumed with themselves, everyone else becomes a means of self-gratification. Only humble people can love, only humble people can truly care. So in a world consumed by pride (like the one James was writing to), the people need to be asked this question:

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? What is it that causes riots and quarrels and fights and wars? Is not the source your pleasure that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have, so you commit murders. James 4:1-2

  1. THE EVIL OF MATERIALISM

We live in a society where things are more important than people, and so then it is only a matter of time before people become a means to an end. For someone to be able to go into a store, shoot someone just to steal a CD player, they must have a materialistic mindset.

  1. THE TRAGEDY OF AMORALITY

MacArthur said that the sexual revolution has caused more deaths than any other revolution in world history. People like Hugh Hefner have advocated sexually deviant lifestyles, which has caused people to accept pornography, violently sexual music, and nasty sexual conversation. We have a culture of people who have substituted their life for their glands, and when people live only for their next sex thrill. They become accustomed to sexual immorality which prepares them to become accustomed to violence.

  1. THE DANGER OF ANGER

The Bible forbids anger, and MacArthur pointed out that anger used to be considered a sin. Society used to find self-control socially valuable, and kids used to get spanked for not exercising it. But now people feel that they have the right to say whatever they want, whenever they want. They feel they should be allowed to vent their venom, hostility and anger.

But the truth, MacArthur reminded people, is that neither police nor citizens have a right to be angry (Eph 4:31, James 1:20, Ecc 7:9). Matthew 5:43 teaches that anger should always be replaced by prayer.

  1. THE DEADLINESS OF VENGEANCE

MacArthur said that:

The child of anger and hate is vengeance. A man strikes a policeman, a policeman strikes back. Then society strikes back. The police have to strike back. And pretty soon you have war. You can’t stop it. There is no place for vengeance, no matter what is done. It is a sin and it is a dominating sin and again it’s that same mentality. “I am the king of my universe, I have a right to anger, I have a right to hate, I have a right to pleasure, I have a right to fulfillment, and I have a right to possessions. And if you get in my way, I am going to give it to you.

MacArthur called everyone who was wronged in the riots to pray that God will forgive the transgressors through Jesus Christ.

  1. THE ABSENCE OF FORGIVENESS

We live in a world where if someone builds a fence six inches into their neighbor’s yard, the neighbor is as likely to kill them for it as they are to forgive them. MacArthur pointed out that this is so unlike Christ, who forgave the unforgivable.

  1. THE DIVISIVENESS OF PREJUDICE

Underneath these other causes is often the disease of prejudice, which God hates. But while God hates it, our society is loaded with it. Our society has essentially fabricated the concept of race, and then uses that to divide and sow hatred. This prejudice will rip, tear and shred families, neighborhoods, cities, nations. (Here is link to similar teaching by Pastor Anyabwile).

  1. THE LOSS OF RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY

MacArthur said that the amount of chaos seen in a riot can only be the result of a concerted effort to destroy a people’s confidence in law enforcement and the entire concept of law and order. The result of that effort will always be death and destruction [at this point—Sunday—the death toll of the riots had already passed 50]. He went on to say that causing people to disrespect those that bear the sword is a deadly sin, and when it becomes accepted in a culture, riots are not far behind. By the way, efforts to sow distrust in police ironically lead to the loss of freedom in the form of curfews and the military deployed in the streets [that Sunday was the first day that the Marines had been deployed in Los Angeles]. MacArthur called it a small taste of a society under police control (1 Peter 2:13-14).

10. THE DISASTER OF CIVIL REBELLION

If pride leads to murder, then disrespect leads to rebellion. MacArthur pointed out a causal connection: if you destroy respect, you encourage rebellion.

11. THE DECLINE IN SWIFT AND SEVERE PUNISHMENT

The loss of fear of punishment for wrongdoing is inextricably linked to our society’s disconnect between a crime and a punishment for that crime. The California culture had embraced slow justice, and thus slow punishment. In that world, the fear of punishment does not restrain crime or cause fear of evil [it had been over a year from the beating of Rodney King to the conclusion of the trial for the police involved].

12. THE EFFECT OF DRUNKENNESS

MacArthur made the point that drugs and alcohol have wrecked families, and more than any other sin are responsible for the destruction of our nation’s cities.

13. WEAK, IMPOTENT, FOOLISH, SELFISH AND SINFUL LEADERSHIP

MacArthur closed by asking this question:

Where are the great leaders? Where are the godly leaders? Where are the virtuous leaders? Where are the great moral men and women? Where are they? Hosea said, “Like people, like priests,” because they’ll never be any better than their leaders. And now we see it. The sins of the fathers have reached the third, the fourth generation.

You look at the society, what do you see? Lust for pleasure, self and things, sexual perversion, anger, hate, vengeance, unforgiveness, prejudice, lack of respect for authority, civil rebellion, drunkenness, weak, foolish, evil leadership that’s more concerned about politics than it is about morality.

Finally MacArthur warned about looking for secular solutions to these problems. He warned:

Nobody can escape, I don’t care if you’re black or white, I don’t care if you’re yellow or brown, or whatever of those simple colors represent the races of our world, nobody can escape the devastating power of his own sin, the wretchedness of the heart… I’ll tell you this, they may put the lid on it this week, but it will go off again. There’s only one thing that’s going to change it and that is the saving power of Jesus Christ. And my final word to you is this, you have an obligation in this society, my friend, if you’re a Christian and so do I and it is this, you are to live a godly life free from all these sins I have mentioned. You are to live a godly life free from these things. Secondly, you are to preach the only message that can transform the human heart, the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s what this world must hear if anything is to change.

Driscoll Drama: To those who sold tickets | the Cripplegate

I don’t remember ever specifically airing my thoughts and opinions about the issue discussed in the below referenced Cripplegate article, nor will I do so now. I just think it’s a well written article that asks questions deserving serious reflection.

Driscoll Drama: To those who sold tickets | the Cripplegate

via Driscoll Drama: To those who sold tickets | the Cripplegate.

John Frame Extended Quote on What is Culture?

Originally posted on The Domain for Truth:

John-Frame

Here’s an extended quote from John Frame on defining culture.  He begins first with two definitions of cultures given by others and work on a more nuance definition.  It is important to make a good definition for culture if one is engage in cultural apologetics, Christian ethics and engage in the thinking of the Christian Worldview.

The Lausanne Committee on World Evangelism defined culture as “an intergrated system of beliefs, values, customs, and institutions which binds a society together and gives it a sense of identity, dignity, security, and continuity.”  Ken Myers writes that culture is “a dynamic pattern, an ever-changing marix of objects, artifacts, sounds, institutions, philosophies, fashions, enthusiasms, myths, all embodied in individual people, in groups and collectives and associations of people (many of whom do not know they are associated), in books, in buildings, in the use of time and space, in wars, in jokes, and in…

View original 106 more words

If I hadn’t been banned from commenting. . . .

Over at Patheos.com, in an article aout gay marriage being harmful, and after a response indicated that God had created two complimentary sexes, I received the following comment, among others, not quite as fuzzy in the logic department:

WilmRoget

" like God having created Adam and Eve,"

Ah yeah, the heterosexual couple who introduced sin into the world. The couple who raised the world’s first murderer, if Genesis is taken literally. The couple who brought down on humanity God’s first curse, which just happens to target the fruit of heterosexual intercourse.

Good example there. Not to mention the way Adam tries to blame it all on Eve, instead of standing up for her like a real man. And then he blames God.

"Jesus teaching on marriage?"

Like when He said that remarriage after a divorce for any reason other than adultery is adultery?

You think because you and your peers murder and rape and brutalize GLBTQ people, and then blame the Bible, it makes your sin any less evil?

 

I wanted to suggest that if God had created Adam and Steve, there would b e no WilmRoget. He has obviously read some Bible, for which I commend him. That his heart is hardened against God is deeply sad.

 His final sentence is perhaps the most problematic. To that I wanted to say that both MY sin and HIS sin are equally deplorable in the sight of God and that we ALL have sinned and fallen short, but that there is redemption in Christ. But alas, I have been banned from commenting, which just might mean that something I said struck home and that the anger that banned me was provoked a small amount of Holy Spirit conviction.

Please join me in praying for WilmRoget, as well as all those trapped in their bondage to sin, as we all once were.