Review of ‘Why The Reformation Still Matters’-Part 2
Created by Jon Taylor - Monday 18 Sep 2017
Jon Taylor
Review of ‘Why The Reformation Still Matters’-Part 2

Previously we established that the Reformation was not supposed to be limited to a one- time event but more accurately a continuing process… We looked at justification, scripture, sin and grace and their relevance today. We saw how Reeves and Chester traced Luther’s former view of sin back to Aristotle where righteousness was seen as something to be earned by doing righteous deeds and then recognised that we could never accomplish that in a lifetime of lifetimes.  Our sin needs to be forgiven by God and we need to be declared righteous by Him. Justification is by grace through faith. Though only a small part of the overall book is being reviewed here, it is time now to look at ‘How do we know what is true and how can we know God?

How do we know what is true and how can we know God?
Reeves and Chester explain that news of Luther’s ninety five theses on the Wittenberg Chapel in opposition to the Catholic Church drew attention rapidly, so Pope Leo X appointed the Augustinian Order and in particular Johann von Staupitz to deal with that accordingly. Interestingly though, Staupitz presented Luther with the opportunity to discuss his views at Heidelberg in 1518. Luther not only challenged the existing theology within Catholicism, but also the scholastic interpretations of Aristotle.
Luther was stating how we can know God and that God can only be known by those whom He gives faith. Creation, miracles and spiritual experiences are important, though they only reveal something of God, rather than enabling us to know God Himself. For example in Romans 1:20, through creation, the invisible attributes of God are clearly seen. That teaches us something about God but isn’t sufficient for us to know Him.
Reeves and Chester help us consider that if we could know God through creation, then those who would know Him best would be those who knew most about the science of the universe. Similarly, if knowing God was purely a matter of spiritual experience then those who spent their time in contemplation would undoubtedly boast of their intelligence or spirituality and in that pride would not give glory to God alone. Undoubtedly those who would over-emphasize their experiences of miracles would again boast or glory in that also, rather than in Him alone.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 counsels us:
23 Thus says the Lord:
“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
24 But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,” says the Lord.

This is the difference between an anthropocentric (or human-centred) theology as opposed to a theocentric (or God-centred) understanding of God. Moreover, when we read God’s word, we need to evaluate whether we are reading from a godly perspective or from our own ideas. We can know God but need to understand and approach Him on His terms.
1 Corinthians 1:18-31 deals with these issues since the Greeks sought wisdom and the Jews sought signs. Paul clarifies that the foolishness of God is actually wiser than human reason.

22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks[a] foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”[

Knowing God Today

Paul explains that our righteousness is from Him and then quotes Jeremiah 9:24 so that we should only glory or boast in Him (certainly not in ourselves). God wants us to know and understand Him and that God delights in exercising lovingkindness, judgement and righteousness throughout the earth. This is the opposite of the Deist view that God created the world and stepped away from it and somehow remains at a distance and isn’t really knowable.
Around the time of the enlightenment, liberalism was prevalent in the universities and came to be known as higher criticism, spread into the churches with its emphasis upon human reason and was a destructive force against Biblical Christianity causing incalculable damage that lingers even today. Human reason was used to evaluate the Bible and determine which parts we were supposed to consider seriously, thereby attacking its reliability, historicity and chiefly its authority.
Today, postmodernity emphasizes experience and suspicion of historical narratives (with the assumption that since history is written by the victors it is consistently unreliable); and by and large rejects the possibility of absolute truth. Unwittingly, the rejection of absolute truth is actually exposing the groundless starting point of the means to determine truth in the first place. Thankfully it is its own worst enemy!
In contrast, the biblical view of humanity doesn’t put humans at the centre of the universe but humbly puts our confidence in God rather than in ourselves. God’s Word is sufficient, primary and authoritative. Our boast and glory is in Christ alone and by grace through faith alone!
Monday 18 Sep 2017