Tuesday, September 27, 2016

John Calvin Killing Servetus

John Calvin (AD 1509-1564), namesake of the Calvinists of today, is a hero to many.  His books are often recommended and referenced.  He was a leader in the Protestant Reformation.  

But Calvin had a dark side.  Part of that dark side was absolutely denying freedom of speech and religious liberty.  On October 27, 1553, John Calvin had Michael Servetus (c. 1509-1553) mercilessly burned to death.  Why?  Because Servetus disagreed with Calvin’s beliefs. 

Leonard Verduin (AD 1897-1999) speaks authoritatively on this issue.  He was a graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary, and the University of Michigan.  Verduin knew Hebrew, Greek, Latin, German, French, Dutch, English.  On the subject of Calvin, it is noteworthy that Verduin is of the Reformed tradition. 
In his highly praised book, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren,” Leonard Verduin says about John Calvin: 

“The burning of Servetus – let it be said with utmost clarity – was a deed for which Calvin must be held largely responsible.  It was not done in spite of Calvin, as some over-ardent admirers of his are wont to say.  He planned it beforehand and maneuvered it from start to finish.  It occurred because of him and not in spite of him.  After it had taken place Calvin defended it, with every possible and impossible argument.  There is every reason to believe that if it had not been for the fact that public opinion was beginning to run against this kind of thing there would have been many more such burnings.  The event was the direct result of the sacralism to which Calvin remained committed, a sacralism which he never discarded.” 

“Here was a man (Servetus) who posed no threat to civil serenity in Geneva – unless of course it be granted that anyone who deviates from the orthodoxy expoused by the State is ipso facto a threat to that civil serenity.  [Footnote in the book: In the sacral pattern heresy is automatically sedition.]  Servetus started no parades, made no speeches, carried no placards, had no political ambitions.  He did have some erratic ideas touching the doctrine of the Trinity; and he entertained some deviating notions concerning baptism, especially infant baptism.  No doubt there was something of the spiritual iconoclast in him, as there is in all men of genius (Servetus was something of a scientific genius in that he anticipated the idea of the circulatory course of the blood).  But he was not a revolutionary in the political sense.  He was indeed ‘off the beam’ in matters of religious doctrine, but he did not deserve to be arrested or executed – a judgment in which the man of sacralist convictions cannot of course concur.  Only in a sacralist climate would men deal in such a way with such a man.” 

Footnote from book, p. 55:  “In the sentences whereby heretics were sent to the stake it was usually specified that the execution was to be by ‘small fire.’  It seems that in the case of Servetus green wood was used, so that it took three hours before he was pronounced dead.”

“When the news was out that Servetus had died in the fire, a cry of outrage resounded over most of Europe.  It is true that many of the leaders of the Reform applauded the burning (Melanchthon, for example, wrote that ‘the Church owes and always will owe a debt of gratitude to you for having put the heretic to death’); although it is also true that some, even in Geneva itself, refused to put their names to a document supporting the execution.  But there was a chorus of protest that issued at once from those circles that had been deeply influenced by the humanizing tendencies of the times.  Contrary to the legend that is kept alive by over-ardent admirers of Calvin, the spirit of the age was already relegating such inhumanity to the limbo of the past.  The Renaissance had not been without its fruitage of toleration.” 
-Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, Eerdmans; 1964.  Reprinted by The Baptist Standard Bearer,Inc., Paris, Arkansas. 

 Verduin goes on to point out how after the burning of Servetus, John Calvin and Beza continued to vigorously defend their brutal, torturous murder of Servetus. 

Thank God for the ideal, largely promoted by Anabaptists and Baptists, of Religious Liberty for all.  Thank God for Religious Liberty in America, although that liberty is being threatened. 

The book, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, should be read by anyone interested in Anabaptists, Baptists, the Radical Reformers, and Religious Liberty.  The book is marred in places by Latin and other languages with no English translation.  I’m a big believer in writing in easy to understand language.  It would also be helpful to explain the geographical sites with modern day language and countries, maybe a map or two.  In spite of this, it is well worth reading and studying. 

“It is difficult for me to speak in restrained terms about this most excellent study. Verduin has done a thorough job of research. He writes obviously out of a background rich in historical information and understanding. This book is all the more significant since it comes from the pen of one of the Reformers' family and not from among the offspring of the ‘stepchildren.’”  
- W. R. Estep Jr., SWBTS
The Reformers and Their Stepchildren has also been highly recommended by Paige Patterson. 

Sacralism – Leonard Verduin’s term for the belief and practice that the church and state are one.  The government should have a state religion and enforce those beliefs against any dissenters.  Religious Liberty is rejected.  This also means the church is filled with unsaved people, since everyone is automatically enrolled in the state church.  Anabaptists, Baptists, baptistic Christians, and others obviously dissented. 

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, September 27, AD 2016. 


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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Evangelist T. T. Martin: The Banker and the Preacher

Evangelist T. T. Martin (AD 1862-1939) was a professor, pastor, evangelist.  Born in Mississippi, he was a graduate of Mississippi College and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He entered full-time evangelism in 1900 and was known for his effectiveness in bringing conviction and pointing men to the Savior.  He often used large tents for his revival meetings.  He was also known for his opposition to evolution. Thomas Theodore Martin was buried in Gloster, Mississippi and his grave has references to the three texts he viewed as the core of his ministry: John 3:16; Acts 16:31; John 5:24. 

In his 1912 sermon, Rewards – Degrees in Heaven, Evangelist Martin told the story: 

A rich banker in the West a few weeks before Christmas sent a check for three hundred and fifty dollars to his brother in the East, a poor country preacher, telling him to come and bring all of his family and spend Christmas with him.  They had not seen each other since boyhood. 
The preacher and family arrived Christmas eve morning.  That afternoon in carriages the two families drove over the banker’s beautiful farm of a thousand acres of rich land.  Coming in late in the afternoon, they came by the pasture and saw the beautiful herd of blooded cattle.  After a sumptuous supper the banker’s daughters gave them some splendid music and the two families went upstairs to sleep. 
The two white-haired brothers, the banker and the poor country preacher remained downstairs, and for hours talked of boyhood days in the old country home in the East.  At last the conversation, like the fire in the fireplace, had about died out. 
Finally the banker turned and said, “Brother John, may I say something to you and you not get angry?”  Said the preacher, “Why, brother James, you can say anything you wish to me and I will not get angry.” 
Said the banker, “Brother John, you and I were poor boys back in the old country home in the East and we agreed to be partners for life.  One day you came to me and told me that you were called to preach.  I told you then that you were a fool.  What a fool you have been!  Do you remember that rich farm of a thousand acres you saw this afternoon?  Paid for with honest money, John.  This comfortable home for my old age, paid for with honest money, John.  The fifty thousand dollars I have in the bank in the city where I am president of the bank, every dollar of it honest money, John. 
“John, you could have had as much as I have.  What a fool you have been!  Why, I had to send you the three hundred and fifty dollars to bring you and your family that I might see them before I die.  And look at your daughters; they are dressed in such a shabby way that I am ashamed for my neighbors to see my children’s cousins.  And look at you with your old seedy, worn suit and your patched shoes; I am ashamed to take you to town day after tomorrow and introduce you to my business associates. 
What a fool you have been!  Now, John, I am not saying this to wound your feelings; for I love you, John.  But I don’t want you to let any of your boys be such fools as you have been.  You know you have been a fool, John.”   
Then there was silence for some time.  The tears were trickling down the cheeks of the old country preacher. 
At last he broke the silence, “Brother James, may I say something to you and you not get angry?”  “Why, certainly, John, I did not say what I did you make you angry, but to keep you from letting any of your boys be such fools as you have been, for you know you have been a fool, John.” 
“I know,” replied the old preacher, “that it looks like I have been a fool from this end of the line, brother James.  But, brother James, we are both old men and we must soon go.  Don’t be angry with me, brother James, but what have you got up yonder?” 
Again there was silence, which was suddenly broken by the banker sobbing, “Oh, John, I am a pauper at the judgment bar of God.” 
“So is he that layeth up treasures for himself and is not rich toward God.”  They are dying all over the world, men who are redeemed, going to Heaven, but paupers. 

-Evangelist T. T. Martin, God’s Plan With Men; 1912.  Reprinted by Loizeaux Brothers, New York; c. 1950 (no date given). 

This Loizeaux Brothers book is from my dad’s, Joe E. Brumbelow’s, library.  As a boy, I remember him using this illustration in his preaching.  And, I believe my dad’s life was another example of a preacher of the gospel laying up treasure in Heaven. 

There is nothing wrong with being rich, if you can do so while honoring God.  But, whether rich or poor, have you been laying up treasure in Heaven? 

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, September 14, AD 2016. 

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Can A Christian "Save" Others? Yes

Being saved refers to a person placing their faith, their trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and being made right with God.  Jesus bled and died for our sins, and rose again, that we might have salvation by believing in Him.  So, Jesus is the One who saves.  He paid the price for our salvation. 

But, can a believer save a soul?  Many vehemently deny this possibility.  Many Calvinists (Reformed) insist salvation is only God’s decision, even to the point that God has to save or regenerate a person first, before he can believe.  Therefore, a human being can do nothing for their salvation.  The Bible, however, is not nearly that strict on salvation. 

We sometimes get too picky with our terminology.  Sometimes we insist others abide by our personal preferences, or we are ready to consign them to perdition, or at least proclaim them ignorant believers. 

Do I believe Jesus saves?  Of course I do.  Do I believe salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone?  Yes (Ephesians 2:8-9; Acts 4:12; John 14:6). 

When it comes to salvation, Jesus paid it all, but others participate in God’s salvation.  Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again.  But the individual must repent and believe in Jesus (John 1:12, 3:16, 36; 5:24; Romans 10:9-10, 13).  And those who point others to Jesus also have a part in that salvation. 

Could it be proper to say, “I saved a soul from an eternity without Christ”?  Regardless of what some might say, this is sound theology and it is biblical theology.  It is just looking at salvation from a different angle.  It also brings out the truth of God being in charge, yet God giving man a free will to participate in His salvation. 

Do I have biblical evidence for men and women saving others?  Yes, I do.

If by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.  -Romans 11:14 

Notice the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, referred to his saving some of his countrymen. 

For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?  -1 Corinthians 7:16 

Many a husband has been saved by his wife.  Many a wife has been saved by her husband.  How?  The wife prayed for him, lived a godly life in front of him, witnessed to him, pointed him to Jesus.  Our “saving” others is biblical terminology, plain and simple. 

To the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.  -1 Corinthians 9:22

Paul was willing to become all things that he might “save some.”  Paul was willing to sacrifice to “save” others. 

Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.  -1 Timothy 4:16

In one sense, you can “save” yourself and others by taking heed to God’s Word.

Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.  -James 5:20

A soul-winner in in the business of “saving” souls.  When you win someone to the Lord, you are “saving” a soul from death. 

But others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.  -Jude 1:23

We are actually told to “save” people.  To save them with fear, knowing that Hell is a reality. 

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.  -James 1:21

In another sense, the Word of God is able to “save” your souls. 

Does this mean instead of Jesus, a man can pay for and forgive sins and assure others a place in Heaven?  No, in that sense only Jesus can save (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).  But this does mean that the Bible itself refers to Paul, the Word of God, others, and you, saving a soul from death when you have a part in bringing someone to Jesus. 

Salvation is not nearly as one-sided as some would have you believe.  God the Son is the One who bled and died for the salvation of the world.  The Holy Spirit moves and convicts.  But God calls on man, possessed of a free will, to repent and believe.  Further, God even recognizes the saving work of man in pointing others to Jesus. 

So, don’t get too demanding in your personal preferences and shibboleths. 

Jesus saves.  But, according the Bible, man saves as he sows the gospel seed to those lost and in need of a Savior. 

Note: Fancy words and defintions.
Monergism – God brings about salvation regardless of an individual’s cooperation.  The only way a man can believe is for God to first regenerate or save him; only then can he believe in Jesus. 
Synergism – God and the individual cooperate in bringing about salvation.  Jesus made the supreme sacrifice for all, but man must exercise his God-given free-will in receiving salvation.  This is the view that best fits with the biblical evidence. 

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, September 6, AD 2016. 

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