Archives For reformation

Our 2017 Theology Conference will be held February1-3 on the campus of Trinity International University. In the introduction to the conference, we will focus on the EFCA’s roots in the Reformation and the Reformation’s legacy in the EFCA.

We are excited for this Theology Conference. Not only are we addressing the Reformation, a timely and important theme in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of Luther posting the 95 Theses, but we have some of the foremost scholars addressing the various themes/topics of the Conference.

In our first two lectures we focus on common Reformation themes, that of sola Scriptura and justification. Most are familiar with these truths, along with the other solas of the Reformation. However, the Reformation addressed more than these issues. In our following lectures we address a few important and related topics of the Reformation, which are not often known or addressed. Our goal is that we will all learn more about the Reformation and its theology, and also its legacy, up to and affecting those of us serving in the EFCA in the present.

David J. Luy, Assistant Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, will address the important issue of a theology of the cross as opposed to a theology of glory. Often we speak of doing things for the glory of God, which is good and right. However, this is not what Luther meant by the expression a theology of glory. For him, a theology of glory was a theology of man, as it was anthropocentric, not theocentric. The contrast was with a theology of the cross, as God would never be understood apart from the cross. Post-fall, this is the plight of humanity. And even after being justified, it remains a struggle in the Christian life as we are progressively transformed into the image and likeness of Christ. This theology of the cross, over against the theology of glory, has implications to much of theology and the Christian life. The Bible and history are replete with examples of this contrast.

The Heidelberg Disputation: The Theology of the Cross (Theologia Crucis) Versus The Theology of Glory (Theologia Gloriae)

Some have claimed this was Luther’s most critical document of the Reformation, not his 95 theses. This reflects, proponents claim, his deeper reflection of the central issues undergirding, and what drove, the Reformation. The theology of glory emphasizes humanity’s ability before God. They expect that God acts according to what makes sense, what is reasonable to and consistent with the way the world works. In this case, power is good and weakness is bad, so therefore the cross is, indeed, foolishness, since it makes no sense. To the contrary, the theology of the cross recognizes humanity’s inability before God, and the absolute necessity for God to do a work in our lives. We are dependent on God, his revelation and his work. Through the cross, God acts in a way contrary to what we would expect. God’s strength is demonstrated through his apparent weakness. It is through the cross the curse of sin is removed and the principalities and powers are defeated. God’s ways are truly higher and better than humanity’s ways. This truth not only reflected the heart of Luther’s teaching, but the other Reformers as well, even though this truth may have been expressed in different ways by those Reformers. In fact, this truth could be described as the perpetual dividing line between what is truly Christian and what is not. In this lecture, we will look at what a theology of the cross means and what a theologian of the cross looks like as understood by Luther and the other Reformers. Preachers of the gospel are theologians of the cross.

Luy has a MDiv from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has taught there since 2012. He published Dominus Mortis: Martin Luther on the Incorruptibility of God in Christ (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014), a work in which he emphasizes the “doctrine of divine impassibility, the transcendence of God, dogmatic development, and the relationship of God to suffering.” He is a theologian and a churchman, who considers it a great privilege to teach future ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Luy is described as one who is “passionate about the role of systematic theology in the life of the church, and humbled by the enormous privilege of equipping future ministers for Christian service.” Luy has previously spoken at our 2015 Theology Conference in our preconference session, where we focused on Soteriological Essentials and the ‘Significance of Silence’” Arminianism, Calvinism, Lutheranism and the EFCA. Luy presented the Lutheran view of soteriology.

You can read more about the Conference, the speakers and the schedule here. Please register here. Plan to attend, and plan to bring other staff members, elders and/or leaders from the church.

Our 2017 EFCA Theology Conference will be held February 1-3 on the campus of Trinity International University. In the introduction to the conference, we will focus on the EFCA’s roots in the Reformation and the Reformation’s legacy in the EFCA.

We are excited for this Theology Conference. Not only are we addressing the Reformation, a timely and important theme in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of Luther posting the 95 Theses, but we have some of the foremost scholars addressing the various themes/topics of the Conference.

In our first two lectures we focus on common Reformation themes, that of sola Scriptura and justification. In our third lecture we address an important and related topic of the Reformation, but not often addressed formally. However, the heart of this topic is never far from any Christian and is certainly constantly relevant for all pastors and Christian counselors. Additionally, there is hardly a time in the history of the church this issue has not been discussed and/or debated.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will address this perpetual question and tension of the Christian faith and life. How do justification and sanctification relate to one another theologically, and what are the implications in the Christian life? The way we answer this question has profound consequences for how we live our personal Christian lives, how we live the Christian life with others and with what expectations, and how we provide pastoral counsel to others. This is one of those doctrines in which it is vital we understand and live out both orthodoxy and orthopraxy, all undergirded by the work of God in the people of God.

Faith Alone Justifies, Yet the Faith Which Justifies Is Not Alone: Justification and Sanctification

Justification by grace alone, by faith alone through Christ alone was the clarion call of the Reformation. It remains the foundation of the Evangelical church today. And yet, this teaching of justification by faith alone concerned the Roman Catholic dissenters because they feared it would foster licentiousness. It would remove all moral motivations to do good works. One of the greatest threats to the Christian faith was the doctrine of assurance, according to some Roman Catholic theologians. Not only did this debate mark the divide between the Reformers and the RCC, there were differences among those promoting Reformation theology. For example, Martin Luther first used the expression Antinomian against Johannes Agricola. Calvin wrote, “It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone.” Another historical example of this debate occurred in the Church of Scotland in the early 18th century, referred to as the Marrow Controversy. A continuing and contemporary reflection of this debate is that between those who espouse free grace and those who espouse Lordship. On this side of the fall, this challenge and debate are perpetual and universal. How do the doctrines of justification and sanctification relate? How are they different? Can one have one without the other? To what degree? When does one become antinomian? When does one become legalist? In this lecture we will trace the history of this discussion/debate and address the contemporary manifestation of this age-old dispute, with a focus on the practical application to our pastoral ministry with people, recognizing these doctrines are at the heart of most of our pastoral care and counseling with God’s people.

Mohler is the ninth president of the SBTS and has served in that role since 1993. He is ordained in the SBC and has served in pastoral ministry, has taught theology in the seminary and is now considered one of the foremost contemporary theologians addressing cultural issues from a biblical, theological and historical perspective. Mohler was one of the young theologians used by God in the process of the SBC returning to its roots by affirming the inerrancy, authority and sufficiency of the Word of God. Since that time he has not only served the school faithfully, he has also served in the SBC and broader Evangelicalism. I have learned much from reading and listening to Mohler, and I am grateful he is able to join us at our Theology Conference. I am especially thankful he is able to address this important subject.

You can read more about the Conference, the speakers and the schedule here. Please register here. Plan to attend with other staff, elders or leaders in the church.

Our 2017 Theology Conference will be held February1-3 on the campus of Trinity International University. In the introduction to the conference, we will focus on the EFCA’s roots in the Reformation and the Reformation’s legacy in the EFCA.

We are excited for this Theology Conference. Not only are we addressing the Reformation, a timely and important theme in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of Luther posting the 95 Theses, but we have some of the foremost scholars addressing the various themes/topics of the Conference.

D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, in our second lecture, will address the heart of the Reformation: justification by faith. This is the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was also the truth that drove Luther mad against God until his eyes were opened and his heart changed to see and understand it was the heart of the gospel and the Christian life: “The righteous shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17; cf. Hab. 2:4; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38). Both before and after this critical doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ had been rediscovered at the Reformation, it has been variously understood, misunderstood, undermined, and denied. In this lecture we will once again hear and confess the heart of the gospel, “The righteous shall live by faith!”

The Heart of the Reformation: Justification

A common theme arising from the Reformation was that justification is the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls. Although this may be overstated since there are many vital doctrines to the Christian church, there were few more important doctrines than this for the church at this time. This truth was, and remains, the major dividing line between the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformers. This was critical for Paul’s understanding of the gospel, and at the heart of his letters, particularly to the believers in Rome. The notion of “the justice of God” troubled him, and he despised this teaching. Rather than loving this just God, he “hated and murmured against him.” Luther describes his change, his conversion, in this way: “the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.” In this lecture, we will focus on Romans 3:21-26 and understand Paul’s teaching of this great doctrine. Some today question whether Luther and the Reformers got Paul’s doctrine of justification right. Proponents of this New Perspective on Paul claim the Reformation lens is misaligned and rather take their cue from the literature of Second Temple Judaism. The differences are stark and important.

Don has addressed this topic numerous times over the years. Here is a list of a few of those important works.

  • A. Carson, Peter T. O’Brien and Mark A. Seifrid, Justification and Variegated Nomism: The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001).
  • A. Carson and Peter T. O’Brien, Justification and Variegated Nomism: The Paradoxes of Paul (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004).
  • A. Carson, “The Vindication of Imputation: On Fields of Discourse and Semantic Fields,” in Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates, ed. Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier (Downers Grove: IVP, 2004), 46-78
  • A. Carson, “Atonement in Romans 3:21-26: ‘God Presented Him as a Propitiation,’” in The Glory of the Atonement: Biblical, Theological and Practical Perspectives, ed. Charles E. Hill and Frank A. James III (Downers Grove: IVP, 2004), 119-139.

Don has been teaching at TEDS, our EFCA school, since 1978. He has trained hundreds and thousands at TEDS, many of them who are now in Free Church ministries. Furthermore, Don is no stranger to the EFCA and to EFCA conferences. He has spoken at numerous EFCA conferences, including both our national conferences and our Theology Conferences. I personally am thankful I was able to sit under Don’s teaching while a student at TEDS, and I am grateful for the privilege of continuing to learn from him in settings such as this. We are grateful he is here with us again addressing this important topic.

You can read more about the Conference, the speakers and the schedule here. Please register here. Plan to attend with other staff, elders or leaders in the church.

One of the things I read most days as a companion to my Bible reading is the Christian history highlights for the day. Key events and people in the history of the Christian church are emphasized along with the year that key event happened.

On this day, November 30, in 1554, Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII, and who had recently been crowned Queen of England, restores the country to Roman Catholicism. Mary Tudor was known as “Bloody Mary” because she burned at the stake 300 Protestants, followers of the gospel of Jesus Christ espoused by Luther and Calvin and others. Some of those included in the Reformation’s cloud of witnesses are Thomas Cranmer, High Latimer and Nicholas Ridley. In addition to these martyrs, under Bloody Mary’s reign, 400 died due to imprisonment and starvation.

From our vantage point, when we think of the Reformation we often focus on the rediscovery of the gospel of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, the five solas – sola gratia (by grace alone), sola fidei (by faith alone), solus Christus (through Christ alone), sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone), soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone), the priesthood of the believer, among other vital truths. One aspect we often neglect or overlook is the cost of proclaiming the gospel and professing justification by faith alone. Many gave their lives for these truths.

As I prepared for our upcoming Theology Conference on “Reformation 500: Theology and Legacy – Reformation, Protestantism, Evangelicalism and the EFCA,” I pondered this cost and considered having a lecture focusing on it. In many places around the world, many brothers and sisters in the Lord are professing faith in Christ alone at the cost of their lives. These contemporary expressions of faith, the ultimate sacrifice given of one’s life have connections back to the Reformation, and the Reformation’s legacy continues forward to today in the martyrdom of faithful witnesses.

Although this will not be one of our lectures at our upcoming Conference, had our scheduled allowed another lecture this is one I would have planned.

Reformation, the Global Church and Martyrdom

In 1521 Luther was called to the Diet of Worms to recant his teachings contained in his writings. He did not. This resulted in an Edict against Luther claiming he was a heretic. He escaped and remained in seclusion at the Wartburg castle. In Luther’s case, this did not ultimately lead to his death.

This cannot be said for the numbers of others subsequent to Luther who affirmed and embraced the teaching of the gospel, who refused to recant, renounce or deny the teaching, and were martyred for it. What do we learn from this? The Reformation marked the divide in the Western Church into the Roman Catholic and Protestant, or more accurately, Evangelical. It was among these groups martyrdoms were happening.

Today is a different day, such that there certainly remain the internecine debates, even among Evangelicals, but that does not rise to this level. Is there something to learn from the unshakable faith of the Reformers and post-Reformers that they were willing to die for the gospel of Jesus Christ? There certainly is. Although we face a different cultural context than the Reformation, the contemporary application would be to what is happening among some believers in Islamic countries who are giving their lives for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ and who refuse to renounce their faith in Christ. This, then, also connects the Reformation and us to the global church.

Although significantly different than the experience of many in the global church, this also reflects a cost of confessing and professing faith in Christ alone and his claims on our lives in our own contemporary Western culture. We are tempted to remain silent to avoid the backlash, scorn and ridicule, and in some cases litigation, from those espousing the new cultural and moral narrative, that of tolerance and the autonomous self. We want to avoid the judgement and condemnation of being a “cultural heretic.” But we do so at the cost of not contending and defending “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), with the result being we are “ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation (Mk. 8:38; cf. Lk. 9:26).

What do we learn from the Reformers and post-Reformers about the cost of confessing Christ? For what would we give our lives today?

We are excited for this excellent Theology Conference. Not only are we addressing the Reformation, a timely and important theme in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of Luther posting the 95 Theses, but we have some of the foremost scholars addressing the various themes/topics of the Conference.

You can read more about the Conference, the speakers and the schedule here. Please register here. Plan to attend with other staff, elders or leaders in the church.

Our 2017 Theology Conference will be held February1-3 on the campus of Trinity International University. In the introduction to the conference, we will focus on the EFCA’s roots in the Reformation and the Reformation’s legacy in the EFCA.

We are excited for this Theology Conference, as it will be excellent. Not only are we addressing the Reformation, a timely and important theme in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of Luther posting the 95 Theses, but we have some of the foremost scholars addressing the various themes/topics of the Conference.

Stephen J. Wellum, Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will give the opening lecture to our Theology Conference. Rather than focusing on all the solas, which would be appropriate and which many Reformation anniversary conferences are doing,  we are focusing on the sola that is central to all the solas and gives the others unity and significance: solus Christus.

Solus Christus as Central to the Reformation Solas

Reformation doctrine, over against the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching, became identified by five solas – sola gratia (by grace alone), sola fidei (by faith alone), solus Christus (through Christ alone), sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone), soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone). All of these solas are important, interrelated and interdependent. They are an organic whole. Although all important, central to these solas, that which unites all of them, is solus Christus, Christ alone. Consider the following: Grace (sola gratia) is based upon the person and work of Christ. Faith (sola fidei) is in Christ and his completed work. The Scripture (sola Scriptura) finds its center in Christ who is the fulfillment of all the Scriptures. Solus Christus emphasizes both the exclusive identity of Christ and the sufficiency of his work. In sum, Christ is the subject matter of the Scriptures, he is central to the gospel, and he is the heart of all of theology. This means Christ alone connects “all the doctrines of our theology because Christ alone stands as the cornerstone of all the purposes and plans of God himself.” All of this redounds to God’s glory (soli Deo Gloria). In this lecture we will consider the centrality of Christ to the gospel, the Scriptures and theology, along with the practical implications for life and ministry.

Steve’s two most recent books address the topic of this lecture:

God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ (Foundations of Evangelical Theology) (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016);

Christ Alone – The Uniqueness of Jesus as Savior: What the Reformers Taught . . . and Why It Still Matters (The Five Solas Series) (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, forthcoming).

Steve and I attended TEDS together. He also served as a pastor in the EFCA, and was ordained in the EFCA while serving in this role, before moving into teaching theology in the seminary to prepare students for ministry. Although his primary calling is to teach theology in the academy, he is grounded in the church and he teaches within and for the church. This will be Steve’s first time to be with us as a speaker at our Theology Conference. He is a gifted theologian, and I am eager to for us to learn from him.

You can read more about the Conference, the speakers and the schedule here. Please register here. Plan to attend with other staff, elders or leaders in the church.