Tag Archives: Revolution

About Censorship

How the Reformation Spread

FROM R.C. Sproul

The rapid spread of the Protestant Reformation from Wittenberg, Germany, throughout Europe and across the Channel to England was not spawned by the efforts of a globe-trotting theological entrepreneur. On the contrary, for the most part Martin Luther’s entire career was spent teaching in the village of Wittenberg at the university there. Despite his fixed position, Luther’s influence spread from Wittenberg around the world in concentric circles — like when a stone is dropped into a pond. The rapid expanse of the Reformation was hinted at from the very beginning when the Ninety-five Theses were posted on the church door (intended for theological discussion among the faculty). Without Luther’s knowledge and permission, his theses were translated from Latin into German and duplicated on the printing press and spread to every village in Germany within two weeks. This was a harbinger of things to come. Many means were used to spread Luther’s message to the continent and to England.

One of the most important factors was the influence of virtually thousands of students who studied at the University of Wittenberg and were indoctrinated into Lutheran theology and ecclesiology. Like Calvin’s academy in Geneva, Switzerland, the university became pivotal for the dissemination of Reformation ideas. Wittenberg and Geneva stood as epicenters for a worldwide movement.

The printing press made it possible for Luther to spread his ideas through the many books that he published, not to mention his tracts, confessions, catechisms, pamphlets, and cartoons (one of the most dramatic means of communication to the common people of the day was through messages encrypted in cartoons).

In addition to these methods of print, music was used in the Reformation to carry the doctrines and sentiments of Protestantism through the writing of hymns and chorales. Religious drama was used not in the churches but in the marketplace to communicate the central ideas of the movement — the recovery of the biblical Gospel.

Another overlooked aspect of the expansion of the Reformation is the impact of the fine arts on the church. Woodcuts and portraitures were produced by the great artists of the time — Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein, Lucas Cranach the Elder, and Peter Vischer. The portraits of the Reformers made their message more recognizable, as it was associated with their visage in the art world.

Students from England who studied at Wittenberg also had a major impact in bringing the Reformation across the Channel to Great Britain. Probably the most important person in the English Reformation was William Tyndale, whose translation of the Bible into English was of cataclysmic importance. In 1524, he left England for the continent and studied for a period of time at Wittenberg. His first edition of the New Testament was published in Flanders in 1526, five years after the fated Diet of Worms during which Luther gave his famous “Here I Stand” speech. Thousands of these Bibles were smuggled into England. Many were burned as the work of a heretic, but still others escaped the fire and produced a theological fire of their own.

Another important person was Robert Barnes, an Augustinian monk from Cambridge who was burned at the stake in 1540. Seven years before his martyrdom, he had matriculated at the University of Wittenberg. There also was Martin Bucer, an important Reformer who was invited by the English Protestants to come to Britain and become a professor at the University of Cambridge in 1551.

In addition to those who influenced the English Reformation directly from Luther’s Germany, were those whose influence came by a more circuitous route, that is, via Geneva, Switzerland. John Calvin himself had to flee from Paris because of the views he learned from his friends who had been influenced by the teachings of Martin Luther. This Frenchman found his refuge in Geneva, where his pulpit and teaching ministry became known around the world. Geneva became a city of refuge for exiles who fled there for safety from all over Europe. Of the countries that sent exiles to Calvin’s Geneva, none was more important than England and the British Isles. John Knox, who led the Reformation in Scotland, spent some time in Switzerland at the feet of Calvin, learning his Reformation theology there. Though Calvin was twenty-six years younger than Luther, Luther’s views made a dramatic impact on the young Calvin’s life while he was still in his twenties. Though Calvin is usually associated with the doctrine of predestination, it is often overlooked that there was nothing in Calvin’s view of predestination and election that was not first articulated by Luther, especially in Luther’s famous work The Bondage of the Will.

When Calvin was teaching in Geneva, Bloody Mary came to the throne of England. Under her reign, many Protestants were burned at the stake. Those who survived the stake fled in large numbers to Geneva. Some of the exiles from England under Calvin’s tutelage set upon the task of translating the Bible into English. This Bible, called the Geneva Bible, was the first Bible to have theological notes printed in the margin, which notes were heavily influenced by Calvin’s preaching. This Bible was the predominant Bible among the English for the next hundred years before it was supplanted by the popular King James Version. It was the original, official version of the Scottish Presbyterian Church. It was the Bible of Shakespeare, the Bible the Pilgrims brought with them on the Mayflower to America, and it was the Bible of choice among America’s early colonists.

From Wittenberg directly to England, or from Wittenberg to Geneva to England, in this roundabout route, the seeds of the Reformation that were planted in Germany sprouted into full bloom as they made their way into the English empire. To trace the pathway from Wittenberg to London, one must follow a series of circuitous routes, but the origin of that movement in Wittenberg is unmistakable, and its influence continues even to this day.

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.

Is Your Conscience Your Friend Or Enemy?

Do you ever hear voices in your head?  I don’t, but I do hear my conscience from time to time.  Could hearing our conscience be what our society needs to return to sanity, our nation to return to nationhood, our family to be what a family should be?  I find what follows to be an excruciatingly painful thought or truth.  Will anyone be able to escape from their conscience in the end?

The Truth Stated

First, the truth I am talking about is derived from Malachi 3:5.  Note that God mentions here that He will be a swift witness.

“Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me,” says the Lord of hosts.”

What is a witness but one who saw something pertaining to the crime.  I used to have a bumper sticker that read

The Thought Derived

God has watched something and is witness to something.  What?

The sobering if not terrifying thought derived from this truth is brought out in this commentary on this passage.  Barne’s Notes says,

[And I will be a swift witness](NOTE: Dionysius) “In judging I will bear witness, and witnessing, I, the same, will bring forth judgment, saith the Lord; therefore, the judgment shall be terrible, since the judge is an infallible witness, whom the conscience of no one will be able to contradict.”

Our conscience will agree with God the Judge!  And if you are true to yourself, you know it will.  No wonder people flee from God.

But how are you doing fleeing from your own conscience?

Questions Raised

  1. Is your conscience friend or foe?
  2. Would you consider the voice of your conscience to be in the category of self-evident truths?
  3. The Founders sourced self-evident truths in the Declaration of Independence as the rallying point behind their Revolution.  Would they have sought to include our conscience among such things?
  4. Could something as simple as returning to conscience protect the blessings of liberty that we cherish?
  5. If you listened to your conscience particularly close today how would it affect your life, your business, your family, your friends, our government?

Here’s to the hope that pointing such things out will change our world.

And Me

What is the effect of all this on me?  I know my conscience speaks to me and I know I am not that good at listening to it.  Knowing the truth Mal 3:5 motivates me to listen more attentively and maybe even respond more immediately so as not to ignore it.  After all, if I ignore it who or what exactly am I being influenced by?  My conscience is a part of me; why let something that is not control me?

Going to change my way of thinking
Make myself a different set of rules
Going to put my good foot forward
And stop being influenced by fools
full lyrics

Talk About Separating Children From Parents

I put the post below on Facebook but the photo now says…

Remember Vietnam? Remember the images that got under the countries skin to rise up enough resistance to end the bloodshed?

That will never happen on Facebook will it?

It is going to be up to us. Therefore, I reposted this to my blog and add some content.

Were we
less than human
we were born?



I cannot stop here.

My Prayer

To be contextualized from Nehemiah’s great prayer after he heard of the devastation of his people.

They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire.” When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. I said, “I beseech You, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned. “We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. “Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples; but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.’ “They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand. “O Lord, I beseech You, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man.”
Neh 1:3-11