Category Archives: Church History

The Eve of the Reformation: Staupitz

As noted several times already on this blog, this year we’re celebrating the 500th birthday of the Reformation.  Today I want to look at a figure from the period right before the Reformation:  Johann von Staupitz.  I first became interested in Staupitz because of his portrayal in the 2003 movie, Luther.  Bruno Ganz warmly played the part of Staupitz and gave the impression that he was influential in Luther’s life, but also flawed in some ways.  As it turns out, this is not far off the mark.

Johann von Staupitz (1460/69-1524) was Martin Luther’s spiritual father, his mentor.  Without a doubt, Staupitz left his mark on Luther.  While Staupitz himself never broke with the papal Catholic church, he surely did have a hand in the Reformation ignited by his spiritual son Martin Luther.

The Life of Staupitz

There is some uncertainty about his exact birth date — it was sometime between 1460 and 1469.  His family were German nobility and so study was within his reach.  He obtained a bachelor’s degree in 1485 and then went on to a master’s degree right afterwards.  By 1500, he had obtained a doctorate from the university of Tubingen.  At some point in his university years, he took vows and became a member of the Order of the Hermits of Saint Augustine.  This was a highly educated Catholic order which emphasized many of the key teachings of Augustine.

Staupitz quickly distinguished himself as an Augustinian monk.  While serving as a prior in Tubingen, he preached 34 sermons on the book of Job.  While they were appreciated by those who heard (and have thus been preserved), Staupitz himself felt that “he had afflicted Job with a worse plague than boils.”  Despite his humble self-assessment, Staupitz was becoming recognized as a careful expositor of the Bible.

In 1502, he was appointed to be the first professor of biblical studies and the dean of the faculty of theology at the University of Wittenberg.  However, because of his growing responsibilities amongst the Augustinians, he spent limited time in Wittenberg and only lectured occasionally.  Much of his time was taken up with travelling and preaching in other places.  For example, in 1516, he was in Nuremburg where he preached a series of Advent sermons.  These became a little book on predestination, first published in Latin, and then later translated into German.

Staupitz and Luther knew each other already in 1511.  Luther was drawn to Staupitz — in fact, Staupitz became his father confessor.  As such, Staupitz tried to help Luther with his spiritual struggles.  In 1511, it was Staupitz who urged Luther to become a doctor and preacher of the Augustinians.  The following year, after Luther achieved that goal, Staupitz vacated his position at the University of Wittenberg and had Luther succeed him.

In 1518, he began hearing reports about his successor in Wittenberg.  Staupitz had mixed feelings about what Luther was saying, writing, and doing.  Some of Luther’s concerns resonated with him, but Luther also frightened him somewhat with his boldness.  When it became clear that Luther was in danger of being arrested, Staupitz made the strategic move of releasing him from his vows to the Augustinian order.  This gave Luther more freedom to speak and act.  After this, Staupitz and Luther would only meet one more time, but they continued to exchange letters.

The papal Church put enormous pressure on Staupitz to bring Luther to his senses.  The pressure was applied through the General of the Augustinian order.  Eventually, in 1520-21, Staupitz resigned his position within the order and even left it altogether.  He became a Benedictine monk instead, trying to retire to a peaceful life within a monastery.  When Luther heard of this, he wrote to Staupitz and rebuked him for his cowardice.  Staupitz replied with a letter in which he reaffirmed his love for Luther, but also insisted that he could not break with the papacy.

He became sick in the spring of 1524 and, after languishing throughout that year, died on December 28.  He died as a member in good standing of the Roman Catholic Church, but one always under suspicion.  In fact, in 1559, the writings of Staupitz were put on “the index,” the Roman Catholic list of banned books.  One might say that this makes Johann von Staupitz an honorary Protestant.

The Theology of Staupitz

When we look at his theology, we start to see that even in the late medieval period, there were theologians who were almost getting the gospel right.  Because of his work in biblical studies, Staupitz was on the right track, even if he still missed some key elements.  His theology was erroneous in maintaining the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.  He believed that the Virgin Mary was born without original sin.  He held to some unhealthy and unbiblical mysticism.  He still spoke of the mass as a sacrifice.  Yet he was getting closer to the truth than almost anyone before him.  I’ll briefly mention his doctrine of the covenant, his view of human nature, the doctrine of election, and justification.

Staupitz taught a doctrine of the covenant in which God not only establishes the conditions, but also meets those conditions.  God does that through Jesus Christ and his redemptive work.  Everything in this covenant is offered to the elect unconditionally.  Unlike many medieval theologians before him, Staupitz taught a covenant of grace where the faithfulness and grace of God were strongly emphasized.

When it came to human nature, Staupitz had a dim view.  He rejected the Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism of other medieval theologians.  After the fall into sin, the will of man is in bondage.  Man is a prisoner of himself and of self-love.  Therefore, fallen man cannot do what is pleasing to God.  Staupitz wrote, “…man’s nature is incapable of knowing or wanting or doing good.  For this barren man God is sheer fear.”

The biblical doctrine of election also comes out in Staupitz’s theology.  Many medieval theologians taught that election is based on the foreseen behaviour of individual human beings.  Not Staupitz.  Rather, for him, election is based on God’s sovereign good pleasure.

On justification, Staupitz was almost there.  He did not see justification as a process, but as an event.  But whereas many medieval theologians confused justification and sanctification (hence describing it as a process), Staupitz confused the events of justification and regeneration.  In the event of justification, he said, God becomes pleasing and desirable to man.  It happens by the grace of God and through faith, but justification is not a legal event where God the Judge declares the sinner to be righteous.  Instead, Staupitz viewed justification in more relational terms.  Whereas fallen sinners are enslaved to self-love, through justification sinners are freed to love Christ.  In our Reformed theological terms, we would say that this happens in the event of initial regeneration.

Conclusion

There can be no question that Staupitz influenced Luther in his theology, perhaps more than any other individual.  But it’s also important to realize that God worked through Staupitz to put Luther right where he needed to be:  at the University of Wittenberg.  When Luther was under attack, Staupitz was one of the instrumental forces protecting him.  Luther therefore owed a lot to Staupitz, not only personally and theologically, but also academically and strategically.  This friend and ally was weak in some ways, but without him, there could have been no Reformation.  For this reason, the Lutheran Church honours him with his own day on their Calendar of Saints (November 8).  We Reformed do not follow such a calendar, but we can and still should praise God for what he did through this man.


The Reformation in the Netherlands

The hanging of Guy de Brès and Peregrin de la Grange on 31st of May, 1567.

The hanging of Guy de Brès and Peregrin de la Grange on 31st of May, 1567.

This year we’re celebrating the 500th birthday of the Reformation.   In today’s post, I want to look briefly at the history of the Reformation in the Low Countries (or Netherlands).  Somehow the movement Luther was instrumental in igniting also came to the Dutch dykes and polders.  But how?

When we look at the Reformation in the Netherlands, we have to realize that we’re confronted with a complicated political situation.  The Netherlands was in this time made up of seventeen distinct provinces, covering the present-day Netherlands as well as Belgium and small parts of France and Germany.  You could almost say that these seventeen provinces were countries.  Each province had its own unique history.  They saw themselves as more or less independent.  They each had distinctive forms of government.  Moreover, there were different languages:  Frisian, Dutch, and French – plus a host of dialects of Dutch and French.  Geographically, rivers made it difficult for travel between the different areas.  All this makes it difficult to treat the Netherlands as a unified region.

At the beginning of the Reformation-era, the Netherlands were under the Habsburgs and the Holy Roman Empire.  This was not an independent region.  There was a foreign government ultimately in control and this government was fanatically committed to the faith of Rome.

Unlike in Germany and Switzerland, the Reformation in the Low Countries began with blood.  There were connections with Germany through various trade routes and along these routes, ideas travelled just as much as goods.  Already in 1519, an Augustinian monk named Jakob Propst was advocating the teachings of Luther in Antwerp.  Luther’s writings were being distributed in the Low Countries as early as 1518.  By 1525, there were more than 80 editions and translations of Luther’s works.

It did not take long for the Habsburg Empire to take note.  They quickly made efforts to suppress those promoting Luther’s ideas.  In July 1523, Heinrich Voes and Johann Esch were burned at the stake in Brussels.  In the northern regions of the Netherlands, persecution was not as common.  People, especially local magistrates, were more inclined to religious tolerance, probably owing to the influence of humanists such as Erasmus.  As a result, martyrdom was quite rare in the north.  In the south, however, things were very different.  There was an inquisitor named Pieter Titelmans.  He worked in various southern regions of the Netherlands between 1545 and 1566.  Titelmans was zealous for his work.  Under his oversight, an average of one hundred heresy cases per year were prosecuted.  Government edicts often forced the fledgling Reformed movement underground.  Believers would secretly meet in houses, fields, and even local taverns in order to do Bible study, give and receive doctrinal instruction, and sit under biblical preaching.

The Reformed faith appears in the Low Countries in the 1540s.  It spread directly from Germany and also from France.  In fact, the history of the Reformed churches in the Low Countries is very much intertwined with the Huguenot churches.  In this period, borders were quite fluid and porous.  Especially since they shared their language with the southern Netherlands, the French Reformed strongly influenced the doctrine and organization of the Reformed churches in the Low Countries.

The Reformed faith took hold in both large towns and cities throughout the Netherlands.  There were two centers:  Antwerp in the south and Emden in the north.  True, Emden is technically a German town, but it is located right across the border from the Netherlands and was a strategic location for the Reformed churches.  The Reformed movement grew quickly in these areas.  It appealed to a broad cross-section of society including artisans, labourers, merchants, and men of learning.  However, as I mentioned, there was heavy persecution, especially in the south.  This persecution forced many to choose between exile and martyrdom.  Most people chose for exile.  Dutch Reformed refugees fled to several key places where they gathered in refugee congregations.  This happened in London and Sandwich, in England and Emden and Wesel in Germany.  Those who remained behind were forced into a life of always looking over the shoulder.  It should be noted that there was a debate about exile versus persecution in the churches.  Some Reformed leaders argued that the believers should stand up and take a public stance against the Spanish regime.  They argued that persecution was only facilitated by secrecy and running away.  They argued that it would be difficult (and maybe ultimately impossible) for the Spanish authorities to intervene with or restrain a Reformed church community which carried out its affairs in public.  However, others had a more pragmatic approach.  They feared for their lives, they hated the thought of persecution for themselves and their families, and they felt they had no choice but to worship secretly and, if necessary and possible, go into exile until the troubled times were past.

These were troubled times.  If there is a theme running through the Reformation in the Netherlands, it is persecution.  For much of the period between 1520 and 1570, Protestantism in the Netherlands was under attack.

It really began to escalate, however, in the 1550s.  Up until the 1550s, it looked like the Habsburgs had things under control in the Low Countries.  There was increasing unity, an apparatus for central government was being refined, and Protestantism was being at least contained by the Inquisition.  Things shifted dramatically beginning in 1550.  Charles V issued an edict which threatened death for promoting Protestantism.  In fact, one could be executed merely for possessing heretical books.  Despite this edict, the Reformed faith continued to gain ground.  While kings and emperors in far-off lands made their decrees, popular opinion in the Netherlands was going in a more tolerant direction.  As mentioned earlier, local magistrates were also often reluctant to enforce royal edicts.

Philip II took over the rule of the Netherlands in 1555.  Philip was the King of Spain.  The Netherlands therefore fell under Spanish control.  Unfortunately for Philip, he was out of touch with the Dutch.  The Dutch hated the Spanish and Philip even more.  He didn’t speak their languages and many Dutch perceived him to be a foreign tyrant.  Philip perceived himself to be a pillar of the church on a divine mission to eradicate heresy. Philip insisted on strict enforcement of his policy of persecution.  This led to the Dutch Revolt.  While the Revolt is not really part of church history, it is an important part of the background to the Dutch Reformation.  It’s one of these events where world history gets wrapped up together with church history.

The Dutch Revolt began with the disobedience of several local governors – they refused to cooperate with the Inquisition and Spanish persecution of Reformed believers.  Margaret of Parma was the sister of Philip II, and in 1559 she was appointed to be the governess-general of the Netherlands.  In the spring of 1566, a large group of lesser nobility approached her with a petition asking that the persecution of Reformed believers stop.  With the help of some political intrigue on the part of some territorial governors (including William of Orange), Margaret granted a reprieve and leniency towards “heretics” was authorized.

For a time the situation improved for the Reformed churches.  Exiled men and women returned to their homes, open-air preaching took place, and the Reformed could better organize their churches.  But these new freedoms also had a dark side.  There was widespread iconoclasm and other provocative behaviour.  One of the most well-known was the public singing of Psalms — in French they called them chanteries.  The singing was loud and the Psalms were selected to offend any Roman Catholics who might hear.  One of the favourites was Psalm 68, sometimes described as the war song of the Reformation.  Of course, these psalms were sung with the Genevan tunes of John Calvin.  Other provocative behaviour included coming to the huge open-air meetings bearing arms.  It looked as if these Reformed believers were heading to war.  Their songs spoke of war, and the fact that they carried weapons didn’t help matters.

All of this was bound to provoke a reaction from Margaret and soon enough it did.  She demanded a focussed and aggressive response to the crowds, but the governors refused unless she would promise freedom for preaching.  In August of 1566, she made that promise and order was restored in most places.  However, Margaret was not finished with the rebels and heretics.  The chanteries continued and these aggravated the situation.  Margaret finally had enough and she sent Spanish forces to lay siege to the city of Valenciennes.  The city fell in March of 1567 and Margaret was able again to enforce the ban on Reformed preaching everywhere in the Netherlands.  Persecution resumed in full force.  Shortly afterwards, Philip appointed the Duke of Alva (Fernando Alvarez de Toledo) to be governor of the Netherlands.  The Duke of Alva was a brutal warlord and he was passionate about the eradication of heresy.  He pursued everyone he could for their role in the Revolt, including Roman Catholic civil leaders who were soft on the question of tolerance.  He convened a meeting which he called the Council of Troubles.  The Dutch called it the Court of Blood.  Many died accused of heresy or assisting heretics.

The Dutch Revolt continued until 1581.  At the end, the southern Netherlands was lost to the Roman Catholics.   This is basically present-day Belgium.  Almost all Reformed believers from the south then fled to the north, which was free from Spanish control and where the Reformed faith enjoyed official recognition.  There is a lot more that could be said about the history of the Reformation in the Netherlands.  But the most important thing here is to recognize the heavy persecution that the Reformed churches endured right from the very beginning.  Philip II, Margaret of Parma, and the Duke of Alva hated the gospel with a passion and they were not afraid to shed blood to prevent the Reformation from gaining ground.  However, they could not stand in the way of Christ gathering, defending, and preserving his church even through this storm.


What Caused the Reformation?

presswork

This year we’re celebrating the 500th birthday of the Reformation.  This “birthday” places the birth of the Reformation on October 31st, 1517 — the date Martin Luther is said to have nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.  One might quibble about the dating.  The Reformation can’t really be compared to a baby being born.  There were a string of events and historical processes that contributed to the movement, and some of these predated 1517.  But, for the sake of convenience, we can run with the 1517 date and celebrate God’s goodness in bringing his Church back to the gospel.  Over the coming months, I hope to have a number of Reformation-related posts.

I want to begin today with considering the question:  what caused the Reformation?  Someone might say, “It’s obvious:  God caused the Reformation.”  As true as that is, it is not a very helpful answer.  We know that God uses various means to accomplish his purposes.  So, what means did God use to bring about the Reformation?

When it comes to such questions, historians sometimes refer to sufficient and necessary causes (or conditions).  Sufficient causes produce the event.  They inevitably cause the event to occur.  Necessary causes are things that had to be present in order for the event to occur, but by themselves don’t produce the event.  The illustration often used is of matches and fire.  What caused the fire?  The necessary causes would be the presence of the match and the presence of a surface on which to strike the match.  The sufficient cause would be a person taking the match and actually striking it.  I want to focus on three necessary causes of the Reformation.  These were things that had to be present before the Reformation could really ignite and set Europe aflame with gospel renewal.

The first is printing technology.  The movable-type printing press appeared in Europe in the fifteenth century, but it wasn’t until the sixteenth century that this technology came into its own.  Printers finally became proficient at producing mass quantities of books.  Moreover, on the eve of the Reformation, a process for manufacturing paper in a cost-effective way is perfected.  Potential for mass quantity plus cheaper paper equals the possibility of literature available to a wider scope of the population.  Luther, Calvin, and other Reformers produced literature that took advantage of this technology.  Their writings went far and wide, spreading the gospel hope.  Without advances in printing technology, the Reformation would not have occurred.

But these advances would have meant nothing if people continued producing literature in Latin.  The second necessary cause is the proliferation of literature in the native tongues of Europe.  Even outside of theology, writers started putting out books written in German, French, English, Dutch, and so on.  Works were still written in Latin (even into the eighteenth century), but these were specialist writings geared to academics.  Right before the Reformation, however, books were being written in the vernacular for non-academics.  The Reformation became a populist movement by capitalizing on this development.  For example, the 95 Theses were originally written in Latin — after all, Luther desired an academic debate.  However, they were soon translated into German.  Eventually, many of Luther’s writings were first written solely in German.  The Reformation took off because of people like Luther writing in German, Calvin writing in French, and so on.  Of course, of all writings appearing in the vernacular, the most powerful of all was the Word of God.  Finally, people could read for themselves what Scripture says in their own language — and that was gospel dynamite.

However, that assumes that people can read.  That brings me to the last necessary cause:  the rise of education and literacy in Europe.  Prior to the 1500s, literacy was reserved for a select few.  Stories are told of royalty that did not know how to read.  There were parish priests who were functionally illiterate — they would have memorized just enough Latin to carry out their duties.  But coming into the 1500s, this begins changing.  By 1517, literacy was still not what it is today, but it had improved and it continued improving.  In fact, because of the Reformation emphasis on the importance of reading the Scriptures, wherever the Reformation took hold, educational improvements followed.  Schools were established and literacy was expected to be the norm rather than the exception.  Without improvements in literacy, however, we would not even be talking about the Reformation as one of the great events in history.

I have described three necessary causes for the Reformation:  printing technology, vernacular literature, and literacy.  Yes, there are more necessary causes that could be mentioned, but those three are among the most important.  Without them, there would have been no return to the Scriptures, no return to the gospel.  In his providence, at just the right time, our sovereign God brought these developments into being and thus prepared the way for a recovery of his saving truth.  We see his hand in it all and praise him for it!

 


Luther: Baptizatus sum (I am baptized)

martin_luther_by_cranach

I have heard and read it several times:  when Luther was tempted by the devil, he would look at the words written in chalk on his desk: “baptizatus sum” (Latin for “I am baptized”).  In connection with my upcoming catechism sermon on Lord’s Day 26, I decided to look into this a little more.  I have been unable to find an exact reference for the words being written in chalk on his desk.  However, I did find several other references which I find rather interesting.

In his biography, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, Heiko Oberman quotes Luther:  “The only way to drive away the Devil is through faith in Christ, by saying: ‘I have been baptized, I am a Christian.”  The endnote refers to the source of this as WAT 6. no.6830; 217, 26f.

A blog entitled Liber locorum communium provides a few relevant quotes from Luther, including this one:  “I am a child of God, I am baptized, I believe in Jesus Christ crucified for me” (translation mine).  The source is given as  TR 5658a, WA TR 5, p. 295, ll. 27-30.

Finally, there is Because of Christ, the memoirs of the Lutheran theologian Carl Braaten.  In a footnote, he says that the full quote from Luther is:  “Behold, I am baptized, and I believe in Christ crucifed” (translation mine).  Unfortunately, he does not provide the source.

The intriguing thing about each of these quotes is that baptism does not stand alone — it is joined to faith.  Was Luther always consistent in maintaining the appropriate connection between baptism and faith?  Patrick Ramsey says no.

 


Our Stance with the World: Anabaptist or Reformed?

The question of how Christians are to relate to the unbelieving world (including unbelieving culture) is an ancient one.  However, it’s always relevant.  Every generation has to struggle with this question anew.  I remember my own struggles with this question after becoming serious about the gospel and serving the Lord.  As often happens, for a time I went to some extreme positions.  I eventually came to realize that my views were more historically Anabaptist than Reformed.  The historic Anabaptist stance with regard to the world is one of flight or complete separation.  The Anabaptist view says that the world is evil, and therefore the church must have nothing to do with the world.  The Reformed view, historically, has been one that recognizes the need for the church to be in the world and to engage the world.  The idea of communities of faithful believers almost completely isolated from unbelievers is an aberration in Reformed thought and practice.  It’s an idea that is typically Anabaptist, not Reformed.

The classic expression of the Anabaptist view can be found in the Schleitheim Confession of 1527.  The Lutherans and Reformed were not the only ones to write confessions.  Anabaptists did as well.  You can find the full text of the Schleitheim Confession here, but I just want to quote the first paragraph from the fourth section.  This gives the gist of the Anabaptist view:

A separation shall be made from the evil and from the wickedness which the devil planted in the world; in this manner, simply that we shall not have fellowship with them (the wicked) and not run with them in the multitude of their abominations. This is the way it is: Since all who do not walk in the obedience of faith, and have not united themselves with God so that they wish to do His will, are a great abomination before God, it is not possible for anything to grow or issue from them except abominable things. For truly all creatures are in but two classes, good and bad, believing and unbelieving, darkness and light, the world and those who (have come) out of the world, God’s temple and idols, Christ and Belial; and none can have part with the other.

Those who know their Bibles will recognize the language.  The Schleitheim Confession is paraphrasing various Scripture passages here.  The point is that there is an absolute antithesis between the believing and the unbelieving.  Therefore, believers can have nothing to do with unbelievers.  Christians must be separate in every way, withdrawn from the world.  Moreover, the Confession states that Christians can also have nothing to do with whatever unbelievers produce in terms of culture.  Unbelievers only produce abominations and Christians should flee from these wicked things.

The Anabaptist view, while sounding biblical, misses two key biblical distinctions and one key biblical principle.

Reformed theology maintains the biblical notion of the antithesis.  There is belief and unbelief, good and bad, darkness and light, etc.  The Bible is clear on that.  However, and this is what the Anabaptist view misses, there is a distinction we make between what is true in principle and what is true in practice.  In other words, in this world, there are inconsistencies that exist on both sides of the antithesis.  Regenerated Christians still have the remnants of a sinful nature with which they have to wrestle (Galatians 5:16-17).  Also what we do as Christians continues to be stained with sin.  On the other side, however, unregenerated unbelievers also have their inconsistencies.  Confessing total or pervasive depravity does not mean that we believe non-Christians are all as wicked as they possibly could be.  In Romans 2:14, Paul writes of the Gentiles who outwardly “by nature do what the law requires.”   Their law-keeping does not please God or earn anything before him, but yet they do what Reformed theology has termed “civic good.” The unbelieving nurses in the neo-natal ward taking care of premature babies are doing a good thing, and in so doing, they are inconsistent with who they are in principle.  In principle, they are thorough-going rebels against God and everything good.  In practice, they show love to tiny human beings.

A second key biblical distinction missed by the Anabaptist view is between being in the world and being of the world.  “Being in the world” means that we inhabit the same space as everyone else.  We are not to be separate from the world in the sense of cutting ourselves off from the world.  But “being of the world” would mean that we are indistinct from the world.  If we are of the world, then we belong to the world, and we are no different.  A Christian living in the world must and will stand out.  This is because we are like our Saviour.  He said of his people, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:16).  Yet Jesus lived in this world.   He was sent into this world (John 17:18) and lived amongst us.  He did not cut himself off from unbelievers, but went out and engaged them.  He interacted with sinful human beings like the Samaritan woman in John 4.  Christians are to be like the Saviour to whom they’re united.  Not of the world, but definitely in the world.

The key biblical principle lost in the Anabaptist position is that even with unbelievers and what they produce, truth, beauty, and other virtues are sometimes in evidence.  Christians do not have a monopoly on producing “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable” (Phil.4:8).  In fact, sometimes what Christians produce in terms of cultural products falls far short.  Some of the worst literature ever made has been created by Christians — a notorious example is the Left Behind series.  Sometimes unbelievers produce music, literature, or film that leaves us in amazement at the skill and creativity involved.  Yes, they can produce junk too.  And certainly, they can and do bring out culture that accentuates and celebrates human depravity as well.  Yet the Apostle Paul recognized that unbelievers can say things that are true and beautiful — he quoted from Aratus and likely Epimenides in Acts 17.  Epimenides makes another appearance in Titus 1:12.  Paul was obviously familiar with pagan poetry, and by quoting it, confirms that there are times when unbelievers get things right.  This is not only borne out in Scripture, it’s common sense.  Unbelievers can and do produce remarkable things in science, art, music, literature, and so on.  Only a fool would deny it.

The Anabaptist view leaves one with at least two attitudes towards the world.  The first is fear.  We must fear the world and everyone and everything in it.  We must always be afraid of being contaminated or compromised by the world.  The second attitude is arrogance.  We are the righteous and they are the unrighteous.  We shoot prideful glances at them from our holy ghetto.  As a result of both attitudes, the lost continue to be lost and the moniker “frozen chosen” becomes well-earned.  By contrast, the Reformed position seeks to inculcate discernment, humility, and love.  In our churches, families and schools, we aim to teach people how to discern the good, the true, and the beautiful.  We teach believers how to appreciate these things no matter from whence they come and to build on them.  We want to teach humility — so that we recognize our own inconsistencies and failures to live up to what we confess.  Finally, when it comes to the people who make up the world, we want believers to love their neighbours.  We shouldn’t be afraid of them, but love them and engage them.  Don’t flee from them, but pursue them with a heart of compassion.

Although it’s the easy route, world-flight is not the Reformed way.  The harder route is the one to which we’re called.  It’s the route where we have to think hard about things.  It’s the route where we have to love people.  It’s the route by which God will be glorified, both in terms of our cultural mandate, and in terms of the Great Commission.