Tag Archives: Martin Luther

Idols and Images: Ten Commandments, Yes, But How Do You List Them?

Moses and Aaron, with the Ten Commandments: Aron de Chaves (1674)

I received a little pushback offline on a previous post about dream catchers. I kind of expected that.

Christians have long struggled with the relationship between idols and visual images. Much of the controversy stems back to how Christians read the Ten Commandments, or more to the point, how various Christians read the Ten Commandments differently. An often ignored consequence of the 16th century Protestant Reformation illustrates the difficulty.

The Ten Commandments are derived from two passages from the Bible, Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:4-21, texts that are very close to one another in content. But careful study demonstrates that not every Christian identifies all of the commandments in the exact same manner. However, contrary to some misguided assertions, there are no mainstream Christian traditions that have “changed” the Ten Commandments. Rather, the problem is in how different traditions have grouped the various commandments together.

An obvious question to start off with would be, so why “Ten” commandments? Well, we have three passages in the Bible that directly tell us of “ten words” given to Moses at Sinai (Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 4:13, and Deuteronomy 10:4).

However, the Bible was not divided up into a verse numbering scheme until the Protestant Reformation, in the 16th century. Therefore, in the early church, there was no intuitively clear way to group the Ten Commandments together. Even the Jews have had their own unique pattern of grouping the “commandments,” and it has not matched 100% with any Christian version. Continue reading

The “Breaking of the Bread” … or Whatever You Call It

“This is my Body… This is my Blood.”

One Sunday of every month, and after the sermon, two ministers from my church, stand in front of a decorative wooden table, and instruct the congregation to receive the elements, in remembrance of Christ’s death upon the cross. But what to call this ceremony remains a subject of some debate.

At the first Pentecost, following the Resurrection, that signaled the birth of the church, we read that:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”(Acts 2:32 ESV)

Many Christians still speak of “the breaking of (the) bread” to express what goes on at that table, though by association, it also includes the partaking of wine, or grape juice, as is done in my church.1 A long standing debate in the church at large, over what this means, invites rigorous discussion among believers. Does the bread and wine/juice merely symbolize the presence of Christ, as a memorial, or do they somehow point to a real, even physical(??), presence of the Lord Jesus, at that very moment?

We have explored some of the details of this controversy some time ago on Veracity. But for the moment, I have a simpler question: What do we call the whole thing, with the bread and the wine or juice, to begin with?

One of most original terms was the Greek “eucharist,” meaning “thanksgiving.” The terminology of “eucharist” goes back to the late 1st century, or early 2nd century worship manual of the early church, the Didache, to reference this most sacred meal. The term has biblical precedence behind it:

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”(1 Corinthians 11:23-24 ESV)

Nevertheless, a number of terms have arisen since then to describe the sacred meal, not just “eucharist.” So, what is the best terminology? Eucharist? The Divine Liturgy? The Blessed Sacrament? The Mass? What else? Continue reading

Why the Reformation (Still) Matters

Yesterday, Halloween, we also recognize (or “should recognize,” more importantly) that this year marks the 499th year after Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church, in Wittenberg, Germany. Does the Reformation that Luther’s hammer triggered all those years ago still matter today? Pastor/teachers Don Carson, John Piper and Tim Keller answer that question.

Luther’s Deadly Error: Zionism #3

Martin Luther (1483-1546), by Cranach (credit: Wikipedia)

Martin Luther (1483-1546), by Cranach. Zealous champion of the Gospel, but with a horrific personal flaw  (credit: Wikipedia)

“To forget the victims means to kill them a second time. So I couldn’t prevent the first death. I surely must be capable of saving them from a second death. “

Elie Wiesel, holocaust survivor, died July 2, 2016

“Antisemitism”, commonly understood to be the discrimination against the Jewish people, has never, ever been approved doctrine by any orthodox branch of the Christian church. After all, Jesus Himself was Jewish.

However, there have been a number of very terrible instances when antisemitic sentiment found itself promoted by a supposedly “Christianized” culture, and even supported by some practicing and prominent Christians themselves. As we continue this blog series on Christian Zionism, we take a closer look at one of the greatest tragedies in Christian history, stemming back to the famous Protestant reformer, Martin Luther.
Continue reading

Happy Halloween…Er… Reformation Day!!

Martin Luther nails his Ninety-Five Theses to the Wittenberg church door. Most people associate October 31st with Halloween, but students of church history know this as "Reformation Day"

Martin Luther nails his Ninety-Five Theses to the Wittenberg church door on All Hallows Eve, 1517. Most people associate October 31st with Halloween, but students of church history know this as “Reformation Day”

Like any kid growing up in an American secularized society, I liked the whole Halloween thing. I have a serious weakness for chocolate, so I always looked forward to going door to door to see how many chocolate treats I could get. Sure, there were horror stories about  people sneaking razor blades into mini-candy bars, but I was willing to take the risk. As I got a little older, I would try to terrify the neighborhood kids by playing Pink Floyd’s Echoes album through my bedroom speakers out the window as costumed figures approached our house.

Okay. I stopped that pretty quick when my mother learned about it and reprimanded me for making a few of the little kids cry.

When I began to take my spiritual journey with Jesus Christ seriously in high school, I began to hear other types of horror stories about Halloween from my new church friends. There were tales about its connection to Satanism at worst, or perhaps just only a milder, yet just as bad, connection to Wiccan, Druid and other forms of pagan religions… and those “dreadful” Harry Potter books.

I began to see a shift in evangelical churches away from celebrating “All Hallows Eve” towards things like having “Harvest Parties” or “Fall Festivals.” Well, I can surely appreciate the effort to shift the focus, but I am not so sure how successful it has been.

Instead, I think if we really want to shift the focus away from the negative aspects of Halloween, then we should instead take a page or two from church history. On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther approached the door of the Wittenberg church with a list of his Ninety-Five Theses regarding abuses in the Roman church. What he nailed to the door of that church that day has forever changed the face of Western Christianity… and the whole world!

Martin Luther had kicked started the Protestant Reformation, a movement that resulted in perhaps the greatest revival of spiritual vitality and love for the Scriptures that the world has ever seen.  But Martin Luther’s Reformation belongs not just to Protestants. It belongs to the whole Christian church. Even those Roman Catholics who murmured about Luther must admit that change was necessary to correct some serious problems. It was through the efforts of people like Martin Luther that the Bible came to the common people in their native tongue, a privilege that most Christians today simply take for granted. It was also through the turmoil of the Reformation that made the Western world into what it is today, providing the intellectual and cultural incubator for the growth of modern science and capitalism. So even if someone is not a Christian, Luther’s Reformation has made an incredible impact upon world history.

So, instead of getting all flustered about those trick or treaters coming to our doors to unwittingly fan the flames of pagan traditions, let us as believers consider a completely different approach, encouraging people to remember this day in world history, where one man with a hammer in hand and a powerful set of ideas birthed in Scripture changed the world.

Let us celebrate Reformation Day!

 Additional Resources:

Do you have no idea what Luther’s Ninety-Theses were all about? Check out the following interview with Carl Trueman, professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

And one final “treat” courtesy of something I found on Andrew Wilson’s Twitter log from “Across the Pond.” Enjoy!:

HT: Timothy George on First Things, and Andrew Wilson at Think.

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