The Forgotten Reformer: Balthasar Hubmaier

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INTRODUCTION

Among modern evangelicals, interest in the Protestant Reformation seems to tie many preachers and writers together. It is as if referencing Calvin or Luther nearly grants some kind of mystical weight to any point. Works by Calvin and Luther, and books about them, fill pastors’ and professors’ shelves. Occasionally Zwingli is remembered but not often; Balthasar Hubmaier on the other hand, is a forgotten theologian, despite the reality that his theology is closer to that of most evangelicals today. Where Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli remained magisterial, finding it impossible to separate the Church from the State, Hubmaier believed that separation is necessary for the free will of the believer and the establishment of the free church. The Lord’s Supper remained a theological difficulty for the popular reformers—not so with Hubmaier. Luther and Calvin stood firm on the matter of paedobaptism while Hubmaier understood that the Bible teaches that baptism is for believers only and that the Church is an institution of baptized believers. He was—despite disagreement with Zwingli, Luther, and Calvin—baptized by immersion, a belief and action that eventually cost him his physical life. Hubmaier was formally educated, trained under Johann Eck, and published a substantial amount of theological material. Although once a Catholic priest in the Rosensburg Cathedral, Waldshut in Breisgau, and in Schaffhausen, he eventually rejected much of his Catholic theology, joining with the Anabaptist movement and marring Elisabeth Hügeline.[1] Hubmaier was imprisoned and tortured under Zwingli’s orders, and on March 10, 1528, burned at the stake.[2] Elisabeth was drowned a few days later.[3]“Some people,” writes Wenger, “compared his death with that of Jan Hus in 1415.”[4]

Balthasar Hubmaier’s life and theological work is a significant but often overlooked contribution to the Church as evangelical Christians understand it today. While it cannot be said that without Hubmaier’s work the free church of Baptist and many other denominations would not be, it can and will be argued in this post that Hubmaier was a significant and radical reformer who should not be overlooked, but remembered, read, and understood for his brave and faithful contribution to not only the Reformation, but the evangelical Church. This post will first examine the setting of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries in which Hubmaier lived. Then the scope will narrow to his life and theology, followed by an investigation of Hubmaier’s contribution to the Protestant Reformation and the Church today.


BACKGROUND OF THE PERIOD

“As the fifteenth century came to a close,” writes González, “it was clear that the church was in need of profound reformation, and that many longed for it. The decline and corruption of the papacy was well known.”[5] The late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, through religious, political, social, and educational circumstances were ripe for reformation. While it might have shocked the world to read Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, it should have been because Luther was brave enough to say it, not because it came unexpectedly. If it had not been Luther, it surely would have been another. “[The Reformation] was not so much a trail blazed by Luther’s lonely comet, with other lesser luminaries in its train, ” argues D. F. Wright, “as the appearance over two or three decades of a whole constellation of varied color and brightness, Luther no doubt the most sparkling among them, but not all shining solely with his borrowed light.” The under girding of the Reformation was the humanist reformers. González argues, “Long before the Protestant Reformation broke out, there was a large network of humanists who carried the vast correspondence among themselves, and who hoped that their work would result in the reformation of the church.”[6] In today’s terms, a humanist might be thought of as one who places or worships humanity over deity, often called a secular humanist;[7] but the humanist of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were quite different. “In this context,” states González, “the term ‘humanist’ does not refer primarily to those who value human nature above all else, but rather to those who devote themselves to the ‘humanities,’ seeking to restore the literary glories of antiquity. The humanists of the sixteenth century differed greatly among themselves, but all agreed in their love for classical letters.”[8] Often called the “Prince of Humanists,” Erasmus of Rotterdam is considered the godfather of the movement and its leader.[9] Wright calls Erasmus the “morning star” of the constellation of the Reformation; further writing, “for most Reformers were trained humanists, skilled in the ancient languages, grounded in biblical and patristic sources, and enlightened by his pioneer printing of the Greek NT of 1516.”[10]

As education swung in the direction of humanism, studies in the biblical languages gained a foothold, and Catholic priests were being educated at the highest levels, it became difficult for some to overlook the abuses, corruption, and troubled theology of the Catholic Church. Luther sounded the alarm when he struck hammer to nail on the door at Wittenberg in 1517, and many others joined him in what started as an effort to reform the Church. However, reformation was not to be and eventually schisms began. Although not the first to separate from Rome, Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli became the front men of the Reformation, climbing up to the shoulders of their predecessors such as the Waldensians, Wycliffe, Lollardy, and Hus to look and then go beyond where those before them had attempted to venture. Meanwhile, the Pope fought back. Entire geographic regions shifted from Catholic to Lutheran to Catholic to Calvinist and so on, the various nation states of Switzerland being the most unstable. The social and economic climates were tossed in the storm of theological shifts church-state relations. In this setting, those in disagreement with one another were branded heretics and burned at the stake. Wars were fought over which religious group or leader would have control of the various European states.

Throughout Europe, ideas started surfacing that questioned the practice that one would be a member of a church, and therefore a citizen of the state, simply by birth into it.[11] Luther and Calvin sided with Rome on this matter, as did Zwingli, eventually. Others, hoping to be more obedient to Scripture saw it differently. “The church must not be confused with the rest of society,” writes González in explaining the minority opposing position.[12] “Their essential difference is that, while one belongs to a society by the mere fact of being born into it, and through no decision on one’s own part, one cannot belong to the true church without a personal decision that effect.”[13] This in and of itself was seen as a treasonous act against the state. González continues, “In consequence, infant baptism must be rejected, for it takes for granted that one becomes a Christian by being born in a supposedly Christian society. This obscures the need for a personal decision that stands at the very heart of the Christian faith.”[14]

The ideas of various disconnected radical reformers found a public voice in a group of students studying under Zwingli in Zurich. Calling themselves “The Brethren,” through careful reading and study of Scripture, decided that the reformation had not gone far enough. Members of this group, according to Lichty, “were highly educated young men, students at the universities or sometimes priests. The influence of humanist learning was strong among them, as was seen especially among the circle of Conrad Grebel in Zurich. Like Erasmus, they taught freedom of the will and were relatively optimistic about the possibilities of human betterment.”[15] They were all recipients of infant baptism and believed that credo baptism was the only baptism taught in the Bible and obedience was necessary for the Church. Zwingli, their teacher and now a religious and political leader disagreed. So on January 21, 1525 in the public square in Zurich, Conrad Grabel baptized George Blaurock. Then Blaurock baptized several others, forming a congregation or a church of adults baptized as believers. Those baptized as adults were branded “Anabaptists,” meaning “rebaptizers.” They were quickly seen as subversive to the state for their radical theological views and therefore persecuted, often killed by drowning as symbolic irony.[16] “All the initial leaders [of the Brethren], with the exception of Wilhelm Reublin,” records Estep, “were dead within five years. Zürch lost its three major Anabaptist leaders in short order. Grabel died of the plague in 1526. Felix Mantz became the first ‘Protestant’ to die at the hands of Protestants in 1527, and George Blaurock was burned at the stake in 1529. The suppression of Anabaptism in Switzerland almost completely exterminated the movement.”[17] It is in this volatile time that we find Balthasar Hubmaier, joined by confession and believer’s baptism with the Brethren in Zurich.

THE LIFE OF HUBMAIER

Early Life as a Roman Catholic. Hubmaier was born in approximately 1480 or 1481, and he grew up in Friedberg, Germany,[18] On occasion, he was known as Dr. Freidberg, presumably after his hometown or the University of Freidberg. [19] His upbringing was modest and Moore speculates that his basic education was in Friedberg; but then tentatively wanting to enter the priesthood, he likely went to the cathedral Latin school in Augsburg six miles to the West. He matriculated at the University of Freiburg in Breisgau in 1503. [20] “So advanced was Balthasar in his studies” writes Moore, “that he received the bachelor of arts degree after his first year at the university.”[21] He continued to study theology under Dr. Johann Eck, although Hubmaier considered entering the field of medicine. Eck would soon there after “become the flaming defender of Catholic orthodoxy against the Lutheran reformation.”[22] Also interesting to note is that not only was Hubmaier Eck’s favorite student, he was also a couple years older than his teacher.[23]

In 1507, Hubmaier was forced to take a job as a schoolteacher in Schaffhausen, Switzerland for financial reasons. However, as Moore quotes Eck, “he returned to his accustomed studies, which were under my guidance.”[24] Once back to his studies, Hubmaier mastered Latin and studied Greek and Hebrew. He also studied with Johann Faber who would eventually persecute Hubmaier. After his ordination, he occasionally preached and served as a priest. When Eck left for the University of Ingolstadt in 1510, Hubmaier replaced him as rector.[25] Packull reports that in Eck’s absence, “Hubmaier seemed to be involved in the defamation campaign against Eck's detractors. Along with Urbanus Rhegius, Hubmaier became one of Eck's1most controversial students.”[26] Eighteen months later, Hubmaier followed Eck to Ingolstadt where he earned a Doctorate of Theology, upon which he was made a professor and given a preaching position in the city’s largest church. In 1516, Hubmaier took employment as a cathedral preacher in Regensburg.[27]

In Regensburg, Hubmaier lead a campaign against the Jews living in the city; however, the Jews had the protection of Emperor Maximilian I and Hubmaier was somewhat unsuccessful until the Emperor’s death. After hearing of the death, Hubmaier and the town residents continued and amplified their campaign, leading to the eviction of the Jews and the destruction of their synagogue. “In the tearing down of the synagogue,” writes Moore, “a master stonemason was injured, fatally, it appeared. A few hours later he revived, and the people said it was a miracle of the virgin Mary—manifesting her glory in the very place where she had been dishonored by the Jews. On the site of the demolished synagogue a Catholic chapel was erected and, at Hubmaier’s suggestion, named Beauteous Mary (zur schönen Maria).”[28] This chapel not only became the responsibility of Hubmaier, it became a destination of a pilgrimage movement and was remodeled into a larger church building. In 1519, a papal bull granted 100 days off from purgatory for the visitors of Beauteous Mary and the place became a mad house of activity and miracle claims. Hubmaier sought duties elsewhere.[29]

Eventually, Hubmaier was offered a position as chief priest in Waldshut, a small Austrian town on the border of Hapsburg. “For about two years, 1521-1522, Hubmaier served as a model priest in Waldshut,” according to Moore.[30] “He celebrated mass, preached effectively, presided in ceremonies and processions, even introduced new celebrations. As always, he sought to work in harmony with state and church authority.”[31] However, he grew bored and reached out to the humanist Johann Aldephi, the town physician in the nearby Schaffhausen, Switzerland, as well as, Christian humanists Beatus Rhenanus, Johannes, Johannes Oecolampadius, and Wolfgang Rychard. As Zurich began undergoing reformation, Hubmaier also had regular correspondence with Desiderius Erasmus, Heinrich Glarean, and Konrad Pelikan. It was here that he engaged in detailed studies of the letters to the Corinthians and Romans. He also took visits to Freiburg and Ulm where he compared old and new ideas about church life. Maybe out of loneliness or boredom, he returned to Beauteous Mary as a chaplain but retained his position in Waldshut.[32] However, returning to Beauteous Mary, all the excitement over proclamations of miracles caused Hubmaier a conflict of conscience. “His thinking had begun to take new directions,” writes Moore. “He was still quite uncertain, however, just where it would all lead.”[33] Hubmaier felt uncomfortable dealing with the miracle claims, and although it would have been good for the Beauteous Mary’s visitor traffic, he could not publicize them. Moore writes, “Within a few weeks of taking up the work again in Rogensburg, he experienced what might fairly be called his most basic conversion. He became an evangelical.”[34]

The Transition. Although never claiming Lutheranism for himself, his beautiful; revelation of faith came as he was quietly meeting with a group of Lutherans in Rogensburg. Almost eminently he returned to Waldshut were he could study and explore his new convictions. “Hubmaier still had many questions in his mind,” states Moore, “but on thing he was firm: he theology, when worked out, must come from the Bible.”[35] However, due to the changed nature of his preaching, his bishop filed a complaint about him. Hubmaier initiated contact, started establishing relationships with the Swiss reformers in the Zurich canton, and started making trips to reformation friendly towns. He preached to large crowds in churches and in open-air settings and he lead Bible studies. And he met with Zwingli in Zurich.[36]

It is difficult identify day or time when Hubmaier parted from his Catholic roots and sided with the Reformation in Switzerland; however, it seems that at least theologically, that day was already behind him by the time he had met with Zwingli the first time. Zwingli and Hubmaier spoke a few times, discussing a wide range of topics. On the topic of baptism, Moore writes, “They both agreed that the New Testament gave no real support for the practice of infant baptism and Zwingli said, Hubmaier reported later, that children should not be baptized until they had been instructed in the faith.”[37] Later, and in the public spotlight, Zwingli reversed his position and Hubmaier was critical of him arguing, “You used to hold the same ideas, wrote and preached them from the pulpit openly; many hundreds of people have heard it from your mouth. But now all who say this of you are called liars. Yes, you say boldly that no such ideas have ever entered your mind and you go beyond that, things of which I will hold my tongue just now.”[38] However, before the split between Hubmaier and Zwingli, Hubmaier was invited to the Second Zurich Disputation in October of 1523. Hubmaier spoke at the disputation and was clearly seen as a Zwinglian.[39] It was here the Hubmaier argued, “For in all divisive questions and controversies only Scripture, canonized and sanctified by God himself should and must be the judge, no one else: or heaven and earth much fall (Matt. 24:35). [...] No the judgments of God can only be known out of the divine Word, as Scripture truly testifies to us. [...] For holy Scripture alone is the true light and lantern through which all human argument, darkness, and objections can be recognized.”[40] Already, Hubmaier understood baptism to be for believers only and a symbolic act rather than a sacrament; and he, like Luther, stood firmly on Sola Scriptura.

Returning to Waldshut, Hubmaier’s separation only continued. Potter writes, “Waldshut, however, was no part of the Swiss Confederation; it was Catholic city ruled for Charles V by Ferdinand of Austria. A Catholic ruler must root out heresy or be in danger of excommunication.”[41] Word got back to the various authorities and Hubmaier and his Waldshut were investigated and branded “Lutherans.” It was 1524. Earlier that year, Hubmaier published his Eighteen Thesis, which clearly demonstrate a separation from Catholic theology and Hubmaier wrote to his friends in Ratisbon, according to Potter, “that he had no intention of returning to his duties [in Waldshut]: he was now no longer an orthodox Roman Catholic.”[42] Based on the Eighteen Thesis, Hubmaier held strongly to Sola Fide, preaching in the language of the people, and open access to the Bible; and he rejected purgatory, the mass, pilgrimages, devotion to images, and forced celibacy. “Truth Is Unkillable!” he boldly declared.[43] Ferdinand demanded the suppression of the Lutheran teaching—instead, the city stood by Hubmaier, declared its independence, and removed all Catholic priests from the city. Shortly there after, the Peasants’ war began in the nearby Black Forrest.[44] It was also in this year that distance grew between Zwingli and Hubmaier, and by the end of 1524, Hubmaier had sided with Grabel against Zwingli and his beliefs.[45] Hubmaier was officially and Anabaptist.

New Life and the Worldly Troubles it Brought. With the publication of his Eighteen Theses, Hubmaier started a post-Catholic publishing career the dwarfed the sum of all the other early Anabaptist leaders combined. However, his writing and preaching placed his believes in plain view, bringing persecution upon him and his parish. Due to political and Catholic pressure, Hubmaier sought and found refuge in Schaffhausen. While the canton of Schaffhausen was not his defender, they also took a position of tolerance and let him be, despite numerous requests that Hubmaier be handed over to the Austrian authorities or the Catholic Church.[46] It was here (or on his way here) that Hubmaier wrote he Theses Against Eck. Dr. Eck, Hubmaier’s former teacher, according to Moore, “was not perhaps Germany’s leading theological defender of popes and ecclesiastical custom. He had written bitter denunciations of reformers in Germany and Switzerland and once or twice the name of Hubmaier appears in his attacks.”[47] This document consisted of 26 theological statements with Scriptural references, leaving absolutely no mistaking where Hubmaier’s theology had landed.

The political climate was growing red-hot. A few of Hubmaier’s letters have been published, but what may be his most famous work, On Heretics and Those Who Burn Them, ignited a flame and eventually Waldshut came under Catholic attack. Zurich unofficially sent by way of a band of armed citizens.[48] On Heretics and Those Who Burn Them is a statement of 36 articles in favor of the free will of belief and an attack against those who burn those with opposing views. Article 1 opens with the delectation, “Heretics are those who wantonly resist the Holy Scripture,” and concludes with, “Now it appears to anyone, even to a blind person, that the law [which provides] for burning of heretics is an invention of the devil. Truth is Unkillable.”[49] The argument between these two bookends used Scripture throughout, once again demonstrating his strong reliance upon and reverence for the truth of Scripture. The political and military pressure against Hubmaier ebbed and flowed for a while, at times being fierce, at other times Hubmaier preached to Swiss soldiers after Waldshut peaceably opened their gates to them.[50] Both the Catholic and Zwingli’s men hunted Hubmaier. During this time, a small band of men formed the first Anabaptist congregation and were expelled from Zurich. Also in this time, Hubmaier grew more vocal and declared his view that children should not be baptized and that both baptism and the Lord’s Supper should be conducted biblically.[51] He renounced the idea that Catholic priests were an intermediary between man and God and should remain celibate. On January 13, 1525, he married Elsbeth Hugline.[52] A week before Easter, Wilhem Reublin baptized sixty people—Hubmaier was among them. The following day, Hubmaier baptized many others, and through the Easter season, he claimed to have baptized 300 people.[53]

After Waldshut fell to the Catholics, Hubmaier, weekend by illness, escaped into the country but was eventually captured by Zwingli. For four months, he was detained in the Zurich city hall, still sick and frail. Zwingli had given an execution order for many Anabaptist which included Grebel, Mantz, Blaurock, Aberli, and Hubmaier.[54] Archduke Ferdinand requested to extradite Hubmaier, causing Hubmaier to believe the only way he would survive, even if he remained in the Zurich jail, was to recant. In his infirmity, he wrote a statement of recantation; however, it was not enough for the local authorities. They desired that publicly read his recantation in the churches of Zurich in an effort to humiliate the Anabaptists. The first church was to be the Fraumunster. Moore tells the story,

After Zwingli had preached, Hubmaier was called upon to read his recantation. Just before the service, it seems, he had learned about imperial representatives being in the city. He evidently decided that Zurich now intended to turn him over to the Austrians and that no recantation would save him. He hurriedly wrote down some notes on a scrap of paper for his own sincere defense of the freedom of faith. Later he said this was intended for the use in his defense before the Austrians in case he were handed over to them. A surge of moral strength welled up within him, however, as he rose to read the recantation. He sued the hastily scribbled notes rather than the carefully worded recantation in making his statement to the congregation.[55]

Hubmaier bodily stated that he would not and could not recant and then proceeded to defend his belief of adult baptism. He was immediately carted off to jail where he was tortured until he stated that the devil inspired his statements and that his fellow Anabaptists were heretics.

For three more months, Hubmaier was kept in a wet cell in what was called the Water Tower. Poor treatment and torture were continued as punishment. Somehow, Hubmaier managed to write a short confession called the Twelve Articles of the Christian Faith, which was published the subsequent year. He also wrote a number of other short works from the Wellenberg prison. At the same time, Grebel, Mantz, Blaurock, and other Anabaptist were being held in a new prison named the Heretics Tower. With Zwingli’s blessing, the local authorities issued an order that anyone known to have rebaptized another person would be killed by drowning. Grebel, Mantz, and Blaurock were sentenced to life in prison; however, shortly after sentencing the entire group escaped. Hubmaier, not having been with the others, again offered to recant. Wanting to use this against the Anabaptist, Hubmaier was again transported to three churches were he read his insecure statement of recantation. Knowing his statement was a ruse, Zwingli and the authorities placed Hubmaier under heavy guard. Somehow, he was still able to escape and he and his wife made their way to Constance. Some time later, he left for Moravia. All the while, he continued to write and from Moravia published a substantial amount of work for such a short period.[56]

Dying for His Beliefs. Hubmaier’s time in Moravia allowed him the opportunity to work though and publish his theological ideas. While he was likely considered among the Swiss Brethren, some of his work put a wedge between himself and the others, mainly, his position on against pacifism outlined in Concerning the Sword. However, this time for writing, preaching, and reflection would end when Archduke Ferdinand was crowned king of Bohemia in 1527, just three years after Hubmaier’s baptism. Ferdinand appointed Johann Faber, Hubmaier’s former fellow student and friend, as the persecutor of heretics. The Hubmaiers were taken under custody on a charge of insurrection. The couple was taken to the Kreuzenstein Castle and the charge of heresy was added. By the end of that year, Faber began days of hearing. Fearful of the results of his previous interrogations and charges, Hubmaier was careful how he responded, at first holding true to his beliefs but constructing his statements in less than controversial ways. Eventually he had to take his stand on Scripture, offering a negative statement on purgatory and the intercession of the saints. Neither did his lack of support for any Catholic tenants did not help his case. But none of that would matter given the wide and bold scope of his writing. Hubmaier pleaded for the opportunity to support his positions with Scripture before an open council but his requests never reached Ferdinand. When ordered to write a statement of recantation, he instead wrote a confession of guilt to aiding the peasants at Waldshut. He also included his confession of beliefs but in no way called them heretical. His statement was read publicly and Faber had them published. On March 10, 1528, “without complaint, courageous at the end,” Balthasar Hubmaier was burned at the stake.[57] Three days later, Elsbeth Hubmaier had a stone tied to her and she was thrown into the Danube River.[58]

Dean Stephanus Sprugel of the University of Vienna recorded that on the stake, Hubmaier cried out, “O gracious God, in this my great torment, forgive my sins. O Father, I give you thanks that you will today take me out of this vale of tears. I desire to die rejoicing, and come to you. O Lamb, O Lamb, take away the sins of the world. O God, into your hands I commit my spirit.”[59] Again, only this time in Latin, he declared, “O Lord, into your hands I commit my spirit.”[60] He shouted to the onlookers, “O dear brothers and sisters, if I have injured anyone, in word or deed, may they forgive me for the sake of my merciful God. I forgive all those who have harmed me.”[61] Before the smoke overtook him, Hubmaier’s last words were, “O Jesus, Jesus!”[62]

HUBMAIER’S THEOLOGY

After reading much of Hubmaier’s work, it is clear that most evangelicals and all Baptists are closely connected to the theology held by the Anabaptist theologian. His writing could easily be picked up today and look like a theological survey of the modern evangelical church. For example, in answering the question, “‘What, or how much at least, must I know if I desire to be baptized?’” Hubmaier responds, “This, and this much, you must know from the Word of God before you let yourself be baptized: That you confess yourself a miserable sinner and guilty, that you also believe the forgiveness of your sins through Jesus Christ, and that give yourself into a new life with the firm resolution to improve your life and to order it according to the will of Christ, in the power of God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”[63] Although many Anabaptists were killed for this belief, this is not much of a stretch for evangelical churches today. In fact, A Form for Water Baptism outlines a set of questions that should be asked of a potential recipient of baptism. It is essentially a multi-question form of the Apostles’ Creed followed by a personal question of confession. This form could be used today without any realization that Hubmaier penned it in 1527.

In the simplest of summation, Hubmaier agreed with Luther in that salvation comes by faith alone and Scripture alone is the final authority: Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura. They agreed that Scripture should be taught and read in the language of the people and the common person should have access to the Word of God for himself or herself. Hubmaier rejected the authority of the pope, and elevation of the priest between God and man, mandatory celibacy, the intersession of the saints, and purgatory—to include the penitence works—pilgrimages, relics, festivals, and indulgences. This however, is where the agreement with Luther ended. Hubmaier came to understand the Lord’s Supper as an instructed symbolic memorial act and a communion of the believers rather than a sacrament that somehow brought about salvation. And that is where he left Calvin and Zwingli. Hubmaier further believed that the Church is made up of believers only, who upon credo baptism find entry. Therefore, he rejected infant baptism, meaning he also rejected the union of church and state as it existed in his day. Man is gifted with an aspect of free will, according to Hubmaier, belief and consentience cannot be forced. That being said, man cannot hold the title of Christian simply by being born to Christian parents in a Christian geographical area. This is where agreement between Hubmaier and the Brethren end. Unlike the Brethren and the stream of theology that came be rest on the Anabaptist movement, Hubmaier was not a pacifist. His work, On the Sword laid out a biblical position away from pacifism, and because of this, many modern Anabaptists do not claim Hubmaier as a theological forefather. And finally, this is where Hubmaier and modern evangelicals end. The doctrine held by Hubmaier that is rejected by evangelicals today was his view of Mary. Hubmaier held that Mary remained the “perpetually pure and chaste Virgin.”[64]

Much can be discussed about Hubmaier’s theology, except his ideas will appear as common place because they are so close to those of orthodox evangelical Christianity today. However, Hubmaier was among the minority in his day. He was seen as a heretic and even died at the hands of other Protestants for views recognized as common today. But this does not mean that his theology should be neglected. Every evangelical student of the Bible should have the complete works of Balthasar Hubmaier on the shelf next to his or her other systematic theology books.[65] Understanding the theology of Hubmaier is extremely insightful in understanding the roots of many theological doctrines today.

HUBMAIER’S CONTRIBUTION TO THE REFORMATION

Balthasar did not ring the bell of Reformation as Martin Luther did in Wittenberg. He has not gained the popularity of John Calvin. And Hubmaier was not a lone, superstar reformer like the three most revered—Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli. So one might ask what his contribution to the Reformation was. In short, Hubmaier was the theologian and writer of the radical reformation stream, the stream that came to be known as the Anabaptists. On Hubmaier, Friedmann writes,

It is clear that besides Balthasar Hubmaier (d. 1528), who was a doctor of theology (from a Catholic university), there were no trained theologians in the broad array of Anabaptist writers and witnesses. Hubmaier was a special type, greatly esteemed by Christian radicals by not really emulated and followed after. Many of his theological ideas crept into Anabaptist thinking, such as, for instance, his doctrine of the freedom of will, or his teaching concerning the two ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.[66]

More significantly, the Anabaptist theology—with the exception of pacifism—gave birth to the idea that the church must be free of governmental control and manipulation, is comprised of believers only through baptism by confession, and that the Lord’s Supper is not a sacramental guarantee of God’s grace. With Hubmaier at the beginning, the idea that magisterial church-government leadership is not the biblical picture for the Church. Each person has the free will to believe how he or she will; therefore, the government cannot force belief or membership into any specific church. If it is not obvious, Hubmaier’s contribution to the Reformation was the significant second part of Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli’s work. Had it not been for the Anabaptists, there is a possibility that the Church today would look much like the Catholic church of the sixteenth century, only baring the name of Luther or Calvin. If not for Hubmaier, the ideas may not have been work through so thoroughly, and they certainly would not have been published and preserved for the Church today. Today’s evangelical church has much for which to thank Hubmaier.

CONCLUSION

While Balthasar Hubmaier is not as popular as other Reformers, he is as significant, if not more so. As a protestant killed at the hands of other protestants, martyred for his faith, his is an fascinating part of Christian Church history. Today, evangelicals stand upon his shoulders and see higher and farther, whether they realize it or not. And they stand more in line, more united, with his theological contribution than any other Reformer. Therefore, it is important that Hubmaier not be forgotten, that his books not become merely dust on a lonely shelf of empty libraries. It is the hope of this blogger, that this post has generated a greater interest in Hubmaier and his work so that the reader will seek out additional works about Hubmaier as well as his original writing.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2001.

Estep, William R. Anabaptist Beginnings (1523-1533): A Source Book. Nieuwkoop: B. de Graaf, 1976.

Friedmann, Robert. The Theology of Anabaptism; An Interpretation. Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite history, no. 15. Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1973.

González, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: Reformation to the Present Day. San Francisco, Calf: Harper & Row, 1984.

Hindson, Edward E., and Ergun Mehmet Caner. The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Eugene, Ore: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hubmaier, Balthasar, H. Wayne Pipkin, and John Howard Yoder. Balthasar Hubmaier, Theologian of Anabaptism. Classics of the radical Reformation, 5. Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1989.

Moore, John Allen. Anabaptist Portraits. Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1984.

Packull, Werner O. "Balthasar Hubmaier's gift to John Eck, July 18, 1516." Mennonite Quarterly Review 63, no. 4: 428-432. 1989. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed September 7, 2010).

Potter, G. R. "Anabaptist Extraordinary Balthasar Hubmaier, 1480-1528." History Today 26, no. 6 (June 1976): 377-384. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed September 5, 2010).

Verduin, Leonard. The Reformers and Their Stepchildren. The Dissent and Nonconformity Series, 14. Paris, Ark: Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc, 2000.

 

Footnotes:
1   Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2001), 579.
2  Ewell, 579.
3  Ewell, 579.
4  Ewell, 579.
5   Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity: Reformation to the Present Day (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984), 6.
6  González, 10.
7   Edward E. Hindson and Ergun Mehmet Caner, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics (Eugene, Or: Harvest House Publishers, 2008), 443-446.
8  González, 10.
9  González, 10.
10  Ewell, 995.
11   González, 53-57.
12  González, 53.
13  González, 53-54.
14  González, 54.
15   Daniel Liechty, Early Anabaptist Spirituality: Selected Writings, The Classics of Western spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1994) 4.
16   González, 53-59.
17  William R. Estep, Anabaptist Beginnings (1523-1533): A Source Book (Nieuwkoop: B. de Graaf, 1976), 3.
18   David Funk, "The relation of church and state in the thought of Balthasar Hubmaier." Didaskalia (Otterburne, Man.) 17, no. 2 (December 1, 2006): 37-50. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed September 7, 2010), 37.
19   Elwell, 579.
20  John Allen Moore, Anabaptist Portraits (Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1984), 165-166.
21  Moore, 166.
22  Moore, 166.
23  Moore, 166.
24   Moore, 166.
25  Moore, 165-166.
26  Werner O. Packull, "Balthasar Hubmaier's gift to John Eck, July 18, 1516," Mennonite Quarterly Review 63, no. 4: 428-432. 1989 ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed September 7, 2010), 428.
27  Moore, 166-167.
28  Moore, 168.
29  Moore, 168-169.
30  Moore, 170.
31  Moore, 170.
32  Moore, 170.
33  Moore, 171.
34  Moore, 172.
35  Moore, 172.
36  Moore, 173-174.
37   Moore, 173.
38  Leondard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, The Dissent and Nonconformity Series, 14 (Paris, Ark: Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc, 2000), 200.
39  Balthasar Hubmaier, H. Wayne Pipkin, and John Howard Yoder, Balthasar Hubmaier, Theologian of Anabaptism. Classics of the radical Reformation, 5. Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1989, 22.
40  Hubmaier, 23.
41  G. R. Potter, "Anabaptist Extraordinary Balthasar Hubmaier, 1480-1528." History Today 26, no. 6 (June 1976): 377-384. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed September 5, 2010), 382.
42   Potter, 382.
43  Hubmaier, 34.
44  Potter, 382.
45  Potter, 382-383.
46   Moore, 178-184.
47  Moore, 186.
48  Moore, 187-189.
49  Hubmaier, 59 & 66.
50   Moore, 189-195.
51  Moore, 194.
52  Moore, 194.
53  Moore, 196.
54  Moore, 205.
55   Moore, 207.
56  Moore, 205-234.
57   Moore, 240.
58  Moore, 234-241.
59  Moore, 240-241.
60  Moore, 241.
61  Moore, 241.
62  Moore, 241.
63   Hubmaier, 120-121.
64  Hubmaier, 430.
65  This blogger recommends Balthasar Hubmaier, H. Wayne Pipkin, and John Howard Yoder, Balthasar Hubmaier, Theologian of Anabaptism. Classics of the radical Reformation, 5. Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1989.
66   Robert Friedmann, The Theology of Anabaptism; An Interpretation, Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite history, no. 15 (Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1973), 19.

Apologetic Methods and the Bible

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Not too long ago, I was chatting with a friend who loves apologetics.  Actually, he loves presuppositional apologetics and cares little for the other schools of apology.  Evidential, classical, cumulative case, reformed epistemological, and all the different apologetic camps are not as exciting for my friend, I guess.  After our conversation, it struck me that the various discussions about apologetics have a lot in common with the extensive debates about evangelism and discipleship,  biblical counseling and pastoral care, missiology, church growth, worship, and every other topic where Christians tend to pitch camp.  

So just as I do with so many other ministry methodologies, I started looking at modern-day apologetics through the lens of the Bible.  Camp warfare often includes proof-texts that support each camp.  When it comes to apologetics, I've heard a few.  For example, "We have little need to provide evidence of God's existence because Romans 1 says people already have all they need" (Romans 1:18-25).  Or, "The Holy Spirit will testify to the truth of God's Word; therefore, there is little need to provide anything other than the Bible" (Romans 8:16-17).  And I especially love it when a camp quotes Proverbs 26:4 without Proverbs 26:5, or Proverbs 26:5 without Proverbs 26:4.  That's awesome. 

Too often, when we identify with an apologetic camp, we tend to toss out proper Kingdom tools that don't match our preferred gear.  When we get too selective, we don't build a full tool-box, and that only hurts our efforts.  As I teach with evangelism and discipleship, you might have your preferred tools in the top drawer of your toolbox, but it's okay to have other tools for the time you need them.  You might not be as skilled with some tools, but why toss them out? 

Also, I'm of the belief that the words in the prophets and the epistles are just as inspired as the words in the narratives.  Seeing the methods of the biblical authors is just as important as reading the instruction they wrote, which is why one reason we have the narrative sections in our Bible.  What did they do?  What was Jesus' approach for showing or telling people who he is?  With what methodology did the God-man engage?  What was Peter's argument and approach when he stood up and explained the events of Pentecost?  Paul, who told Timothy to be prepared to make a defense for his faith (or an 'apologia'), practiced what he preached.  What did it look like?  What did Paul do? 

There are biblical arguments for positive and negative apologetics. (By positive I mean a constructive argument to build a case for the Christian faith, and by negative I mean an argument to dismantle other religions and worldviews.) We can find biblical examples of many different methodologies.  We can even find various apologetic conversations directed at both believers and non-believers.  After yet the most straightforward survey, we see that the New Testament offerers support for a wide range of avenues for these discussions.     

The gospels themselves are a written apologetic work.  So is the book of Acts.  John and Luke said so.  John writes, "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these were written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:30-31). Talk about a healthy positive apologetic!  Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1 shows us that Luke was making an argument for faith to a person named Theophilus.  It is easy to see that Matthew was appealing to Jewish people, most likely with the desire to win them to faith in Christ.  Mark, it seems, is appealing to gentiles.      

What did the apologetic look like between Nicodemus and Jesus? Jesus appealed to Scripture and evidence when John the Baptist sent messengers to ask if Jesus was the Christ.  Jesus and Pilot?  And the apologetic with the Pharisees? Samaritan women, how did Jesus discuss faith with them?  

Acts, too, is loaded with apologetic examples.  What a fun study!  Paul makes a case before rulers on a few occasions.  He also makes a case before a rioting crowd.  Oh wow!  And many of the epistles contain a defense of the faith, made to believers.  

Anyone looking to engage in apologetic work should start with the methods presented to us in God's Word. 

How Does the Bible Define a Disciple of Jesus?

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The term, 'disciple' comes up often in Christian conversations. It's important to know, considering Jesus' disciples we are called to make disciples. What in the world is a disciple?  It's also relevant when dealing with the question about who is and who is not a Christian.  Christian and disciple, given how the Bible uses the term disciple, suggests that the Bible might provide evidence to this question. 

I propose that a disciple of Jesus hears the voice of the Lord and does what he says in the Christian journey toward spiritual maturity. Allow me to show you from God's Word.  

The gospel of John tells of an event where Jesus healed a blind man on the Sabbath. The healing event happens in the ninth chapter of John, but the connected narrative of chapters seven and eight suggest the timing of the event was during or shortly after the Feast of Booths.[i] As Jesus was defending himself from the accusations of the Pharisees in chapter ten, he made a curious statement. 

Jesus said,

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of a stranger.[ii]

The Pharisees did not comprehend what Jesus was saying, so Jesus shifted to another allegory with sheep. Jesus said in John 10:14, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” Two verses later he referenced other sheep that are not of the same fold and said, “I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.”

On the one hand, Jesus’ allegory is clear. “These details,” writes F. F. Bruce, “were familiar to many of Jesus’ hearers; even today they are aptly illustrated by the way of a shepherd with his sheep in the Holy Land.”[iii] Bruce further argues that the pen would likely have been a stone enclosure with one door and briars lining the top of the walls. A watchman would guard the door, only allowing the shepherds to enter.[iv] “More flocks than one might be accommodated in the same enclosure;” per Bruce, “but all that was necessary was for the shepherd to stand at the entrance and call; his own sheep would recognize his voice and come to him.”[v] In shepherding terms, the shepherd knows his sheep, and his sheep know the shepherd. When the shepherd calls, the sheep follow.

On the other hand, there is much more behind Jesus’ allegory. “It is hard to read these words without thinking of several backgrounds,” writes D. A. Carson.[vi] Carson suggests that Ezekiel 34 is the most important backdrop for consideration. God is tough on the leaders of Ezekiel’s day for the gross mishandling and lack of care for God’s people. “God insists that they are his sheep, his flock.”[vii] Leon Morris also argues for an Old Testament view, writing, “This chapter should be read in light of Old Testament passages which castigate shepherds who have failed in their duty (see Jer. 23:1-4; 25:32-38; Zech. 11, and especially Isa. 56:9-12 and Ezek. 34). God is the Shepherd of Israel (Ps. 80:1; cf. Ps 23:1; Isa. 40:10f.), which gives the measure of the responsibility of His under-shepherds.”[viii] Jesus was both instructing his people to listen to him as the true shepherd while simultaneously blasting the leaders of the day for their disobedience to God’s instruction to rightly care for God’s people. If the assigned undershepherds had failed, it was because they did not obey God. Jesus was showing the Pharisees their lack of obedience as well as his authority over the flock. In both cases, hearing and knowing the Lord’s voice and obeying him are in view.

If the primary matter of the exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees centered on hearing from the Lord and doing what he commanded, it was important the Pharisees understood how to hear from the Lord. The same would be true for undershepherds and the flock today. Knowing how to recognize the Voice of the Lord is vital. “In the OT,” writes Andreas Köstenberger, “God communicated with his people preeminently through the law (which spelled out God’s moral expectations for his people) and the prophets (who called people back to obedience to the law). People listened to God’s voice by living in conformity with his revealed will.”[ix] The leaders in the crosshairs of Jesus’ rebuke had the Old Testament Voice of the Lord available yet did not recognize it, showing them as being outside the flock of God. However, Jesus was calling his people by name and charging them to follow his voice, both physically and through the revelation of Scripture. “At the present time (from the perspective of the earthly Jesus),” continues Köstenberger, “those who desire to follow God should do so by listening to Jesus’ words and by obeying his commandments (e.g., 15:10). In the future, God (and Jesus) will speak to his own through the Spirit (16:13-15).”[x]

A couple of months after this exchange, during the Feast of Dedication, the Jews brought the question up again with Jesus.[xi] “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” demanded the Jews in John 10:24. There is much debate if Jesus had or had not divulged his complete identity to them publicly, but Carson argues that no matter the answer, the entirety of Jesus’ life, words, and deeds had served to inform them.[xii] However, they had not heard. “The request reveals, somewhat pathetically,” jests Köstenberger, “that the entire significance of the preceding good shepherd discourse had eluded Jesus’ opponents.”[xiii] Jesus responded with the sheep allegory once more, saying,

I told you, and you do not believe. The words that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.[xiv] 

A disciple of Jesus is a person who hears and recognizes the Lord’s voice through Scripture and the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, this person not only hears Jesus’ voice, but he or she follows Jesus. Disciples follow Jesus to salvation. In his discourse with the Jews, Jesus said his sheep will have eternal life and shall never perish. However, on the journey toward the promised salvation, Jesus gives his disciples the opportunity to learn and grow. While salvation is not dependent upon spiritual maturity, the road of faithful discipleship leads straight through opportunities for Christian sanctification.

While much of the Bible speaks of spiritual growth and maturity, few passages show the Christian journey like 2 Peter 1:3-15. In his letter to Christians,[xv] Peter urges his brothers and sisters in the faith to follow in the Lord’s leading to both the eternal Kingdom and a sanctified life. Verse 3 says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” Toward the conclusion of the road map, Peter reminded his readers, “For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”[xvi] Peter was not arguing that the instructions between these bookends earn an entry into the kingdom, but that entry has already been granted at the call and promise of Jesus. He further stirred up his readers and reminded them that in doing what Jesus says, a disciple might be a partaker of the divine nature.[xvii] The body of this section of Scripture shows a growth pattern, starting with faith. As a disciple begins to hear from the Lord and follow him, Scripture tells the disciple to supplement that faith with virtue. Then he or she adds knowledge, then self-control, and so on. Eventually, Scripture calls the disciple to learn to love. These supplements are learned and practiced qualities in the discipleship journey, but there are consequences for those who do not follow Jesus toward Christian maturity. “For whoever lacks these qualities,” wrote Peter, “is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”[xviii]

A disciple of Jesus recognizes the voice of the Lord and knows him. Jesus stands and calls to the disciple to follow him, just as a shepherd calls out to his sheep. Then, like the shepherd leading the flock to excellent things the sheep need, Jesus leads his disciples into Christian maturity, if they follow him. The sanctification roadmap Peter offered to his readers is an unadorned picture of the journey Jesus offers to his disciples. Peter’s words in verse 8 should still stir disciples today. They read, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”[xix] To learn more about Jesus means faithfully walking the journey he has put before his people.

After this examination, it is reasonable to say disciple of Jesus hears the voice of the Lord and does what he says in the Christian journey toward spiritual maturity.  Of course there is more discussion to be had here, especially when we see the Bible mention disciples who ended up not following Jesus in the end, like Judas.  However, these cases are likely the exception.  Normatively, a disciple recognizes Jesus voice and obeys him as Lord. 


 _____
[i] John 7:1ff.
[ii] John 10:1-5, English Standard Version.
[iii] F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition, and Notes, Grand Rapids (Mich: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1983), 224.
[iv] Ibid.
[v] Ibid., 224.
[vi] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1991), 380.
[vii] Ibid.
[viii] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1971), 498.
[ix] Andreas J. Köstenberger, John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2004), 301.
[x] Ibid.
[xi] John 10:22-24.
[xii] Carson, 392.
[xiii] Köstenberger, 311.
[xiv] John 10:25b-28, italics added.
[xv] 2 Pet. 1:1.
[xvi] 2 Pet. 1:11.
[xvii] 2 Pet. 1:4.
[xviii] 2 Pet. 1:9-10.
[xix] 2 Pet. 1:8. 

The Four Fields (Matthew 4:26-29)

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Missional engagement can be tricky.  There are times when the field is full of rocks, weeds, and nobody has sewn gospel seeds.  Other fields might have the start of something.  Some fields are ripe for a harvest.  Even the way I am using the term, 'field' can be tricky.  It might be a big area of people, or maybe a specific subgroup, or perhaps even a small local community. 

But despite this trickiness, there's a tool that helps us think about the field.  It's called The 4 Fields and highly promoted by the group #NoPlaceLeft.  It comes from the parable in Matthew 4:26-29.  Brett Ricley does an excellent job explaining The 4 Fields thinking.       

One might ask, "Why is this a thing?"  

Because different fields need different action.  If disciple-makers are going to find effectiveness, he or she might be better off doing what the field calls for.  One can't harvest where no seed has been sewn.  When God has readied the harvest, by all means, one should start the harvest work.  

Thinking in terms of The Four Fields might help you think more effectively in the places where you live, work, play, and do business.   So watch Brett's training video and get into the fields and make disciples! 

Review: The Daily Dose of Greek App

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It's certainly no secret that I use and love Dr. Rob Plumber's Daily Dose of Greek.  But I'm not the only one. Jim Hamilton and Trevin Wax (both guests of Salty Believer Unscripted) have written extremely favorable articles about the Daily Dose.  And John Piper says, "Rob Plummer’s Daily Dose of Greek is a great way to keep up your New Testament Greek."  

Now Daily Dose of Greek is available in an app.  What was once only available through the website and Vimeo, brought to me each day via email, now affords another way to engage with the Greek.  

I've installed the app and used it for a week.  It's time for my review. (For the record, Dr. Plumber has been a guest on Salty Believer Unscripted, but he has not paid for this review or our endorsement, other than by the superb Greek education he provides.)  But first, a quick word about Daily Dose of Greek.

*SaltyBeliever.com has endorsed the Daily Dose of Greek and we highly recommend it to those wanting to learn Greek, dust if off again after many years, or stay sharp.  

But what about the app? 

I've been using the android app for about a week, but it didn't take a week to see the advantages of this app.  

First, it's convenient to have the Daily Dose of Greek on my phone.  Sure, I could have clicked the link in my email that would take me to Vimeo and watch the video, but it's much smoothing to do it all in one place.  And I can open the app while waiting for an appointment or standing in line.  

Second, it's missional.  So no kidding, there I was at my favorite deli, waiting for someone when I pulled out the phone and fired up the Daily Dose of Greek app.  Shortly after a verse from Philemon was read and Dr. Plumber was starting to translate, the guy in the next booth ask what I was studying.  (Maybe my volume was a little too loud.)  I told him biblical Greek and then after he asked why I was able to share my love of God and God's Word.  Then I shared my 15-second story, and we engaged in a short spiritual conversation.  Previously, I was opening my email and watching the Daily Dose at home before heading out.  

Third, and maybe not as much of a stretch, I can readily return to past episodes.  When the app is opened, a list of every Daily Dose episode, to include all verses, weekend editions, songs, and book discussions.  After a video has been selected, a check appears next to it so you can keep track of what you've seen.  Also, the user can look up the 

And finally, the app icon just looks cool on your phone and makes you look and feel so much smarter than when Angry Birds used to be there next to your text message button.  The app just ups your level of phone sophistication and class.  

The videos run smoothly, and the app is intuitive.  It's just easy to use. And it's free. 

If I could make a couple of changes, they would only be additions to an already great app.  First, I would like to see an option to uncheck the video or mark it as unseen.  This would allow me to come back to something again or keep track if I wasn't able to finish a video for some reason.  I also think it would be wonderful to have the "Learn Greek" videos made available and in a category like the specials.  

The Daily Dose of Greek app is terrific and probably ought to be found an anyone who is remotely serious about learning and knowing Greek.  Hunt for the app wherever you get your apps.  (I'm not promising it will be there, but it's worth finding.) 

Here's some info from Dr. Plumber about where to find the app

Discipleship Essentials

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Jesus told his disciples to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).  Those first followers of Jesus were called to make more people like themselves, that is, more Jesus followers.  Jesus said he is with us as we make disciples and teach them all that he commanded.  So you'd think one of the marks of a Christian is that he or she is introducing people to Jesus (or trying to), and then he or she is sitting with others to teach them all that Jesus taught.  After all, this is Jesus' mission (Luke 19:10, Matthew 18:11). Jesus has allowed us to join him in his mission as he is with us until the end of the age. You'd think being on Jesus' mission would be the most significant place where Christians would want to be found. 

However, it would seem that Christians have perfected the art of explaining away the necessity of discipleship, which is just justifying disobedience.  And by shedding the need to engage in disciple-making and discipleship, we have dumped one of the most exceptional means God uses to grow us into the image of Jesus.  Not only do others miss out on meeting Jesus and experiencing spiritual growth, but we also miss out!  Discipleship is a powerful practice commanded by Jesus so he would be glorified in us and others throughout the world.      

Bryan Catherman has assembled a simple tool to help you get started in the process of discipleship.  He also offers some resources to help.  (Simple, faithful discipleship was the focus of his doctoral studies and he's giving away the meat and potatoes right here.) 

We hope that you are trying to make disciples.  We pray that you are meeting with people to help them walk into maturity with Jesus or that you are being discipled, or both.  If you have not started, you can.  It's not difficult.  And it will draw you closer to Jesus.  

*Additional discipleship tools and training are available under the Resources tab of SaltyBeliever.com. 

What in the World is Reformation Day?

MARTIN LUTHER, NOVEMBER 10, 1483 - FEBRUARY 18, 1546.

MARTIN LUTHER, NOVEMBER 10, 1483 - FEBRUARY 18, 1546.

On October 31, 1517, a German monk nailed a list of 95 grievances against the Roman Catholic Church on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Saxony. The monk was Martin Luther, the grievances are technically called The Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences, and October 31, 1517 (Reformation Day) often marks the opening bell of the Protestant Reformation. 

Today is the 500th anniversary of Reformation Day, and Christians are celebrating around the world.  What's the bid deal.  Why are we celebrating? What's the big deal?

Although not actually the first reformed thinker, it all hangs on Martin Luther. First, Luther was also a professor and did a great deal of study.  He studied the Bible in a time when Scripture was often unavailable.  And second, he grew concerned about what he saw because he read his Bible. Studying God's Word, it became clear to Luther that Pope Leo X had steered the Catholic Church far from the doctrines taught in the Bible. For example, ideas of salvation and grace were dependent upon the mercy of Pope Leo X rather than Jesus Christ and his resurrection. We see the error of this false teaching in 1 Timothy 2:5-6, which reads, 

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” 

It should probably be understood that at the university where Luther taught, it was actually a common practice to nail a thesis for discussion to the large door.  This was a way to signal an intellectual discussion or academic debate.  It is believed that Luther was not originally intending to fire such a bullet but instead start a conversation.  However, the thesis launched much more conversation than Luther intended, possibly because the printing press had recently been invented and allowed a publisher to remove the thesis from the door, print it, and distribute it to a wider audience than the university.   Regardless of the intention, The 95 Thesis launched a discussion that still lives today.  

On this, the 500th anniversary of the 1st Reformation Day, take a moment to ask yourself, first, is Jesus Christ your mediator before God or are you depending upon another (or maybe some specific works)?  Also ask yourself, are you studying God’s Word, reading the Bible like that German Monk who took a step of faith and changed the world?

Happy Reformation Day!  

{This is and adapted repost from from SaltyBeliever.com posts from multiple years, on this same day.} 

Success and Faithfulness in Discipleship and Gospel Sowing

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The Christian life is about faithfulness, but it's difficult to know when we're succeeding at the Christian.  How do we measure faithfulness?  What is the measure of success? 

Success gets sticky when it comes to reaching the lost and engaging the mission field.  Mission teams, evangelists, and church planting networks often count the number of professions of faith, or baptisms, or churches planted, but does that measure faithfulness?  Are these things the correct measurement? 

Maybe you're in a mission field that's not ready for gospel planting. You need to do some severe rock removal.  Pre-sowing work is hard work but doesn't produce the results we typically measure as 'success.'  Does this mean you are not faithful?  Of course not! 

Some of us may need to re-think our definition of success in evangelism and discipleship.  We might need a better understanding of what faithfulness looks like across the mission field. 

Brett Ricley has filmed a short training video that helps get a better handle of how we should think about faithfulness and success in mission, evangelism, and discipleship.  

We hope that this video is helpful.  Now, get out there and be faithful in whatever stages your fields are in.  

For the Kingdom! 

Headed into a Great Future

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Nearly a decade ago, I started SlatyBeliever.com because I felt like material I was learning in seminary should be made available to others without the need to go broke.  So I started sharing stuff from my papers and reviews of books I was reading at the time.  I wasn't qualified to teach, nor was I the best source, but there wasn't much out there, and I was thrilled to do something to change that.  That was nearly a decade ago, and by the grace of God, I still enjoy making resources available (even if my doctoral work bogged me down for a season). 

Jared Jenkins and I started "Salty Believer Unscripted" as a way to share conversations among pastors and ministers that the Jiffy-Lube Joe wasn't often wasn't able to take part.  We felt like those conversations should be extended to anybody interested, so we started recording them.  We've had many remarkable guests along the way and I hope to have many more.  I'm also thrilled that Brett Ricley has picked up hosting responsibilities with me in this journey and will help me carry this podcast well into the future. 

From time to time, I posted videos resources, but not as many as I would have liked.  If possible, I would love to have so many resources available that bible study teaches, ministers, missionaries, pastors, and many others might have ample training available on this site and that the training would greatly help them for the work of ministry.  Brett and I are working on a plan for more. 

So I'm elated that we've made website and equipment upgrades.  As I finish my doctoral work soon, I hope to post more videos, more articles and book reviews, more podcast, and even some live-streaming events so you can join in the conversation. And I hope to bring other guest writers onboard. 

I beg that you will keep this ministry in your prayers.  We would love to have more podcast guests, more opportunities to help equip the saints for the work of ministry, and more financial resources to do even more.  I hope you might consider partnering in prayer with us at SaltyBeliever.com.  You might also consider helping us out by subscribing to our YouTube channel and podcast feed.  Like us on Facebook and keep up with what we're doing.  We'd also love to hear from you.  How might we improve what we're doing to with this ministry? 

Thanks for your support and prayers over the years!   
Bryan Catherman

Bible Study Essentials: A Simple Framework

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Studying the Bible doesn't have to be difficult, but it does require some system or progression.  How so?  

Well, let's say you are the Bible student who reads a passage through the lends of 'you first.'  You start by looking for "you" in the text and then what plays out in the biblical text applies directly to you precisely as it did in the Scripture.  Suddenly, you are David fighting your giant--a dead battery in your car.  Your promotion at work is the promised land, and you are going to take it.  Every problematic thing is 'your Jericho.'  

Now, you might be asking, why is this a problem?  

Let's take 2 Timothy 4:13 as an example.  You come across this verse through the lens of 'you.'  Out of context and void of a useful framework for Biblical study, you read, "When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and also the books, and above all the parchments."   What does this mean?  Are you supposed to start a coat ministry?  Should you start a lending library for books at your church.  Or maybe this is about sending writing paper to pastors in other countries?  

But when you look through a system, you discover some timeless principles here.  You see that you are reading a letter from Paul, to his friend, Timothy.   Paul and Timothy were co-labors in the ministry.  Timothy was coming, and Paul wanted him to bring some things.  They help each other.  We also see that Paul was serious about his writing ministry.  There could be more, but after reading in the context of "what did it mean then" and extracting the timeless principles, we might understand that ministers of the gospel should be willing to help each other.  

In the video below, I share a simple system.  I'm not saying that you can't or shouldn't use other Bible study tools.  You should!  A Study Bible is a great start.  I'm not trying to downgrade things like learning the biblical languages, reading commentaries, doing word-studies, or other academic-type tools.  Those things all fit in the system, but you need a system.  

Also, you may download the bookmark in a full-page form here.  (Our was designed by Brett Ricley and adapted from material in Howard Hendrick's book, Living by the Book.) Use the bookmark as is, personalize it as your own bookmark, add more sub-questions, or use it how it will best help you study the Bible. 

Finally, you can buy Living by the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible by Howard Hendricks here

Study on and study well!
Bryan Catherman

Gender, the Olympics, and God's Design

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There's lots of effort today to define men and woman as the same.  Exactly the same.  Exactly.  However, the Bible says men and women are equal in value but different in creation.  Genesis 1:21 says, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."  God created males and females.  Trying to make males and females exactly the same strips away unique aspects of God's design to create two kinds of humans--males and females. 

No matter how hard we try, we can't escape the reality of God's creation.  

Take the Olympics for example.  At the time of this post, the fasted 100-meters ran by male (a person with an x and y chromosome) was run by Usian Bolt.  He did it in 9.63 seconds.  The female record holder (a person with no y chromosome) is Florance Griffith-Joyner.  She ran the 100-meters in 10.62 seconds.  In the world of the 100-meter sprint, that's a large gap.  It's a difference.  

Imagine if a person with an x and a y chromosome (typically called a male) were to self-identify as a female and run in the 100-meter female race.  What if it were Usian Bolt?  What if this happened in boxing?  Would anybody be okay if Mike Tyson self-identified as a female and went into the ring with an actual female with two y chromosomes?  I think the world would cry, "foul."  In fact, the Olympic Committee has had to write a policy for transgendered athletes, to deal with God's created plan.  (You can read that policy here.) 

No matter how hard we try to define the terms as we want them, God, the Creator, is still the one who set the conditions.  Men and women, according to God are equal in value but different in creation.  We can try to make men and women the physically the same in creation, but in the end, God sets the terms.  Because God is the creator.  

The Pragmatic Movement

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The journalism industry did itself a grave disservice when they started giving news away online.  News companies thought that the more viewers, the more people would see the advertisements and the industry would survive the internet.  However, the more the news agencies gave away the news, the more people came to devalue real journalism.  No longer was the audience willing to pay for newspapers or watch the commercials required to pay for the journalist.  Fake news cropped up, and the standards of journalism practically died because of the unintended consequences of devaluing the service of providing the news. 

I wonder if the Church in America might be doing the same thing to the work of pastors?  

We see shrinking numbers of people engaging in church services, so we rapidly put our sermons online, even live-streaming them.  We blog and podcast everything (I realize that am a contributor of the sea of free info.)  People struggle to listen to a 40-minute sermon, so we cut Bible teaching down to 30-minutes until they can't take that and then we drop it to 20.  Soon enough, sermons will be limited to 140 characters.  Christians no longer desire to read books, make time to study, pray, or invest any resources in their growth, so we seek other ways disciple them into maturity that requires less and less commitment.  If it's not free of cost, people don't seem to want it. 

When local churches struggle to give financial support for the mission of the church or the needs of the pastor, the congregation demands that the pastor works for free.  Pastors end up bi-vocational, sacrificing time with family, struggling to find the time to study well, hurting the value they teach the church well.  When church planting is costly, the new normal is a bi-vocational guy. 

We plan and scheme and plan some more.  Business practices become more popular than Scripture.  We push out the power of God in exchange for well-conceived attempts to grow something that meets our minimum goals. 

Now please don't think I'm exempt from this problem.  I blog and podcast.  I post my sermons online.  I plan and scheme too.  I have multiple people on staff who are bi-vocational because our church plant is not yet self-sustaining.  And I know bi-vocational guys doing more than full-time guys.  I want people to hear the gospel, so I put it out there for people to find it easily (if they try).  I want Christians to grow, so I try to give away as many resources as I can afford.  

But might there be unintended consequences to downgrading the ministry?  

Yes, we want to empower the church to be the Church, but does that mean we don't need trained, equipped, empowered ministers to help equip the saints?  We don't often demand those who tend to our physical needs (like doctors, accountants, and lawyers) to shorten it up, give it away, and be bi-vocational, so why do we expect that of those tending to our spiritual needs?  

There are a Scriptures that demand we handle the gospel well as we teach and preach.  There are Scriptures that demand we financially care for those who preach the gospel.  And as I read the New Testament, I don't often see pragmatism leading the charge; yet, pragmatism is greatly shaping the Church in America today.  (It might be better if we let the Holy Spirit do the shaping and trust him with the results, even if the fruit doesn't look like we might expect.)   

Decades after the seeker-sensitive movement, we see the problems.  A decade after the purpose-driven programs, we see the problems.  I wonder what problems we'll see after we conclude that the pragmatic movement didn't accomplish what we hoped?  

Why do Mormons Want to Be Christians Now?

In recent months, I've had a few surprising conversations with members of the LDS church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also knows as Mormons).  Most of the conversations are about the same. The most recent LDS gentleman was kind, but the conversation was troubling.  When he discovered that I'm a pastor of an evangelical church, he started speaking to me as if both of us are Christians under the same big tent.  He fished for me to affirm that I thought either he was a Christian or that the LDS church is but another denomination with the universal Church of the biblical Jesus Christ.  I can affirm neither. 

I'm confused by the LDS church's recent desire to be viewed as the same as or under the same tent as the Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists.  

When I first enrolled in a Baptist seminary, an LDS co-worked took me out to lunch, Book of Mormon in hand.  Actually, it was the Joseph Smith History included in the Pearl of Great Price that he opened to read.  

I learned that in Joseph Smith's day, a great religious zeal erupted in New York.  The enthusiasm included Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists (1).  This fervor caused the founder of the Mormon church much confusion (2).  So he read James 1:5 and decided to ask for wisdom (3).  Smith states that he had a vision of two people he believed to be God the Father and Jesus Christ.  He asked them which church he should join: the Methodists, Presbyterians, or Baptists.  

Smith wrote, "I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors [referring to the Christian preachers] were all corrupt; that: 'they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof'" (4).  

The person in the vision forbid Smith from joining any of these three Christian groups.  Instead, the LDS religion was born.  Smith returned home and told his Presbyterian mother, "I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true" (5).  Something that is not true is false.  Smith said the Presbyterianism is a false faith and it is safe to say he felt the same about Methodists and Baptists too. 

My co-worker used Joseph Smith's story to try to convince me that the Baptist faith was wrong.  A lie.  An abomination, detestable, false.  He went on to tell me about the Great Apostasy, a belief that after the last New Testament Apostle had died, Christ's Church fell into darkness and was grossly wrong.  So wrong that something new had to come to restore Jesus' Church.  He claimed that restoration was the LDS church.  

Now here's where I struggle.  If the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist creeds were an abomination in the sight of this vision character, why do LDS people want to be seen in the same category as these Christian organizations?  Why do they want to be a part of the wrong, offensive, despicable group who hold to doctrines of men not worth joining?   

Frankly, the Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists are either still wrong, and the LDS should want nothing to do with the creeds of Christianity these three Christian denominations profess nor the doctrines they teach, or the LDS owes these three Christian groups a serious apology for such harsh statements that they now seem not to believe.  I'm not sure which it is, but I'm still confused why I've started having so many conversations with LDS folks who have forgotten that the creeds and doctrines of my faith were as offensive to Joseph Smith as the creeds, articles of faith, and doctrines he wrote are concerning to me.   

___
1. Joseph Smith -- History: Extracts from the History of Joseph Smith, the Prophet. Published by the Church of Jesus Christ Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1981, v. 5.      

2. Ibid., v. 6-10. 

3. Ibid., v. 11-14. 

4. Ibid., v. 19. 

5. Ibid., v. 20. 

The Disciple-Maker's Toolbox

We've wrapped up a Salty Believer Unscripted series called, "The Disciple-Maker's Toolbox."  In this series, we looked some of the various tools those making disciples are using to do their job well.  It was a joy to interview a few people in this series too.  

If you would like to get better at making disciples and walking along disciples, or if you're curious about some of the tools we've found to be helpful, this series is for you.  If you haven't already, check out "The Disciple-Maker's Toolbox:

The Disciple-Maker's Toolbox
-- An Introduction audio
-- Using Scripture and Prayer in Discipleship audio
-- 15-Second Story audio
-- Discipleship of Presence audio
-- Perseverance audio 
-- Story audio
-- The Workplace audio
-- Sunday School audio
-- Using a Roadmap audio
-- Tools for Campus Ministry audio 
-- The Sermon audio
-- The Local Church audio 
-- Conclusion audio

You will find many more episodes like these by following the Salty Believer Unscripted link on our website. 

Coffee, A Pride-Busting Blend

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The church I pastor was a church that served bad coffee.  Coffee worse than gas station coffee.  Not only were we a church that served bad coffee, but we also didn't provide liquid creamer.  Bad coffee, somehow, had become a mark of my pride.  So God used a coffee grinder to grind down my arrogance. 

Kids love fruit snacks and fish crackers and Jesus Storybook Bibles and coloring sheets and play time.  They love silly sermons and a fun student pastor.  These simple things contribute to their worship experience and make them want to come back.  I think it might be these things that cause my kids to invite the neighbor kids.  They love our children's ministry not only because they get to learn about Jesus, but because those other things that contribute to their worship too. 

Adults are like kids.  Metal folding chairs are not fantastic; padded seats are much better.  We like air conditioning.  Beautiful worship slides enhance the worship service.  We have professionally printed connection cards and good graphics.  We give away door hangers and tracts.  Most of the time we vacuum and clean the windows.  Lighting and sound quality improve our worship service.  I hope and pray that the adults of Redeeming Life Church love learning about Jesus on Sunday mornings and want to invite their friends too.

But the coffee at our church was so bad.  We'd make it, nobody drank it, and we'd toss it.  

I was too cheap to buy better tasting coffee on our church budget.  It just sounded so consumeristic to me.  "If people are only coming for the coffee, what's the point?" I asked to myself.  But if people want to come worship, pray, hear a sermon, connect, and invite their friends because we have slightly better coffee, we ought to think about having amazing coffee.  I mean, it's not like people were asking us to build a coffee bar and make custom espresso drinks.  But based on my response to requests for better tasting coffee and liquid creamer, you'd think they were asking me to convert our church building into a Starbucks. 

Then I pulled a bottle of water from the refrigerator before a staff meeting.  Wait.  I use our church budget to buy coffee at in the community during meetings, and sometimes I buy it for others (when they don't buy it for me.)  I don't carry around a can of Nescafe to make instant coffee during the week.  I want to be a hospitable church, and I like good coffee during the week. Some how, Sunday became an exception to drinkable coffee.  Why?  My pride I guess.  

Then I read something about how most people attend church because someone invited them.  I thought about the coffee.  Later, I went to buy a cup of coffee so I could grab a couple of creamers for my wife to use at church (I don't tend to use creamer, but she does.)  Was I stealing creamer from a hospitable gas station because our church didn't provide creamer?  It would seem so.  What was the matter with me!

So I gave in and went to purchase some better coffee. 

God really started speaking when I came to the coffee grinder.  Standing at Trader Joe's red grinder, I was agitated that I had to spend 20-minutes of my day grinding coffee instead of doing something evangelistic or super spiritual or something.  My son, on the other hand, was having the time of his life helping me.  "The people are going to love this!" he exclaimed with joy.  He was smiling, making a laughter-filled game out of the process, and offered to wait there to grind other people's coffee so we could tell them that Jesus loves them.  

I had been working on a sermon on the spiritual discipline, "service," from Psalm 101:2.  Part of this sermon would look at Jesus' foot-washing experience in John 13:1-21.  How evangelistic was that act?  It wasn't.  How humbling was that act?  Humbling!  Jesus didn't say, "You can wash your own feet because we're here for the Lord's Supper, an impressive multi-chapter sermon on abiding in me, and a killer prayer people will be talking about for thousands of years!"  Nope.  Instead, Jesus looked around, saw that the disciples could use a foot washing, and served them.  I don't want to wash feet, but I can figure out how to get drinkable coffee.  Coffee might be one of the highest indicators of hospitality in our culture, and I was proud to serve undrinkable motor-oil?  

God used the coffee grinder to set an appointment to speak to me.  

I'm glad.  My pride needed ground down.  And hey, maybe standing around drinking coffee will help our church connect better as a church.  Maybe it is one less thing to hinder our church from inviting others to hang out with God's family?  Or maybe the coffee at church is just one more way God is sanctifying me. 

Engaging the City for What, Exactly?

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I live in an area of the Salt Lake that doesn't have franchise restaurants outside the fast-food category.  No hip coffee shops.  No Cafe Rio.  Not even a Chili's.  I live in what some call the last affordable housing, and others call the hood.  It' neither the hood nor affordable, but it's my home. When I moved across the valley to plant Redeeming Life Church, I think I had an idea in my head that with the gospel would come more restaurants and a more affluent quality of life. 

Why did I think like this?  

Maybe because it's natural.  How many missionaries travel around the world to share the gospel but spend most of their time trying to import a better quality of life in the now? Often well-being in the now is given much more energy and prayer then welfare in eternity.  The same goes for short-term missionaries. Pictures during a report show far more poverty than brokenness and sin.  And how often is that the poverty makes the pictures so sexy, and they become shocking to us because they display something less than our affluence?  What might the people of the mission field say if they saw our pictures and heard our reports?

The same thing happens in my area of Salt Lake City.  

I was talking with some Christians who moved to my community to live as missionaries.  A big concern was the lack of great stuff in my community.  I get it.  The people here often feel of less value than those across the valley.  I tell our mission teams that they come to show the people of my community that Jesus values them enough to send mission teams armed with the gospel. But just because we don't have remarkable housing or a sit-down joint with tasty steak or RVs and big boats doesn't mean we need the gospel more than those who have the good stuff.  That thinking only targets the now.  No.  My community needs the gospel because we are broken sinners, separated from God.  Someday we may have a Starbucks, but that doesn't matter either way if we don't have the gospel. 

"But Jesus often healed people before he shared his good news," missionaries argue; "Jesus fed the people because he cared about their physical needs."  This is true.  But it is not always the case and not the definitive model for mission work.  He didn't give the women at the well physical water.  In fact, he asked her for a drink from the well.  Paul didn't go barging into the idol shops in Emphasis to shut them down in the name of social justice.  Instead, he started preaching the gospel to his people in the synagogue, and when they weren't interested, he didn't dig them a well or repaint their building.  I moved on to others who might be open hear the gospel.  Eventually, the gospel changed people so much the they stopped buying the false idols.  Also, idolatry was their problem, not the lack of a great coffee shop.  Idolatry is our problem, and a great coffee shop might be an idol. 

I am not saying we don't serve our communities.  I'm not saying I don't pray for a great (inexpensive) sushi place in my neighborhood.  I'm certainly not saying we don't dig wells, clean up trash, or fix up the city.  But I am saying that if the gospel reality that redeems sin and brokenness is not leading our motivation, we probably have the wrong motivation. If affluence is our objective, affluence might be our gospel too. 

Arrogance in the Multicultural Church Movement

I've had a difficult time putting my finger on it until now, but I've struggled with the tone of the multicultural church movement in the US.  It's not because I think local churches should be segregated; I certainly don't (more on that in a moment).  Instead, it's because of the arrogance I've seen on the part of a some pushing this movement within the Church .

Let me explain. 

The arguments for a multiculturural church body are good.  Heaven will be populated by every tribe, tongue, and nation; therefore, it wouldn't hurt to practice now as a shadow of the things to come.  Another argument pushes that the gospel bridges racial and socio-economic divides.  This is true. If we are indeed united around Christ, then slave and master can worship together, as can Jews and Greeks, circumcised and uncircumcised.  Another argument says the local church body should reflect the local community.  That sounds good, right. (But is it?)  And finally, there are arguments that work against segregation driven by sin, such as racism or other factors.

These are well-meaning arguments, but they don't play out well in our current scope of thinking.  

Often, church leaders desire to have non-english speaking members join the local church as a way to move toward diversity.  But if diversity is this important, why are these leaders not encouraging their church members to leave and join churches that hold services in other languages?  Do English speakers want to to worship in Mandarin, Spanish, or Arabic spoken services ever week? (I mean, in the name of multiculturalism?)  I don't see this happening much. So why would we expect other non-English speaking people to do that in English speaking churches?  Might it be that God has called people in many languages to minister in languages people can understand?  Might Acts 2 still be playing out today by way of God's call on men and women who speak or learn the languages God desires them to reach?  

What about a diversity of skin color in church?  I live in Utah.  There are many places that have but one skin color within the community.  Is it reasonable to think the local church in that community would look any different?  But in communities where there is a racial variety (like the specific area of Salt Lake where I live) the gospel should, and must bridge racial divides.  That being said, why are church leaders not encouraging the majority population to flood into local churches of minority races?  Why is the minority race expected to bridge the divide?  And why are little local churches reaching Somali refugees not expected to bring in Tongans and Irish and Japanese people too?  Why is the multicultural church typically only argued one direction? (But please don't hear that I think we should promote racial or language segregation.  That is sinful.) 

I believe the gospel bridges our differences and we become united around Christ, which is also why I believe the gospel is the determining factor what our local churches should look like.  When we target specific races of people instead of doing our best to target lost people, we get segregated churches and segregated hearts (even if we target a race other than our own).  But when we go after lostness in any and every place we find it in the community, God's transforming power determines who is in the local church, worshiping the Lord together in community. 

Furthermore, all of the arguments about multicultural church are really good, just as soon as we make them about God's Church and not the local church.  The Church (big "C," universal Church) is God's plan to reach every tribe, tongue, and nation.  In that plan, one local church might reach Spanish speaking people in a community and God might be using another local church to reach the Sudanese, but they are both God's Church, bridging the divide with the gospel.  Some local churches might have many skin colors and languages represented because lostness is being broken across all of these differences, while another local church might be seeing fruit within one people group, but that does not mean God's Church is not diverse.  His Church, all over the globe, is very diverse. 

As a pastor in a somewhat diverse area of Salt Lake, I want to see my community redeemed by the power of the gospel, across all races, cultures, and languages.  I'm thankful for the diversity at the church where I pastor, but the common factor is English.  I'm not apposed to other languages, I just don't preach well in them.  And if a non-English family should come to worship with us (which has happened on more than one occasion) I want to connect them to one of God's Churches in our community where they can be best equipped, which likely means one that speaks their language.  That's the beauty of God's Church!  I want to see every tribe and tongue in my community worshiping the Lord, but I realize I am not capable of reaching them all.  Not even close. I can hardly reach English speakers.  So it would be unwise for me to view multiculturalism in the microcosm of one local church, when God is doing so much more, with so many more, in his Church.  

Maybe it's time we stop thinking in our perspective and start seeing the Multicultural Church through God's perspective.

The Contemplative Pastor By Eugene Peterson

Peterson, Eugene H. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. Grand Rapids, Mich: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1989. 

I've served on staff at a long-established church and I've planted a church.  Both of these tasks are substantially different than the role of Pastor to a God-given family of Jesus-followers.  I was a pastor when I was on the church staff, and all along I've been a pastor as I've worked tirelessly to see a seedling church take to life and get off the ground, but neither of these are the same as where I find myself now: PASTOR.  I manage a small staff and I'm still doing the hard work of church planting, but as I'm writing this review, I am very aware of the church family God has tasked me to tend to, provide care for, and feed.  It's different.  So after a long season of reading discipleship and church planting books, it was time for something different.  

I enjoyed Eugene Peter's book, Working the Angles.  I've written about it on SaltyBeliever.com and Jared Jenkins and I did an entire Salty Believer Unscripted series around the point of that book.  I also enjoyed Peterson's Long Obedience in the Same Direction.  Therefore, it didn't take arm-twisting to pick up a copy of The Contemplative Pastor

As a pastor, I read Peterson's book through the lens of a pastor.  In fact, I'm not sure if there's any other lens through which to read this book.  It would seem Peterson was writing a book for pastors.  And given the nature of the book, I'm not entirely sure I'm qualified to write a review of such a book.  Therefore, I'll simply provide a reflection of my thoughts. 

I loved this book.  I read it slowly.  I would read, pause, read some more, and sometimes reread the same section.  I underlined specific sections that seemed written directly to me.  One specific line reads, "How can I lead people into the quiet place beside still waters if I am in perpetual motion?  How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule constantly to make everything fit into place?" (19).   I'm a church planter and I've spend time with church planters, and that sounds like a church planter.  I've been a busy church staff member and spend time with them, and that statement sounds about right for a busy church staff member.  And I'm a pastor and this statement is true of my trouble.  

It's difficult to put a single theme on this book, other than a book of thoughts by a pastor deep in contemplation.  In that way, it's a little like Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon.  I felt as if the third angle of Working the Angles was a little lacking, but also that The Contemplative Pastor is the answer for that book's shortfall.  In any case, this is not a quick 'how to pastor' book.  It might not even be a good book for a pastor who doesn't yet feel the weight and burden of pastoring of souls.  Yes, it's that kind of book.  

The interview at the opening of the book was informative but did not fit with the rest of the book.  The poetry at the end was a little odd, too.  I appreciate Peterson's drive to appreciate words and read poetry, but I would rather look at the poets he suggested.  His poetry isn't bad, but I'm not sure if it fit well in this book either.  All the pages between the interview and the poetry are excelent. 

I enjoyed Peterson's book.  I found it rather helpful.  It was a much needed and timely perspective.  If you're in a place were you could use the timely thoughts of a seasoned pastor, this book might be for you.   

 

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Saving the Bible from Ourselves by Glenn R. Paauw

** Before I get into my thoughts on Saving the Bible from Ourselves, I owe an apology to Glenn Paauw, Alisse Wissman, and Krista Clayton.  I love reading, and I enjoy reviewing books for SaltyBeliever.com, so I was thrilled when InterVarsity Press sent me Paauw's new book, Saving the Bible From Ourselves.   However, just as the press was done printing Paauw's pages, my doctoral work shifted into high-gear and a literature review consumed every minute I was awake and even a few when I was asleep.  Then a prospectus had to be written and that sucks away time too.   Saving the Bible from Ourselves was forced to sit on my shelf, lonely and ignored.  Yet, when freedom finally came and I returned to Paauw's book, it was a refreshing, enjoyable journey through an argument too few are making.  To Glenn and the good folks at IVP, I'm sorry my review was not within the timely window you were seeking for marketing purposes.  I hope you can forgive me.  

Now, with that out of the way, on to the review! 

Paauw, Glenn R. Saving the Bible from Ourselves: Learning to Read & Live the Bible Well. Downers Grover, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2016. 

If the title alone does't grab your attention, thumbing through the 238 pages of Paauw's newest book, Saving the Bible from Ourselves: Learning to Read & Live the Bible Well should cause you to ask, "Why does the Bible need saving, and from what?"   That's actually the crux of the whole thing: we don't even know.  We don't even see it right before our faces every time we encounter the Bible.  

Paauw writes, "We've never been able to leave the Bible alone," as he launches into a history of the problem (26).  The problem is that our well-meaning effort to make the Bible more user-friendly has actually cut into the natural flow and presentation of God's revelation to us.  And with every cut, we adopt more habits in how we read and understand the Bible differently.  To help readers navigate their way around, chapters were added.  Then verses.  Cross-references came along to help.  Section headings.  And footnotes, don't forget the footnotes.  Study Bibles are great, but how much material captures our eye that's not the Bible?  Formatting, printing style, and on, and on. These tools have altered our reading plans and devotionals.  They've encouraged that we simply snack on God's Word rather than feast, as Paauw argues.  Context and story and form and literary flow is lost in the sea of all the things designed to help us read the Bible well.  

"The Bible needs saving," argues Paauw, "not because of any defect in itself, but because we've buried it, boxed it in, wallpapered over it, neutered it, distorted it, isolated it, individualized it, minimized it, misread it, lied about it, debased it and over sold it. We have over-complicated its form while over-simplifying its content" (16-17).   

We've also changed the way we read God's book.  Where Paul's letters were once read in community, as was the Law, we now read more in isolation.  We interpret in light of ourselves, within the chopped up, over-complicated, framework of our personal Bibles.  No longer is the Bible a book that reads and dissects us; we've turned the tables on the Bible.  

Paauw's journey through history and his explanation of the problem is informative and alarming.  As the bells are going off, the author beckons the reader further into the journey to witness the horrific results of this long-standing problem.  I can only imagine this is how a 25-year smoker might have felt when the commercials of black lungs started appearing on television. The reader can only be compelled that maybe something needs to change. 

As I was reading Saving the Bible from Ourselves, I was moved to purchase a reader's Bible.  It has no footnotes, no verses, no section headings or cross-references.  The chapter numbers are extremely unobtrusive and the print runs all the way across the page rather than working down two columns.  It's shocking how much easier it is to read large sections of text.  It's not only less exhausting on the eyes and mind, it's less distracting.  Reading an entire epistle is simple, likely as it was when the letter first arrived at the church.  The minor prophets read like blog posts to the world.  Narrative is exciting and spurs on the imagination again.  This reader's Bible has entirely changed the way I'm reading the Bible.  

One challenge to Paauw's argument is that it's too well argued.  I can see people tossing out the tools that help us study the Bible.  It would be difficult to locate Scripture without verse markers.  Cross-references and study notes are helpful in gaining a better understanding.  How are we to read in the context of the book when we are so far removed from the context?  This is were those extras can help us engage with the text better.  It would be a terrible thing to chuck out these tools.  While I certainly wouldn't suggest that Paauw argue less powerfully, I do suggest that he give a little more positive discussion to the value of the things we're saving the Bible from.  (Unless, he believes we need not use these tools at all, which I do not gather from his book.) 

That being said, I still highly recommend both Saving the Bible from Ourselves as well as a reader's Bible.  Both of these books would be a wise investment for seminary students, pastors, Bible teachers, and anybody who wants to pull back out of the dryness and taste the richness that the unencumbered Bible has to offer.  

I'll leave you with an excerpt from the book's conclusion: 

"The Bible is bigger than our previous ideas, our regular prejudices, our self-loving distortions.  The Bible really is a strange new world.  And yet it invites us.  The Bible doesn't want to merely reflect us; it wants to remake us.  What if we knew the Bible deep down, in our bones?  What if moment by moment, day by day, we made sense of our lives by seeing them as active continuations of the narrative we find in the sacred words?  What if we tied our journeys inseparably to the great journey we find in the Holy Scriptures?  What if we found the beauty always intended for the stories of our lives by rediscovering the profound beauty of this great, preeminent story?" (214) 

Purchase Glenn Paauw's book, Saving the Bible From Ourselves: Learning to Read & Live the Bible Well by following this link or find the book wherever Christian books are sold. 

Discipleship that Fits by Bobby Harrington

Harrington, Bobby and Alex Absalom. Discipleship that Fits: The Five Kinds of Relationships God Uses to Help Us GrowGrand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2016. 

Lately, there are few books that I talk about more than Discipleship that Fits by Bobby Harrington and Alex Absalom (other than the Bible), so it is fitting that I've finally got some time to write a review.    

I was first introduced to Harrington's work during the literature review for my doctoral research.  I noticed an idea presented in DiscipleShift, by Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington was showing up in other work on discipleship; but typically, this ideas was only given one or two pages.  The concept, shared in secular work, centers around relational spaces.  The proximity, size, or space in which a group exists has different advantages and disadvantages in discipleship.  In his book, Discipleship Uncomplicated Warren Hayes refereed to these groups by where they meet in a home.  Living room, dinning room, and so-on.  Discipleship that Fits is a book entirely dedicated to these relationships/spaces and identifies them as Public, Social, Personal, Transparent, and Divine.  

Understanding these relationships between groups is vital in discipleship.  Missing any relationship means there's likely a lack in the full range of possibilities of discipleship as a church.  House Church movements often want to disregard the public space.  Small groups (Personal relationships) are often seen as the only relationship for discipleship in church, but while that relationship has great advantages, it misses out on the advantages of the Social relationship, Transparent relationship, and Divine relationship.  Each relationship has different strengths and weaknesses. 

Harrington builds on the 1960s work of Edward Hall, and a more recent work by Joseph Myers called The Search to Belong (2003).  The idea is that physical distance shapes the nature and depth of relationships (51).  Harrington takes the physical distance idea and compounds that against the intimacy of the relationship.  He points out that someone standing next to another in a shopping line may by physically close but intimately very far.  The same is true for a group of people on an airplane.  But there are still huge advantages in this space.  Harrington also looks at the spaces more as "contexts" (52).  

Discipleship that Fits starts with a discussion on discipleship.  Why is it biblically important?  How did Jesus model discipleship, specifically in the different relationship contexts?  And what are some ways in which discipleship might be more natural and easier than we've tried to make it?  Harrington answers these questions and many more in discipleship.    

For the remainder of his book, each of the relationship contexts is examined.   Strengths and weaknesses of each relationship context bring the reader to new conclusions.  Why can't we just dump the Sunday service?  Oh, because the Public relationship context has advantages in discipleship that can't be picked up anywhere else.  Why should every church have Missional Communities (or whatever they call their Social space context) and how do those communities fit with Small Groups in relationship to discipleship?  This book deals with that too.  And what about one-on-one discipleship?  Also covered.  

Discipleship that Fits puts to rest the arguments about different group types.  Sunday school or small groups?  Missional communities or dinner parties?  Is it okay to meet in larger gatherings or should we dump all that and only meet in houses?  Small church or mega-church?  These questions all come from thinking that misunderstands the value of different relationships. Harrington argues that a church should have every type of context represented if it is to be as effective as possible in discipleship.  

After reading this book, I realized that I was trying to cram Social spaces into our Sunday services (Public space), causing some grief.  I also realized we were missing Social contexts.  At the church where I pastor, we started making changes, understanding how to better capitalize on the strengths of each relational space.  We also started doing things a little differently within each of those contexts and have found much more fruit.  

I often flirt with thinking there's not much value in a Sunday gathering, but that is because I often miss the value of discipleship in the Public space.  I also now understand what drives pastors into their preferred relational contexts.  I see my own preferences and understand why I would rather have a church in one relational context over another, but I also know that all five are completely necessary.  I love the Personal context but I can't try to make everything fit in that context or it just gets awkward.  In addition, our church misses out on other discipleship opportunities.  Churches shouldn't give preferential treatment to one space over another because it's the balance between them that has the most value.  I also started seeing that some of the different things we were doing at Redeeming Life, although somewhat different, were actually all camping out in only one or two spaces; therefore, we dumped some of those things in favor of adding other activities that function in other relational spaces. 

I believe this book should be required reading for any seminary student, pastor-in-training, missionary, and frankly, anybody in ministry.  It's also helpful for the church member who wants to see things dropped at church or is jaded against discipleship in different contexts beyond his or her own preferences.  There are so many young people who think the Sunday gathering is obsolete, but I now know these individuals simply don't understand the Public space (which they love so much in non-church context).  If you know someone like this, get him or her a copy of this book.  There are many people of older generations who want everything done at the church building on Sunday morning.  They have a lot in common with the jaded young people--it's a misunderstanding of relational contexts.  Get these folks a copy too.  Just imagine what could happen when we all start to see discipleship the way Jesus discipled in the various relational spaces and followed his example! 

You can purchase Discipleship that Fit where books are sold, but if you use this links on this page, you'll help support the costs of this website and the podcast, "Salty Believer Unscripted."