f The Wittenberg Door: October 2008

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Reformation Hymnody

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper he amid the flood of mortal ills prevaling. For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.

Martin Luther (1529)

October 31 is Reformation Day. As we take time to thank the Lord for the recovery of the Gospel, let us not forget the other fruits of the Reformation, such as hymnody. Informed by the recovery of the great truths of Scripture, hymns of the Reformation were Christocentric and theologically astute. They not only aided in worship, but they also acted as a teaching tool. (I used to joke with my former pastor that the hymns protected me from him.)

Salem-Ebenezer Reformed Church in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, has a fine tradition of singing Reformation-period hymns during the month of October (see list below). This is not only a fitting means of giving thanks to the Lord for the Reformation, but it's also a reminder of the often overlooked treasures found in our Reformed and Presbyterian hymns.

Jesus is My Boyfriend Music

Hymnody has fallen on hard times. The Second Great Awakening, Pentecostalism, and the Jesus Movement have taken a toll. No longer are hymns theologically informed and centered upon the Glory and majesty of God; instead, the great truths of Scripture that moved the pens of hymnists have been replaced by the man-centered lavender quills of romantics.

Dr. Michael Horton, professor of theology and apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, reflects upon this transition in an article titled, Are Your Hymns Too Spiritual? Here's how the article begins:

The average Christian will learn more from hymns than from any systematic theology. Hymns chart progression from classic hymns of the 17th and 18th centuries (especially those of Charles Wesley, Augustus Toplady, John Newton and William Cowper) to the Romantic "songs and choruses" of the 19th and 20th centuries. They reflect the shift from Reformation categories (God, sin and grace, Christ's saving work, the Word, church, sacraments, etc.) to Romantic individualism. We sing, "I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses. And the voice I hear, singing in my ear, the voice of God is calling. And he walks with me and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own." Or, "He touched me." The number of 19th century hymns that talk about the objective truth of Scripture, and that which God has done outside of my personal experience, is overwhelmed by the number of hymns that focus on my personal experience. It is my heart, not God and his saving work, that receives top billing.

If that was true of the 19th century, the 20th century only exacerbated this emphasis, and the style of the commercial Broadway musical was imitated in songs that elevated personal experience and happiness above God and his glory. Today, the vast majority of entries in the Maranatha, Vineyard, and related praise songbooks are not only burdened with this self-centered and Gnostic tendency, but often contain outright heresy--probably not intentionally, but as a result of sloppy theology. In our day, sloppy theology usually means some form of Gnosticism.

You can read the rest here (subsciption required).

Reformation Hymns

The words for the following hymns were authored in the 16th or 17th centuries.

Hymn and Author
All People That On Earth Do Dwell Louis Bourgeois, William Kethe
All Praise to God, Who Reigns Above Johann Schutz
Now Blessed Be The Lord Our God Scottish Psalter
Ye Holy Angels Bright Richard Baxter
O Come, Let Us Sing to the Lord Scottish Psalter
Let us, With a Gladsome Mind John Milton
Praise to the Lord, Almighty, the King of Creation Joachim Neander
With Glory Clad, With Strength Arrayed Tate and Brady's
The Lord's My ShepherdScottish Psalter
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God Martin Luther
Now Thank We All Our God Martin Rinkart, Johann Cruger
O God, We Praise Thee; and Confess Tate and Brady's
Lord, Keep Us Steadfast In Thy Word Martin Luther
Whate'er My God Ordains is Right Samuel Rodigast
O Thou My Soul, Bless God the Lord Scottish Psalter
O Lord, How Shall I Meet Thee? Paul Gerhardt, Melchior Teschner
Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of All NatureMunster Gesangbuch
Wondrous King, All-Glorious, Sov'reign Lord VictoriousJoachim Neander
Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art Strasbourg Psalter
Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates! Georg Weissel
Comfort, Comfort Ye My PeopleJohannes Olearius, Louis Bourgeois
All My Heart This Night RejoicesPaul Gerhardt, Johann Ebeling

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Today in Church History: Bruce Hunt, OPC Foreign Missions

On October 22, 1941, OPC missionary Bruce Hunt was arrested and imprisoned in Manchuria by Japanese occupying forces.

As his prison biography, For a Testimony, recounts, Hunt's sufferings included solitary confinement, the lack of food and water, and the discomfort of sleeping on a hard floor in freezing weather with a cloak as his only blanket. The 38 year-old father of five was released on December 5, after 45 days of imprisonment. While reluctantly preparing to return to the States, he was arrested again two days later, in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack. He was then sent to a concentration camp, where he grew weak and sick from semi-starvation. Six months latter he was finally freed as part of a prisoner exchange.

Throughout his ordeals, Hunt kept his mind sharp and focused by composing hymns. One of his compositions was "Give Thanks unto Jehovah," which began:

Give thanks! Give thanks unto Jehovah!
For he of kings is king.
Let every nation, race, each tongue and tribe,
Unto him praises bring.
He rules the earth with power and righteousness;
The waves obey his will.
Give thanks! Give thanks unto Jehovah!
Your work of praise with joy fulfill.

John Muether


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Who’s Sovereign in Salvation? – Part 13 – Arminianism: Uncertain Perseverance

In the last post on this topic, Part 12, we finished looking at the Arminian doctrine of Resistible Grace. Now we’ll take a look at the Arminian doctrine of Uncertain Perseverance: Although God’s grace has been extended to, and accepted by, the believer, he may still “fall from grace” and thus lose his salvation.

At the moment of new birth, the believer is granted eternal life and has passed from death to life.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:16

He who believes in the Son has eternal life . . .

John 3:36

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

John 5:24

The believer is then kept by the power of God and He will not allow anything to come between Him and His people, nor will He allow them to turn from Him.

I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me.

Jeremiah 32:40

I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You Holy Father, keep them in Your name . . . I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.

John 17:11, 15

35) Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?


37) But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

38) For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,

39) nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35-39

Furthermore, His people will never be lost nor come under His judgment.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1

8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

9) Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

10) For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Romans 5:8-10

7) so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

8) who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9) God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:7-9

To be continued . . .


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Who’s Sovereign in Salvation? – Part 12 – Arminianism: Resistible Grace

In Part 11, we closed-out our discussion of the Arminian doctrine of Resistible Grace, with one question still lingering:

Arminians often respond to the Calvinistic doctrines of Irresistible Grace and Unconditional Election with the following objection: “So you’re saying that God drags people into heaven against their will, while those sincerely desiring to get in can’t because they’re not the elect?”

Banging on Heaven’s Door?

We’ll start with the second objection: Is it the case that there are sinners who want to reconcile with God but, God won’t let them because He didn’t elect them?

Here’s the problem with this objection: it doesn’t take into consideration the state of man. Scripture teaches that Adam’s sin brought spiritual death to us all (Gen. 2:16–17, 3:1–7; Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:1–3; Col. 2:13).

As a result, men are spiritually deaf, blind, and completely corrupted (Ecc. 9:3; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 8:7–8; 1 Cor. 2:14); also, men are slaves of sin (John. 8:34; Rom. 6:20; Tit. 3:3) and children of the devil (Eph. 2:1–2; 2 Tim. 2:25–26; 1 John 3:10).

So how does natural man respond to the revelations God has given him? He suppresses the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18). Consequently, man in his unregenerate state hates God and is therefore not seeking Him.

10) as it is written,



Romans 3:10-12

Kicking and Screaming?

Now to the former part of the objection: Is God forcing people into heaven against their will?

As we’ve just seen, man is dead in his sins and in complete and utter rebellion against God. Man’s plight is not simply that he needs to add a few doctrines to his belief system—no, he needs to be made a new creation (Gal. 6:15; Eph. 2:10; 1 Cor. 5:17–18), to have his nature renewed (Due. 30:6; Ezk. 36:26–2; 1 Pet. 1:3).

Being made alive by the Spirit (John 5:21; Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13), the sinner is granted repentance (Acts. 11:18, 16:14; Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim. 2:25–26). Now with a new disposition towards God, he lives a life characterized by thankfulness and service unto the Lord (Rom. 6:1-14; Eph. 2:10; Phil. 2:13).


The Arminian objection falls flat, for it does not truly represent the state of man, nor does it truly represent the gracious work of God in salvation.

In his fallen state, man is an enemy of God. He not only doesn’t seek reconciliation and entrance into God’s kingdom, but he is daily seeking to further himself from His holy Creator. The sinner’s only hope is a rescue operation—a sovereign work of God upon his heart. Once regenerated, the new believer lives a life of thankfulness and dedication to his magnificent benefactor.

In the next post in this series we’ll take-up the Arminian doctrine of Uncertain Perseverance: Although God’s grace has been extended to, and accepted by, the believer, he may still “fall from grace” and thus lose his salvation.