The Reformation

The following is my transcription of a portion of tolerant Calvinist heretic Dr. James R. White’s talk on the Reformation at “The Power of God Conference” (October 2017):

“… we cannot have a cartoon view of the Reformation or the Reformers. And that’s what we’ve got. That’s what we’ve got. If you haven’t heard these stories before; if you don’t know about Fritz Erbe, if you don’t know about how the Anabaptists were treated…and even later when the Swiss Reformers and the German Reformers get together, the inability to come to a final agreement on things…if you’re not aware of these things then my concern is that you are going to have a very shallow and false view of what took place in the Reformation. There was politics and there was sin, and you know what? That’s the same situation we face today. I’m afraid…it’s so easy for modern-day Christians to say ‘We want to get back to the Apostolic period!’ Have you read Galatians lately? How about 1 Corinthians? They had a lot of problems. There was sin and there was ignorance, and there was even tradition. ‘We need to get back to the Reformers!’ Like I said the very first night with our group, I said I recognize Luther would have minimally banished me…imprisoned me. Zwingli probably would have had me drowned. Calvin would have had me banished….I realize all of that! And yet I can still thank God for what He did in the lives of these men even though they would not have treated me as a Christian brother. How can that be? Well that’s what it takes to have any type of meaningful understanding of Christian history. And…studying Christian history is the only way we can have a mirror to look at ourselves because we’re too close to the controversies we’re engaged in to have any kind of perspective” (James R. White; underlining mine–CD).

From what I understand, White speaks of a time when there was an “irrefragable bond between politics and religion” and that “religion and war were also inextricably linked.” At least one consequence of this inseparable connection — so it seems — is that there was no freedom of religion in these times.  J.V. Fesko writes:

“Was Zwingli a minister or a soldier?  Was the Reformation a theological or a political movement?  Was the Reformation a theological or military phenomenon?  The answer to these questions is yes.  The Reformation was all of these things, and Zwingli’s death is but one example of how interconnected and messy the events of early modernity were.  As military strategist Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) has argued, stripped to its essence, war is simply the exercise of force in order to bring about a political goal — it is merely the implementation of political policy…In this case, given the symbiotic relationship between church and state, war was a natural instrument for advancing or defending theological causes.”

And evidently, lowering Fritz Erbe down into a “terror hole” was a “natural instrument” for convincing him of his doctrinal errors (the historical account is that Fritz died after dwelling in that dark hole for several years). Since there was a “State Church,” baptizing one’s infant was (somehow) the means of the State receiving money (something like that). So, since Mr. Fritz Erbe refused to baptize his infant (being convinced that it was wrong from reading Luther’s translation of the Bible), and since there was NOT a separation of Church and State, it (again, somehow, some way) led to him being put down in a hole in order to compel him to speak differently on the matter. Repulsive indeed.

I don’t know much about Fritz, and I’m not saying he was a true Christian — my point is that this is how professing Christians have treated other professing Christians when there is this inseparable intermingling of “Church and State.”

As true Christians know, wherever the true gospel is, there the true church is. Regarding the portion of White’s comments that I underlined about being “too close” to the situation to realize errors or blind spots:  I wonder, at what point does Dr. White’s historical explication of professing Christians killing or “compelling” the speech of other professing Christians become Bible-nullification?

“Because this is the message which you heard from [the] beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain was of the evil one, and killed his brother. And for what did he kill him? Because his works were evil, but the things of his brother [were] righteous. Do not marvel, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brothers. The [one] not loving the brother remains in death. Everyone hating the brother is a murderer, and you know that every murderer does not have everlasting life abiding in him. By this we have known the love [of God], because that [One] laid down His life for us; and on behalf of the brothers we ought to lay down [our] lives” (1 John 3:11-16).

Additional information on Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, found here:

Luther on John 1:29

Calvin’s view of the atonement

Zwingli’s Inclusivism