People Don’t Like It When Their Idols Are Destroyed

I wrote 4 years ago concerning the destruction of images in Zurich in 1524:

Zwingli’s reforming efforts were in full swing in June of 1524 and the images which besotted the city’s churches were removed at the order of the Magistrates. As Philip Schaff notes

In the presence of a deputation from the authorities of Church and State, accompanied by architects, masons and carpenters, the churches of the city were purged of pictures, relics, crucifixes, altars, candles, and all ornaments, the frescoes effaced, and the walls whitewashed, so that nothing remained but the bare building to be filled by a worshiping congregation. The pictures were broken and burnt, some given to those who had a claim, a few preserved as antiquities. The bones of the saints were buried. Even the organs were removed, and the Latin singing of the choir abolished, but fortunately afterwards replaced by congregational singing of psalms and hymns in the vernacular (in Basle as early as 1526, in St. Gall 1527, in Zurich in 1598). “Within thirteen days,” says Bullinger, “all the churches of the city were cleared; costly works of painting and sculpture, especially a beautiful table in the Waterchurch, were destroyed. The superstitious lamented; but the true believers rejoiced in it as a great and joyous worship of God.”

Schaff also remarks

The same work of destruction took place in the village churches in a less orderly way. Nothing was left but the bare buildings, empty, cold and forbidding.

The ‘good’ people of Zurich weren’t too happy with Zwingli about it all and in the middle of the month of June, 1524, they organized a demonstration, marched to his house, surrounded it, tossed eggs and stones at it, and chanted ‘down with the great devil!’  The Magistrates sent soldiers to disperse the crowds and that was essentially the end of the ‘Drive Zwingli Out of Town’ movement.

Schaff observes concerning Zwingli’s attitude towards images

It should be remarked also that he was not opposed to images as such any more than to poetry and music, but only to their idolatrous use in churches. In his reply to Valentin Compar of Uri (1525), he says, “The controversy is not about images which do not offend the faith and the honor of God, but about idols to which divine honors are paid. Where there is no danger of idolatry, the images may remain; but idols should not be tolerated. All the papists tell us that images are the books for the unlearned. But where has God commanded us to learn from such books?” He thought that the absence of images in churches would tend to increase the hunger for the Word of God.

This is patently correct.  And it is also relevant in our own day, even now, four years after that original post- when idols are attacked and their worshipers react vigorously and in many cases vociferously.

For instance, the misdeeds of the Florida Pastor Mr Rev. Coy have come to light by his own admission.  That he is virtually worshiped by some of his followers (his, not Christ’s) is made evident by the reaction to any mention of those moral failures.

If you want to get hate mail- point out that no one but Christ should be exalted and watch the fit-pitching commence.  People in 1524 didn’t want their idols touched and people don’t today either.

Nevertheless, the task of the iconoclast must continue unabated, even – and indeed especially – when the complaining thereof begins.  Theologians are beholden to God, not to the blind followers of the blind.

Dear Theologians and Biblical Scholars…

The fact that  has been discussed by biblical scholars and theologians more than is just wrong.  Very wrong.  When you refuse to address issues that REALLY matter (like Syria, Palestine, poverty, the unjust control of wealth by the very very few, etc.) you make yourselves irrelevant and you serve only to marginalize God, faith, and Church.

Your silence on the issues of the day is a renunciation of your calling.  And your focus on trivialities trivializes both biblical studies and theology.

It’s time for you to address human trafficking and child abuse and alcoholism and ministerial misconduct and stop riding your pet hobby horse.  Whether that be boycotts or some other meaningless activity.

Long ago Barth said that Pastors and theologians needed to have a newspaper in one hand and a bible in the other.  Faith which doesn’t speak to culture, and in opposition to the evils of society, is worthless.  And so is scholarship.

Dear Parents…

May I speak to you plainly?

If you don’t love your children enough to introduce them to the importance of faith (and allowing them, naturally, to make their own decisions about God when they are old enough to), then, to be blunt, you don’t love your children.

Knowing, loving, and serving God is the most important thing a person can ever do. Running your children to every ball game, practice, outing, field trip, and birthday party in the world won’t provide them with that one essential thing, that one absolutely essential relationship.

Christian parents who have time for everything but God are setting a profoundly inappropriate example for their children. It is disheartening, saddening, and soul crushing to know so many children so excited to be in the house of God for worship and Sunday School, whose Christian parents obliterate that sensitivity and sincerity and soul-thirst for God by neglecting God and his community of faith.

When your children grow up, drift away, and find themselves in dire straits because they live lives of indifference to God, the only thing I will be able to say to you, the only words of comfort I will have to offer you are these-

I Told You So…
I Tried to Warn You…
But You Didn’t Care Enough to Listen…
And Now, You’re Simply Reaping What You’ve Sown.

Be Renewed: A Theology of Personal Renewal

978-3-525-55061-8“Be Renewed – A Theology of Personal Renewal”, published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in the Reformed Historical Theology Series, is the new book of Willem van Vlastuin, assistant professor in systematic theology at VU University Amsterdam.

Listening to Scripture and in conversation with a variety of theologians from the protestant tradition, van Vlastuin presents an up-to-date concept for a theology of personal renewal.

My review of this exceptionally important work is online here.

It’s Just Another Day In America…

With another mass murder.  In Texas.  At an Army Post.  Say, aren’t we constantly told that if people were armed they could intervene and stop this kind of thing from happening?  Looks like that little falsehood has been exposed yet again to be absolute nonsense.

America has a problem.  And it isn’t a gun problem.  Guns are merely instruments or tools- nothing more.  The problem America has is deeper than just the availability of guns.  America has a sickness in its soul.  A sickness driven by self interest, selfishness, self aggrandizement, and greed.

You might not like to hear this- but frankly it has to be said because it is THE elephant in the room.  America has a sin problem.

Depraved behavior springs from depraved lives.  America has ceased being the land of the free and the home of the brave and has turned into the land of greed and the home of the slave (to materialism).

Everything centers in America on two questions: ‘what’s in it for me?’  And, ‘how can I make sure I get what I think i deserve’.  And that is the root of our self-destruction.

Quote of the Day

I am more offended by Christian pastors who twist and mangle God’s Word than I am by Hollywood doing the same thing. Both are wrong but Christian pastors should know better. – Chris Rosebrough

Two New Volumes in Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht’s “Reformed Historical Theology” Series

A new perspective on Calvin’s ecclesiological ideal

calvOver the last decades, elements of Calvin’s ecclesiology have received their share of critical attention. Herman Speelman’s work, however, remains the only monograph-length study that offers a new, comprehensive perspective on Calvin’s ecclesiological ideal in terms of the church’s relationship to the government. Different from what many have argued, this ideal did not lie in a vision of the church as completely independent of the government or that had its own power of excommunication. Instead, Calvin advocated a very modest form of ecclesiastical independence, from which later Calvinists would diverge. Calvin’s ideas and those of his followers about the independence of the church differ in some important respects, so that in the second half of the sixteenth century two Calvinist views of the church had emerged.

My review of this volume is here.


An up-to-date concept for a theology of personal renewal

renewPersonal renewal is becoming more important in our present-day culture. Listening to scripture and in conversation with a variety of theologians, Willem van Vlastuin presents an up-to-date concept for a theology of personal renewal Personal renewal or sanctification belongs to the heart of the Christian life and is becoming more important in our present-day culture. Listening to Scripture and in conversation with a variety of theologians from the protestant tradition, Willem van Vlastuin presents an up-to-date concept for a theology of personal renewal. In this concept the spiritual union with Christ considers the way in which renewal obtains form in relation to God, our neighbour, ourselves, and the world. The author places this concept into a historical perspective.
Furthermore, an important issue concerns the measure of renewal, especially in relation to the sinful heart of the believer.

This exceptional series is under the editorial auspices of the esteemed Herman Selderhuis.  The volumes I’ve already seen in the series are very fine indeed.  (Review forthcoming).