Here’s an excerpt of the teaching from week three of the Reformation Doctrine Study. Those following along can listen here.
“Men’s conceptions of God are formed, not according to the representations He gives of Himself, but by the inventions of their own presumptuous imaginations…They worship, not God, but a figment of their own brains in His stead.
And so I ask you, and myself, are we putting our words in God’s mouth? Tim Keller says, “If your god never disagrees with you, you might just be worshiping an idealized version of yourself.” Does God seem to—most conveniently—always agree with your assessment of things? If that is the case, you must ask yourself whether you are worshiping the God of the Bible or a figment of your own imagination. The Bible is a costly costly book. If it hasn’t yet wrested anything from your clutches, be warned. It will force your hand. It will confront you.
Believing the Bible has cost me close family relationships, it has cost me the assurance I once had over someone else’s salvation, it has cost me the core sense of self that I once had. It has taken all my wisdom and made it a mockery. It has taken all my dearly held feelings and laughed in their face. It has taken my comfort and my hopes and dreams and put them in a shredder. And I have a hard time trusting Christians for whom believing the Bible has cost them nothing—it just seems to fit with their cultural norms already. But believing the Bible is always costly, for everyone. And you want to know the price tag of believing the Book? The price is everything.
But do you want to know what it has given me in return? Jesus Christ—and along with him, ALL THINGS. Unimaginably more than I have ever lost. Can I testify to you? Every loss is worth it. Every loss is gain to be given the opportunity to know God, to know my Savior, in this book. We can say with Paul, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him..” (ESV)
And the women of the reformation knew better than most of us the cost of submitting to the Scriptures. Nuns who joined the reformation had no protection—they left their convents with no husband, no money, no home, no church protection. They were disobeying everyone and everything to obey the only One who matters because they’d met him in his book.
Argula von Grumbach wrote a letter to the University of Ingolstadt in 1523. This university had threatened to kill an 18 yr old student for his Lutheran sympathies. They threatened to burn him alive and threw him in prison for a while. And she, bold woman that she was, took up her pen to write in his defense, an almost unthinkable thing for a woman to do at the time. Here’s part of the preface to her letter,
“What I have written you is no woman’s chit-chat, but the word of God; and (I write) as a member of the Christian Church, against which the gates of Hell cannot prevail… may his grace carry the day.” (The Account”, in AvG/Matheson, 90).
If someone had to evaluate your words, would they say of you, she speaks no woman’s chit chat, but the very word of God? Isn’t that something to aim for? Do you know his word enough that this is even a possibility?
The doctrine of the Scripture and its authority is still very much at the heart of the divide between Catholic and Protestant. Without agreement on the Bible’s words and authority, we can never have agreement on our understanding of justification or other doctrines contained within the Scriptures. As long as Catholic doctrine elevates man’s thoughts to the level of God’s thoughts, in putting their tradition and councils on par with the Bible, there will always be a level of bondage and corruption in the spreading of its message. The Bible, the God behind the Bible, must be free to rule and reign, free from our human tendency to put our words in God’s mouth and that comes when we trust it. We must trust that it can make itself understood, by the power of the Spirit. Our job is to listen to what it says. To do what it says. To confess it, to spread it, to love it.
A french woman, Marie Dentiere, who joined the side of the reformers in Geneva and, like Argula, scandalously took up her pen as a sword in the battle said this,
“For what God has given you and revealed to us women, no more than men should we hide it and bury it in the earth.” Women, we have our part to play in the cosmic scene we find ourselves in. It’s not the same scene as the reformers, it’s many acts later, but it’s no less important. And we can only play our part if we’re tethered to God’s word.