Not a New Thing

But I said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord!  The prophets keep telling them, ‘You will not see the sword or suffer famine.  Indeed, I will give you lasting peace in this place.’”
Then the Lord said to me, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name.  I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them.  They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds.  Therefore this is what the Lord says about the prophets who are prophesying in my name: I did not send them, yet they are saying, ‘No sword or famine will touch this land.’  Those same prophets will perish by sword and famine.  And the people they are prophesying to will be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and sword.  There will be no one to bury them, their wives, their sons and their daughters.  I will pour out on them the calamity they deserve.

  • Jeremiah 14:13-16

A sword against her false prophets!
    They will become fools.
A sword against her warriors!
    They will be filled with terror.

  • Jeremiah 50:36

The visions of your prophets
    were false and worthless;
they did not expose your sin
    to ward off your captivity.
The prophecies they gave you
    were false and misleading.

  • Lamentations 2:14

“The decline of the Church: ’I have said that during the last four hundred years the vigor of Christianity has grown cold.  You point to the great luminaries of the late Middle Ages.  Yes, but they do not compare with the ancients.  I can give you two hundred examples of unprofitable questions discussed by the scholastics.’
“Scholasticism: ’This I do not condemn in its entirety.  But I would remind you that Wycliffe, Hus, Luther, Oecolampadius, the Anabaptists, and Hubmaier all had their training in scholastic theology.  Heresy does not arise among the laity who have the scriptures in the vernacular, but among the doctors.’  (Erasmus thus comes close to saying that scholasticism is the mother of heresy)”

  • Roland H. Bainton, Erasmus of Christendom

I shuffled the rubrics around.  Rubrics are sort of tweets, old school.  It is interesting that Erasmus was himself a scholastic.  He hobnobbed with scholastics, but here he came close to stating that scholasticism is the mother of heresy.  His observation has merit.  Sometimes we become too enamored with what we have been taught and we forget how to think and feel.  I also noted that those who do not necessarily produce heresy are the simple folk who simply read their Bible.

In the time of Erasmus (1466-1536), there were not that many Bibles.  Erasmus mentioned a few scholastics:  John Wycliffe (1328-1384), Jan Hus (1369-1415), Martin Luther (1483-1546), Johannes Oecolampadius (1482-1531), and Balthasar Hubmaier (1480-1528).  He places them among the scholastics, but possibly not tainted by their scholarly achievements.

I mostly have a lot of boxes, but if I had bookshelves, you would find Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), François Fénelon (1651-1715), Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471), and St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) among many modern theologians and pastors who write books, like Max Lucado, John MacArthur, Charles Stanley, Charles Swindoll, and Tim Keller.

It is not that too much education spoils the mind, but sometimes intellectuals spend too much time thinking about things that are too simple in nature to benefit from extra thought.

Take a child’s toy, a radiometer.  It looks like an old-fashioned lightbulb, but inside is a needle and poised on the needle is a windmill of sorts.  The vanes of the “mill” each have a black side and a white side.  Wherever you gaze into the bulb, you will always see one white and one black side.  The black side, having a higher emissivity than the white side, absorbs more radiated heat.  Although there is a partial vacuum in the bulb, the air in front of the black side then heats up.  As that air in front of the black side heats, it expands, pushing the black side and the vanes begin to spin.

Simple!  Too simple for a doctorate level engineer who wrote a ten-page treatise on how it “really” worked.  He broke everything down to the molecular level.  He used tons of polysyllabic words.  The reading level of his document was well past twenty years of schooling.  And it was totally WRONG!!  Yet, scholasticism loved it.  When I taught high school educated steel mill workers, I avoided what the educated engineer had written.  For one, it was wrong.  For another, no one in the class would understand it anyway.

Another of the rubrics by Erasmus was on understanding the liturgy.  People complained that Erasmus wanted to ruin the liturgy by getting rid of the Latin.  The Latin liturgy was “beautiful.”  Erasmus responded that it would be equally “beautiful” for the liturgy to be in French [for a French audience] and the people could understand it.

Some people can become so enamored by their education that they forget that God came to save sinners, not go to graduate school.  I think that is why the works of François Fénelon and Thomas à Kempis wrote books that are still attractive. They wrote simply and stuck to what needed to be said rather than impressing people with their education.

But as for the first topic that is quoted from the rubrics is his comments on the decline of the church.  We definitely have more education across the board these days, but I wonder if people are really learning anything, anything worth learning.  Erasmus spoke of the lack of “warmth.”  As Beth Moore wrote, we have moved farther away from the warmth of the Spirit if we are getting cold.  But I wonder if there was something else in the days of Erasmus that attracted the attention of the average Dutchman, in the case of Erasmus, although these rubrics were sent to people in France.  Today, if we could instill an excitement into learning about Jesus like anyone under fifty years old (but not everyone) gets when a new video game comes out or a new gaming system, then we might be up there with the “ancients” that Erasmus mentions.

We think that we are seeing the beginning of the End Times, but I am sure many felt the same in the days of Erasmus.  That general coldness that people have toward God is similar to the abominations that the Israelites did between the reign of each judge in the book of Judges, and once Solomon died, even before he died, there was rarely any revivals.

The deal is that I fear that our judgment of “being on fire” for Jesus is a relative term.  The average zealot for Jesus today would probably be the average ho-hum in the days of Erasmus, forget the days of the Middle Age greats or the ancients.  I have been told that I was a Biblical scholar, only because I had read the book multiple times.  Someday, maybe soon, will we get to the point when we claim someone to be “on fire for Jesus” if he/she can simply spell “Jesus?”  We are not that bad yet, but we are not as warm toward Christianity as they were in the days of Erasmus, when he complained that they were cold compared to the days 400 years before.

Each generation, from the time of the Apostles until now thought that the End Times were within their lifetime or soon after.  What we do not know is the capacity of God to allow the people of earth to sin against Him.  In looking at the Old Testament, God put up with a lot.

We should be prepared as if Jesus will return tomorrow, or even later today.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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