Category Archives: Church History

Fifty-one Theses for the Twenty-first Century Ekklēsia

by Peter Ditzel

Painting of Luther nailing the 95 theses, by Julius Hübner, 1878.
This 1878 painting by Julius Hübner of Luther nailing the 95 theses is narrative art. It depicts the story, showing Tetzel in the lower left receiving adoration and money from those who have purchased indulgences by enriching the pope. This is contrasted with starving people who could better use the money begging on the church steps. Luther’s disciples are on the left teaching the people and followers on the right receive his message with enthusiasm. Luther’s enemies are seen in the lower right running off to inform the pope. Of course, this is all fanciful. Luther probably hung the theses as a matter of routine to inform other scholars that he would like to discuss these points. It wasn’t until scholars realized that the theses implied a challenge to the authority of the pope that the document caused a stir.

October 31, 2017: Today marks the five-hundredth anniversary of what has come to be considered the formal beginning of the Protestant Reformation. That’s because, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther (1483–1546), then a Roman Catholic Augustinian monk and priest, nailed a notice on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. He titled the notice, “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” but it became known as Luther’s 95 Theses.

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The Worship Service and the New Testament Assembly

by Peter Ditzel

A contemporary worship service with green stage lighting, music performers on stage, and people raising their hands.
Is this what meetings of the New Testament assembly are supposed to look like?

Ten to fifteen years ago, I exchanged a couple of letters with one of the elders of a small Baptist congregation in rural America. In one letter to him, I asked him some questions about a matter of their worship service. In his answer, he politely answered my question, but he prefaced his answer by saying, “In what you call a worship service….” He never explained it further, but his saying that was like a small poke that awoke something in me. I already had a question in the back of my mind about what I felt was the common overuse and abuse of the term “praise and worship service” to refer to the lengthy, contemporary Christian, music performances that were beginning to dominate so many churches. Now, I was stimulated to look into the worship service itself. How should it be conducted? What was its goal? What were its biblical origins? What I found startled me.

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Are We At the End of the Reformation?–Part Five: The End of Soli Deo Gloria —”Glory to God Alone”

by Peter Ditzel

Soli Deo Gloria, “Glory to God Alone,” was one of the Five Solas of the Reformation.  They were: 1. Sola Scriptura—”By Scripture Alone,” 2.Sola fide—”by faith alone,” 3. Sola gratia—”by grace alone,” 4. Solus Christus or Solo Christo—”Christ alone” or “through Christ alone,” 5.Soli Deo Gloria—”glory to God alone.” The Reformers specified these Five Solas as central, biblical truths that contrast with the corrupt doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, but today, Protestant and Evangelical churches forsake them with little thought. In this article, we will see the significance of “Glory to God Alone” as taught in the Bible, look at how Catholic dogma contradicts this, briefly point out the many ways Protestant and Evangelical churches have abandoned soli Deo gloria, and conclude this series of articles with a question posed by our Lord.

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Are We At the End of the Reformation?–Part Four: The End of Solus Christus or Solo Christo —”Christ Alone” or “Through Christ Alone”

by Peter Ditzel

Solus Christus “Christ alone” or Solo Christo “through (or “by”) Christ alone” was one of the Five Solas of the Reformation. They were: 1. Sola Scriptura—”By Scripture Alone,” 2. Sola fide—”by faith alone,” 3. Sola gratia—”by grace alone,” 4. Solus Christus or Solo Christo—”Christ alone” or “through Christ alone,” 5. Soli Deo Gloria—”glory to God alone.” As we have seen in previous installments in this series, these Five Solas are today often distorted or even completely abandoned. In this article, we will see where “Christ alone” is taught in the Bible, and see some examples of how it has been abandoned.

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Are We At the End of the Reformation?–Part Three: The End of Sola Gratia —”By Grace Alone”

by Peter Ditzel

Sola gratia was one of the Five Solas of the Reformation. They were: 1. Sola Scriptura—”By Scripture Alone,” 2. Sola fide—”by faith alone,” 3. Sola gratia—”by grace alone,” 4. Solus Christus or Solo Christo—”Christ alone” or “through Christ alone,” 5. Soli Deo Gloria—”glory to God alone.” Over time, the Five Solas have been distorted or completely abandoned by many Protestant and Evangelical churches. In this article, we will see what sola gratia means, where it is taught in the Bible, and see some examples of how it has been abandoned.

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Are We At the End of the Reformation?–Part Two: The End of Sola Fide —”By Faith Alone”

by Peter Ditzel

As pointed out in the last installment of this series, five of the central beliefs of the Reformation took expression in what have been called the Five Solas: 1. Sola Scriptura—”By Scripture Alone,” 2. Sola fide—”by faith alone,” 3. Sola gratia—”by grace alone,” 4. Solus Christus or Solo Christo—”Christ alone” or “through Christ alone,” 5. Soli Deo Gloria—”glory to God alone.” As might be expected given enough time, over the years individuals and individual churches that once adhered to the Five Solas have wandered from them. In many cases, the wandering has resulted in a return to Catholic doctrine, the false doctrine the Reformers were challenging.

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Are We At the End of the Reformation?–Part One: The End of Sola Scriptura —”By Scripture Alone”

by Peter Ditzel

Most scholars date the start of the Protestant Reformation to October 31, 1517, when the Roman Catholic Augustinian monk and priest, Martin Luther (1483–1546) nailed his Ninety-five Theses on the door of All Saints’ Church, often called “Castle Church,” in Wittenberg, Germany. But as the ball of the Reformation got rolling, the importance of the Ninety-five Theses faded in comparison to other fundamental tenets of belief that arose as the central differences between Catholics and Protestants. Five of the central beliefs took expression in what have been called the Five Solas: 1. Sola Scriptura—”By Scripture Alone,” 2. Sola fide—”by faith alone,” 3. Sola gratia—”by grace alone,” 4.Solus Christus or Solo Christo—”Christ alone” or “through Christ alone,” 5. Soli Deo Gloria—”glory to God alone.”

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Q. Were Early Christians Communists?

A. This question is largely based on Acts 2:44, “All who believed were together, and had all things in common,” and Acts 4:32, “The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul. Not one of them claimed that anything of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.” These verses have led some people to teach that early Christians practiced communism, and that modern Christians should return to practicing and promoting communism. Other Christians vehemently deny this and say that the Bible promotes capitalism. Who’s right?

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The Halloween That Changed the World—Reformation Day

by Mary Ditzel

On October 31, 1517, something happened that changed the world. Do you know what it was? Even the man who did it didn’t know the effect it would have. On October 31, 1517, a Roman Catholic Augustinian monk and priest by the name of Martin Luther (1483–1546) nailed a notice on the door at Wittenberg Castle church in Germany. To Luther, it was a relatively small act. This was the common way of scheduling a debate in those days. But the world has not been the same since.

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