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The Reformation

The Reformation was mostly a good thing. But not in every way. The Catholic Church was ripe for some major reforms and the Protestant Reformation performed a sterling service, but they didn't go far enough for one commentator. Our man is Jacob (Yacov) Prasch, a gifted teacher on the Hebraic roots of Christianity, who has much to say about the Reformation. I will briefly explain his thoughts on the matter.

When the Reformers came along they were in a unique position. They had a chance to wipe the slate clean, clear out all of the dross and introduce the authentic gospel of Jesus Christ, based on the promise given in Jeremiah 31:31-34, the clearest announcement for the New Covenant in the Old Testament.

"The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

This New Covenant was not made with the "Church" but with Israel and the Jews. It is a Jewish covenant, with provisions made for Gentiles to be grafted into the "olive tree" (Romans 11). The Catholics turned this on its head and made it a New Covenant for Gentiles, with the Jewish branches replaced. The reformers did nothing to change this and just added their own branches in. The Hebraic form and content of the New Covenant was ignored and the same old Greek tools were used to interpret it, including allegory, to spiritualise anything about Israel as being for the Church. Martin Luther made so much of the book of Romans, in his "discovery" of justification by faith, yet chose to ignore the plain meaning of the "Jewish" chapters 9 - 11.

As with the Catholics, many Reformers insisted that the curses of the Old Testament remain literally for Israel, while the blessings are spiritualised for the Church. If God is finished with the Jews, history shows us that the sins of the Church vastly outweigh anything the Jews got up to in Biblical times, so surely the Church is living off borrowed time! Fortunately for both Israel and the Church, the Covenants of God are not conditional on man's conduct, but rather on the unchanging promises of God.

What else did they get wrong? Just looking at the Anglican Church, there was far more continuation of Catholic ideas than surely would have been healthy for a process of reform. In the Book of Common Prayer, a baby is pronounced "Christian" simply through the sprinkling of water of "baptism", this being the condition of entry to the "Church of England". Justification by faith alone, anybody? And any member of the C of E automatically becomes a citizen of the British Commonwealth, a situation that Jacob calls a regal papacy! He continues, "Anglicanism is but one expression of the errors of the Reformers. Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Reform churches all have the same built-in error - a state church where people become members, not by new birth, but by being born into a state church and culture, and having an initiation ritual performed as babies."

Despite their battle-cry of Sola Scriptura ("Scripture alone"), the Reformers, as with the Catholics, relied rather too much on Augustine, and, by implication on Plato. By equating Christian identity with the national and cultural identity, as with the good ol’ C of E, this was an outworking of the replacement of Israel with the Church. The Church had become a nation within a nation, a Protestant Church State, an equivalent of the Nation of Israel, with structure and hierarchy, despite the whole purpose of the faith in Jesus Christ as being a collection of redeemed individuals united by a common purpose to evangelise the World.

The Reformation had not made the World a more peaceful place. In fact one of the bloodiest periods of history was the period after the Reformation when the Catholics and Protestants fought each other like blood-crazed bulldogs in a cage. Christians hated each other to the point of death, over matters of doctrine. In Catholic Spain great public executions were held where Protestants were burned to death, or disemboweled or decapitated. In England it was the other way round, but with the same end product.

It was the same old, same old ...

Steve Maltz
November 2013

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book How the Church Lost the Truth)

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