Inerrancy – A Word You Ought to Know | Kyler Smith

Since the days of Eden, when the ancient serpent preyed upon our first parents, God’s Word has been called into question. The goodness that was the garden of God fell headfirst into sin and disorder when that crafty creature uttered four fatal words: “Did God actually say?” (Gen. 3:1). To this day, the legacy of that fateful encounter at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil lives on as God’s Word continues to be called into question.

Of course, we, as evangelical Christians, affirm the Bible as God’s Word. That is, we affirm that the 66 books of the Old and New Testament were written by men divinely inspired and constitute God’s revelation of Himself to man.[i] Furthermore, we affirm, in direct opposition to the serpent of old, that the Word of God is true, without any mixture of error.[ii] But what exactly do we mean by this?


Simply put, we believe that God, who is Himself Truth, speaks truth only.[iii] Thus, we believe that Scripture, being wholly and verbally God-given, is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.[iv] In short, the Bible always tells the truth. You can trust your Bible. When the Bible speaks, God speaks.[v] The word we use to describe this reality is inerrancy. The Bible is inerrant, or without any mixture of error. Inerrancy is a word you ought to know.

Relevance to Southern Baptists

If you are a fellow Southern Baptist reading this blog post, the last 50 or more years of our convention’s history have been marked by vigorous debate over this doctrine of biblical inerrancy. The advent of theological liberalism in 19th Century Germany made its way across the ocean into the American seminary classroom and eventually into the Southern Baptist pulpit, reviving the legacy of the serpent’s deception in Eden with tragic proportions. Seminaries were graduating soon-to-be pastors who doubted the truthfulness of the Bible, calling into question everything from the veracity of creation to Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Rank unbelief was left in its wake.

By God’s grace, the heart of the Southern Baptist Convention—the members of its more than  45,000 local churches—saw through the smokescreen of theological liberalism and over a period of several decades wrought a resurgence of conservative Christianity in its seminaries and pulpits, centered upon biblical inerrancy. This time period also witnessed the publication of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy—a definitive evangelical defense of the doctrine and worth your read.[vi]

Why it Matters

The issue of inerrancy is central to what it means to truly be an evangelical Christian. The Evangelical Theological Society’s requirement that all of its members affirm the inerrancy of the Scriptures is a clear testament to this reality. Inerrancy, then, is far more than a mere theological footnote. Rather, it reflects the heart of a person who rightly handles the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). When you read your Bible, you ought to believe it comprises the very words of God, written by divinely inspired men. To abandon biblical inerrancy is to, in truth, abandon the root of biblical authority, ultimately rendering the Bible no more authoritative than Shakespeare.

At Hickory Grove Baptist Church, we heartily affirm the inerrancy of Scripture. Our ministry is built upon the reality that God’s Word can be totally trusted. That is why our pastor is preaching straight out of the Bible, book by book. And next Sunday, as you sit under the preaching of the Word, I challenge you to reflect upon the blessing of an inerrant Bible as our Pastor begins the message with his familiar opening refrain from Isaiah 40:8 which highlights this truth: “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of our God stands forever.”


Kyler Smith is the Children’s Pastor at Hickory Grove Baptist Church, North Campus in Charlotte, N.C.  Kyler has a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies from John Brown University and is currently pursuing his Masters of Divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.


[i] “Article I: Scripture,” The Baptist Faith and Message, 2000

[ii] “Article I: Scripture,” The Baptist Faith and Message, 2000

 [iii] “Article I: Summary Statement, Section 1,” The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, 1978

 [iv] “Article I: Summary Statement, Section 4,” The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, 1978.

 [v] Albert Mohler, “When the Bible Speaks, God Speaks: The Classic Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy,” Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), 29.

 [vi] The full text of this document can be accessed here:



Here we are again.

Thanksgiving is over.

Stuffed turkeys gave way to stuffed people which gave way to a mindless zombie hoard invading local malls and Walmarts to accumulate next year’s garage sale fodder.

Here we are in the second week of what the church has historically known as the Advent season.

The word “advent” comes from the Latin word meaning “arrival.” This is the season when we remember the arrival of our victorious King and Savior, Jesus Christ.

To understand the significance of  Advent,  we must understand our need for a Savior.

When Christ entered the world as a human infant, it had been thousands of years since the world had known peace. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, a devastating separation occurred. God, who had previously walked with man in the Garden of Eden, cast man from His presence. (How could a holy God be in the presence of anything unholy?)

The dust had yet to settle on the chaos when God promised that He would redeem everything that was broken. Genesis 3:15 contains what is known as the proto evangelion, the first Gospel:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.

In the midst of the calamity of man’s fall, God promised there would be a Deliverer.

This is what we celebrate during this season.

If we pause and extract ourselves from our psychotically materialistic culture and actually focus on the reality of Emmanuel, then we just might catch a glimpse of what it is we claim to celebrate this time of year: the God of the universe has kept His promise to his people to deliver them from the hand of their destroyer.

If all we get for Christmas this year is new clothes or the latest toy, then we will miss all that God has for us to learn during this season of remembrance.

In Christ,


Questions or comments? Im always glad to hear from my readers.


From the Inside Out

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.

- Proverbs 25:28

If you watch the news more than five minutes a week, then you’ve no doubt heard about Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto.  Rob Ford’s political career is unspooling as I write this, but his career in reality television is just getting started.

To give you a little background:

On May 16, two news outlets reported that a video had surfaced of Mayor Ford allegedly smoking crack and making racist and homophobic comments. On October 31, after months of denials and dodging answers, Mayor Ford admitted to the public that he had smoked crack and that he only did so during one of his “drunken stupors,” as though that should somehow excuse his behavior.

Amid this controversy, many other revelations of the Mayor’s boorish behavior began to surface. Who knows what of this is true and what isn’t (except the material we can all see on the videos)?

Central to this controversy is a word none of us likes to hear applied to ourselves: accountability.

Accountability is the notion that there are consequences for actions and that responsible people should be held responsible when they do wrong.

And let’s be clear: simply saying “I’m accountable” and actually being accountable, are vastly different.

Our world is filled with people who lack even the most basic self-control.

This is evidenced by our culture’s fascination with sexual pleasure and our seeming inability to delay gratification for 15 minutes. We are a society that wants what we want when we want it and pity the poor soul who gets between us and our desires.

Rob Ford is merely emblematic of a day and age in which we think we can divorce our private lives from our public lives and live as we please with no consequences, no accountability. We are constantly seeking the things that will give us the most pleasure –whether that’s a job, a house, a car, a spouse, etc.– and we simply do not care whose neck we have to step on to get there.

Rob Ford didn’t smoke crack because of the pressures of office or because of his drunken stupor. Rob Ford smoked crack because he chose to smoke crack believing that would bring him some measure of happiness and pleasure.

Our society cannot withstand the pressures of moral standards and objective truth. We will constantly seek to evade, deflect, blame and avoid any accountability for anything that we do.

If a child fails in school, it’s never the child’s fault but the teacher’s.

If we run afoul of the traffic laws, the cop was a jerk.

If we start to struggle at work, there are a thousand other people and things we can blame for our failures and when we run out of people to blame, we blame society.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen once famously said, “The danger today is in believing there are no sick people, there is only a sick society.” This shift in our thinking is leading us to a culture in which no one is accountable for their actions and no one can be called to the mat for their mistakes.

The results? Corporate CEOs bankrupt their companies with impunity while enriching themselves; corrupt politicians exploit the fears and desires of the people for political power; and husbands and wives desert their families for a few fleeting moments of sexual pleasure.

As our culture continues wholeheartedly to adopt this “standard” of no standard at all, we will continue to see the views and beliefs of those who profess Christ marginalized, ostracized and ultimately viewed as hostile by those who oppose God. The very idea of self-control will become outmoded and our culture will continue to run full steam ahead into its most base desires and passions.

That does not excuse believers from our calling to personal holiness.

As the culture runs the other way, we must commit again and again to the Bible as the foundation of our faith and practice.

This is not done by simply bearing down and making sure our behavior lines up with scripture (which is what religion does for us), but instead by submitting our hearts and our wills to the person of Jesus Christ every day.

Simply changing our behavior makes us the same as the Pharisees for whom Jesus reserved his harshest words (see Matthew 23). Allowing Jesus Christ to transform our hearts and lives into His image is something that the Holy Spirit does first and then our lives bear witness to it.

As this takes place in our lives, we will begin to see the culture as a strange, alien place and the culture will waste no time in viewing us the same way.

Ultimately we are on a collision course with the unfettered, unaccountable culture in which we live and, make no mistake, where there is a collision, there will be collateral damage.

As believers we must seek to live counter to our culture in a loving and gracious manner and constantly press against the prevailing spirit of our age while proclaiming the perfect standard of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation.

In Christ,


Questions or comments? Im always glad to hear from my readers:


The Cost of Discipleship

When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor during Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

Bonhoeffer was born in 1906 in modern-day Poland to parents of high estate. His father was a neurologist and his mother the daughter of a countess. Bonhoeffer was expected to follow his father’s footsteps and became a medical professional. Much to his parents’ dismay, Dietrich chose instead to become a minister. Bonhoeffer’s contributions to Christian literature are vast but none more impactful than his book The Cost of Discipleship.

In The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer walks believers through the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7 and lays out a clear, Christian way of life that we should follow if we were indeed to truly attach our lives to the commands of Christ.

The book opens with the statement, “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting to-day for costly grace.” The subsequent pages paint a bleak picture of the church in Germany in 1937. It was a church given over completely to the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age.

According to the picture Bonhoeffer painted, churches were gladly admitting people into their fellowship with no concern for whether or not they were truly converted. As one church historian said of the early church, “many went to the baptismal font with very little idea of its significance.”[1]

The church in Germany in the 1930s, much like the church throughout Christian history, found itself presented with a choice: submit to the mores of the economic and political system around it or face persecution.

The German church abdicated its responsibility and, in essence, sanctioned the atrocities committed by Hitler and his killing machine.[2] The church, when faced with submission or persecution, abdicated its responsibility.

The primary issue was not one of leadership, it was one of discipleship.

The church lost its way in pursuing what it meant to be a disciple of Christ: to follow our penniless[3], homeless[4], often friendless[5] Savior into the worst of society[6]  to proclaim liberty to the captives[7].

This repudiation of the German church in the early 1900s stands today as we look across the landscape of 21st Century American Christianity.

Our churches are filled with people who have not the slightest understanding of even the most basic Christian doctrines; our membership rolls are bloated with names of people who haven’t set foot in the church in a decade, and much of mainstream American evangelical leadership is running as fast as it can to embrace the buzzwords and lifestyles of our culture.

At its core the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a call to discipleship and a call to die to ourselves daily.

Bonhoeffer’s call to the church in The Cost of Discipleship is a call to return to the core of the Christian faith or risk outright apostasy.

According to Bonhoeffer, the cure for what ails the church is a return to costly grace.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.



Get a copy on Amazon.


Questions or comments? Im always glad to hear from you: 


[1] González, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Reformation. Vol. 1. New York, NY:       HarperOne/HarperCollins, 2010.

[2] This is not to say that were not thousands of believers who opposed what Hitler was doing, this is merely the observation that the church, by and large, was silent in the face of the mass extermination of human life.

[3] Matthew 22:19

[4] Matthew 8:20

[5] Mark 14:50

[6] Hebrews 13:30

[7] Isaiah 61:1

The Reformation, Part IV – The Aftermath

Editors Note: The following post is the fourth and final in a series about the Protestant Reformation, the 496th anniversary of which was October 31. Through the course of these posts we have examined the historical context, key figures and long-term ramifications of the Reformation.

But Jesus called to them and said, You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
- Matthew 20:25-28

The storm that broke in Wittenberg in 1517 was one of the most cataclysmic events in church history. In Luther’s 95 Theses was embodied the frustrations of almost two centuries of reformers who were seeking to breathe the life of the Gospel back into the church of Jesus Christ.

As a result of a drift over time, the church had transformed from a renegade band of potent evangelical believers to an institution that maintained a choke-hold on the word of God and preyed on the ignorance of the faithful.

What Wycliffe, Huss, Luther, and others sought was not the destruction of the church but the purification of the church through the proper application of the Gospel.

One of the greatest separations  centered on one simple question: Who has the authority to read and interpret the scriptures?

All the other questions surrounding the reformation could, quite simply, be boiled down to this: Is it only for the church leadership to hand down all teaching and doctrine, or is the Bible self-evidencing enough to allow any believer, regardless of the length of his or her spiritual life, to read and understand it?

The reformers took it upon themselves to challenge those who would lord the authority of the church over the people and use that authority to take economic advantage of them. These pioneers also saw it as their responsibility to make the word of God available to everyone in their own language.

The endgame of this bold new vision for the church is still not known. Over the years, what became known as “Protestantism” broke decisively from the church in Rome and spawned churches, denominations, and spiritual movements that are still young in the grand scheme of Christian history.

The Reformation democratized the interpretation of the scriptures and brought about all that goes along with that– the good and the bad. As a result we must always be on guard within the church against destructive heretics, wolves who seek to use the scriptures and the church for their own selfish gain.

The church must always stand fast when the powerful and wealthy attempt to bend her to their own means.

We must watch over the souls of the faithful and call out to the faithless all the while never institutionalizing the means of grace given to us at the cross.

The church is not the dispenser of salvation.  Only Christ can do that.

We are merely to make the declaration of Christ’s finished work on our behalf and trust that the Lord will do the rest.

As believers we are, simply put, paperboys for the gospel delivering the news of the Kingdom.

Any attempt to be more than that and we will be guilty of overthrowing the office of our King to place ourselves on His throne.

In Christ,

Questions or comments? Im always glad to hear from my readers.


The Reformation, Part III – The Wild Boar

Editors Note: The following post is the third in a series about the Protestant Reformation, the 496th anniversary of which is on October 31. Through the course of these posts we will examine the historical context, key figures and long-term ramifications of the Reformation. 

My conscience is a prisoner of Gods Word. I cannot and will not recant, for to disobey ones conscience is neither just nor safe. God help me. Amen.

- Martin Luther

When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg church, it was not the first sign that a reformation was under way. As we have seen in our previous posts, the ground under the church had been shifting for almost two centuries. Luther’s act of rebellion against accepted church dogma merely set a match to the haystack and ignited a movement within the church that continues today, the full effects of which are still not fully known.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther was born in Eisleben, Germany, in 1483. His early years were marked by the strictness of his parents and the severity of the punishments they dispensed.

When he was nearly 22, Luther joined a monastery as a result of an experience he had during a thunderstorm a few weeks prior. During the storm Luther began to fear death and vowed he would join a monastery.

Luther struggled throughout his monastic life, and after he joined the priesthood, with the idea that God truly loved him. He constantly felt unworthy to offer the body and blood of Christ during communion.

Luther constantly pressed into good works as his means to salvation and became increasingly weary and anxious in his faith. This was undoubtedly a result of his severe upbringing and harsh parents.

Luther had a fear of God that was in no way healthy or sanctifying. As a result, Luther began searching for a way to obtain God’s grace convincingly and finally.

A decade after his monastic career started, Luther was teaching at the University of Wittenberg and, through a course of lectures on the book of Romans, came to the realization that it is only by faith through grace that anyone can be made right with God.

His long night of anguishing over his soul was over. Through God’s spoken word, Luther had seen that justification and faith were free gifts the God of the universe bestowed upon his people through the work Jesus Christ completed on the cross.

Over time Luther began to win over his colleagues at the university in Wittenberg as they began to realize the error of a works-based Gospel.

Finally, on October 31, 1517, Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences.

Luther did not anticipate what would happen next.

An unknown individual took Luther’s 95 theses (originally written in Latin), translated them into German, and began mass distributing them throughout Germany.

Luther had not set out to confront the church but merely to pose scholarly questions regarding church practices. However it is impossible to understand the nature of the times and the content of his writings and not think that this document was direct repudiation of church practice. In confronting the system of indulgences, Luther was confronting the financial interests of a powerful ecclesiastical empire.

Two years after their initial publication, the 95 theses reached Pope Leo X in Rome. The Pope responded swiftly, condemning Luther as a “fox” and a “wild boar” who was seeking to destroy the Lord’s vineyard.

In his papal bull Exsurge Domine (Arise, O Lord), the Pope accused Luther of heresy, ordered him to stop preaching and teaching and to recant his false doctrines.

Luther was given 60 days to submit to Rome’s authority or face excommunication and be declared anathema by the Pope.

When Luther finally received the Pope’s condemnation, he burned it in public with books that espoused church doctrines he deemed heretical.

Over the years, Luther would be exiled, persecuted and maligned by the day’s powerful civil and church leaders. At the Diet of Worms in 1521, Emperor Charles V declared Luther a criminal, ordered his arrest and punishment, criminalized any activity in support of Luther and gave permission to anyone in the empire to kill Luther without any legal consequences.

Luther’s split with the church at Rome reverberated throughout Europe as believers shed their ties to the established ecclesiastical order and began to follow this new “protestantism.” The tension that had been building for 200 years finally reached the tipping point…there was no turning back.

For Luther, life would be hard until he died from a stroke in 1546. In addition to suffering at the hands of his enemies, Luther also suffered from a variety of ailments including vertigo and tinnitus. The final words Luther wrote summarized his beliefs about grace: “We are beggars: this is true.”

The final outcome of Martin Luther’s life and teaching is still not fully known.

Today’s church still comprises two large yet very distinct groups: Roman Catholics and Protestants. The lines that divide them theologically are clear and important. It is imperative that we continue to expose and correct doctrinal fallacies where we see them and faithfully “guard the good deposit”[1] given to us.

In Christ,


Questions or comments? Im always glad to hear from my readers.

[1] 2 Timothy 1:14

The Reformation, Part II – The Early Reformers

Editor’s Note: The following post is second in a series about the Protestant Reformation, the 496th anniversary of which is on October 31. You can see the previous post here. Through these posts, we will examine the historical context, key figures and long-term ramifications of the Reformation.

“Englishmen learn Christ’s law best in English. Moses heard God’s law in his own tongue; so did Christ’s apostles.”

- John Wycliffe

Enter the Reformers. By the time Luther arrived on the scene, much of the groundwork for the Reformation had been laid. Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses served as the spark that ignited the tinderbox of deep societal unrest that already existed in Europe. Others had gone before Luther and paid dearly for their opposition to the church in Rome and the existing ecclesiastical order.

John Wycliffe

Not much is known of John Wycliffe’s early life. He was born in the village of Wycliffe-on-Tees in the English region of Yorkshire. In 1345, Wycliffe, at age 15, began studying at Oxford and rapidly distinguished himself from his peers by his scholarship.

During Wycliffe’s years at Oxford, England was taking steps to separate itself from the authority in Rome. This was fertile ground for Wycliffe to espouse his belief that papal authority was corrupt and a gross overreach of ecclesiastical power.

Wycliffe was passionate about the one idea at the heart of the Protestant Reformation:  that all believers have the right to interpret the Bible for themselves.[1] As a result of this belief, Wycliffe began translating the Latin Vulgate (a 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible) into English.

For centuries the church leadership had maintained that only they were allowed to read and translate the Bible and then pass it on to the flock. Wycliffe’s radical idea was that everyone within the church had the right to have the Bible in his own language.

Wycliffe’s primary point of departure from traditional church teaching, however, was on the topic of communion.

Traditional church dogma up to that time declared that the bread of communion became the actual body of Christ upon being consumed by the believer.

Wycliffe opposed this idea because he saw it as a rejection of the incarnation. According to Wycliffe, in the incarnation, Christ was present in a human body and neither were destroyed by the presence of the other. Christ is present in the communion but so is the bread.[2] It was primarily this teaching that drew the attention of Rome and, in 1377; Pope Gregory XI issued a series of five papal bulls (formal papal letters) against Wycliffe condemning him for his heresies.

Wycliffe died of a stroke in 1384 at his parish in Lutterworth and, since he had not been excommunicated, he was buried on church ground. However the Council of Constance, convened in 1414, condemned Wycliffe and ordered that his remains be dug up, burned and thrown into the Swift River.

Wycliffe suffered many indignities throughout his life, but his enduring legacy remains one of a man who firmly believed that all Christians have a right to read and study the word of God in their own tongue. This idea rests at the core of the Protestant Reformation.

John Huss

John Huss was born in 1362 in the Czech Republic. Huss was a devout man of faith who studied at the University of Prague. He was not an exceptional student, but he labored diligently and had a gift for preaching.

Huss advanced quickly within the university and the church as his preaching and hard work set him above the rest of his peers. Huss was a proponent of reform within the church and did not initially set out to break completely from the established ecclesiastical order. His primary interest was restoring the Christian ethic within the church and the clergy.

Huss, who at one point had spent most of his money purchasing an indulgence, railed against the corruption that had weaved its way into the church hierarchy.

To stem Huss’ teachings and silence him, Pope Alexander V ordered that preaching could  occur only in a cathedral, a church or a monastery. Since Huss’ church fell into none of those categories, he was to be silenced completely. However, after much prayer and meditation, Huss decided he could not stop preaching what he believed the Lord had called him to preach.

In 1410 the Pope ordered Huss to Rome to answer for his rebellion.

Huss refused to go and was excommunicated in 1411. Huss was, however, incredibly popular with the people and the king; therefore, this excommunication did little to silence him.

Huss now believed that it was up to God alone to forgive sins and that the system of indulgences was a corrupt heresy designed to line the pockets of the powerful papal families.

Eventually the political favor that Huss had enjoyed turned against him, and he was forced to leave Prague or be responsible for embroiling the country in a conflict that could ultimately tear it apart.

Huss retired to the countryside where he continued writing about the need to reform the church.  During this self-imposed exile, the church called a council. Huss was invited to the council to defend himself and was promised that he would be unharmed in his journey.

When Huss arrived in Constance, Pope John XXIII had him taken aside and demanded that he renounce his heretical teachings. Huss responded that we would do so if someone could prove that he were, in fact, a heretic.

A short time later, Huss was condemned by the council for refusing to recant his heresies. One historian records the events as follows:

“Finally, on July 6, Huss was taken to the cathedral. There he was dressed in his priestly garments, which were then torn from him. His tonsure was erased by shaving his head, which was then covered with a paper crown decorated with demons. On his way to the stake, they led him past a pyre where his books were being burned. When he was tied to the stake, they gave him a last chance to recant, and once again he refused. He then prayed aloud, ‘Lord Jesus, it is for thee that I patiently endure this cruel death. I pray thee to have mercy on my enemies.’ He was heard reciting the Psalms as he died.”[3]

Huss is remembered as a man who stood firmly in his conviction that church leadership who were flagrantly disobedient to the word of God were not real church leadership and that they should not be followed as such.

These early reformers were laying the groundwork for those who would follow, as the church moved closer and closer to a decisive split that would render two opposing and irreconcilable versions of the Christian life.

In Christ,



Questions or comments? I’m always glad to hear from my readers.

[1] McGrath, Alister E. Christianity’s Dangerous Idea The Protestant Revolution—A History From the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First. New York: HarperOne, 2008.

[2] González, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Reformation. Vol. 1. New York, NY: HarperOne/HarperCollins, 2010.

[3] González, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Reformation. Vol. 1. New York, NY: HarperOne/HarperCollins, 2010. p. 419



The Reformation, Part I – Historical Context

Editors Note: The following post is the first in a series about the Protestant Reformation, the 496th anniversary of which is on October 31. Through the course of these posts, we will examine the historical context, key figures and long-term ramifications of the Reformation.

“As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”

- John Tetzel

On an October evening in 1517, a young German friar walked up to the door of a church in the town of Wittenberg and posted a document on the door. This was common practice in the day as a means of disseminating information. The young friar never thought this collection of writings would cause much of a stir. His previous incendiary posting on the door was barely noticed by anyone outside of the academic circles in which he ran. The notice was entitled Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences, or — as we now know them — simply, The Ninety-Five Theses.

The young friar was named Martin Luther and the document would engulf all of Christendom in a conflagration that would divide the church and launch an entirely new branch of Christianity: Protestantism.

To properly understand what we now call the Protestant Reformation, we must understand the historical context leading up to the events of 1517.

The church had split before. In 1054 Cardinal Humbert of Moyenmoutier, a representative of Pope Leo IX, excommunicated the patriarch of Constantinople and all his followers in what is known as the Great Schism, an event that effectively created the modern day Eastern Orthodox church.

The events leading up to the Protestant Reformation may seem insignificant on their own. But they combined to cause a popular groundswell against the established ecclesiastical order and fundamentally restructure the church in a way that remains incredibly profound 500 years later.

The primary focus of Luther’s theses and the subsequent storm was not to divide the church but to reform it through the proper application of the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.

None of the reformers ever envisioned a break from the church in Rome and sincerely hoped to bring the church back into line with the teachings of scripture. However the 14th and 15th Centuries had seen an abdication by the church of almost all of its ecclesiastical duties.

Power and money were the driving forces within the governing structure of the church, and much of the church’s leadership was corrupted by the corrosive influence of these twin masters.

Nearly 140 years before Luther nailed his theses to the door of the Wittenberg church, reformer John Wycliffe had declared that, based on the fruits evident in his life, the Pope was “among those who were probably reprobate.”[1] With popes engaging openly in relationships with prostitutes and fathering children in conflict with the very dogma they espoused, there was a growing mistrust of the papacy and its authority, the lower levels of church leadership and by believers in general.

Another critical factor that began to rouse a call for reformation concerned the sale of indulgences. In that day’s Catholic teaching, one could obtain remission of their loved ones’ sins by giving money to the church. When money was given the pope would then pray that the soul of the person for whom the indulgence was purchased would be released from purgatory and allowed into heaven.

Pope Leo X authorized the sale of indulgences in the early 1500s to pay for the restoration of Rome and the completion of the Basilica of Saint Peter. The reformers rightly saw this practice as a wicked abuse of the papal office.

One of Luther’s primary targets was the sellers of these indulgences who would make scandalous claims about the efficacy of their wares.

One of the most scandalous of these peddlers of grace was a man by the name of John Tetzel. Tetzel traveled the countryside claiming that the indulgences he sold would make the sinner “cleaner than Adam before the Fall,” and that “the cross of the seller of indulgences has as much power as the cross of Christ.”[2]

Such hucksters drew a great deal of the ire of the early reformers as they broke the backs of the working poor to satisfy the whims of these wicked church leaders.

Other disputes that brought on the movement of reform were the doctrine of transubstantiation (the transformation of the bread and wine of communion into the actual body and blood of Christ upon being consumed), and the practice of only giving the bread of communion — and not the wine — to the laypersons in the church. In addition rampant nepotism in the church led to financially and politically powerful families having control of the papacy simply because they could buy their way into the office.

Importantly, many pastors and laypersons within the church continued in faithfulness to Christ despite all the evils that were being perpetrated against the Gospel by their leaders. The crisis in the church in the 16th Century was a crisis of faith, a crisis of conviction and a crisis of leadership.

The seeds of reform had been sown by the abusers and usurpers of clerical authority, and at the right time the Lord raised up an ensemble of passionate reformers who would help usher the church back to her Biblical underpinnings.

In Christ,



Questions or comments? I’m always glad to hear from my readers.

[1] González, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Reformation. Vol. 1. New York, NY: HarperOne/HarperCollins, 2010. Print.

[2] González, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Reformation to Present Day. Vol. 2. New York, NY: HarperOne/HarperCollins, 2010. Print.

Fall Festival 2013

It’s just two weeks until our 2013 Fall Festivals and I’m tremendously excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.

We are taking a different approach to our annual Fall Festivals this year in an effort to put even more emphasis on our intention as a church to “live sent.”

As you’ve seen over the past year or so, we are evaluating everything we as a church do in light of Christ’s commandment that we spread the Gospel and make disciples throughout the world.

In the case of the Fall Festival, the world begins right outside our back door at Main and North campuses.  As a result, we are taking our Fall Festivals to the community and hosting two separate Fall Festivals at two schools in our city.

The first festival will be Thursday, October 24, at Hickory Grove Elementary School. The second will follow two days later —October 26 —at Stoney Creek Elementary School.  Moving these festivals off our campuses allows us to interact with the staff, students and families of these schools in ways that would otherwise not have been possible.

So as these dates approach, I ask you to pray that we:

  • Continue to foster the growing relationship with the faculty and staff of these schools
  • Engage the students and families with the love of Christ
  • Develop future ministry opportunities with families, students, faculty and staff

It is going to take a small army of volunteers to make these off-campus festivals successful and we need you to help! You and your family can volunteer to work for an hour and then stay and enjoy the festival together. Signing up is easy…you can do it online here:

Hickory Grove Elementary

Stoney Creek Elementary

My family and I look forward to serving alongside you as we continually strive to “know Christ and make him known” by being the hands and feet of Jesus in our community.

In Christ,


Questions or comments? I’m always glad to hear from my readers.


Fall Update

Church Family,

The weather has begun to cool, football season is under way, and Fall is in full swing here in the Queen City. As our schedules fill up, I want to take this opportunity to bring to your attention some upcoming events at Hickory Grove that will give you an opportunity to worship, serve and pray with us.

Night of Worship – October 6

Join us this Sunday night at North Campus for a combined Night of Worship. We will observe a time of corporate worship, fellowship and rejoicing at the sight of new life in Christ through the ordinance of baptism. We will begin at 6PM and I look forward to seeing you there.

Fall Festivals at Local Schools – October 24 & 26

On Thursday, October 24, we will help host a Fall Festival at Hickory Grove Elementary School. This is going to be a great opportunity for multi-generational ministry as parents and grandparents will be in attendance with their children. It is going to take nothing short of a small army of volunteers to make this event happen. In fact, we are going to need two armies as we will turn right around and host another Fall Festival the following Saturday, October 26 at Stoney Creek Elementary school. Do not miss out on this opportunity to serve our neighbors and exalt Christ in our community.

Sign up is available on our website.

IMB Appointment Service – November 10

On Sunday evening, November 10, Hickory Grove will have the special privilege of hosting an appointment service for the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention.  The IMB is our primary partner for international missions, and currently has more than 5,000 missionaries serving all over the world.  During this special service we will be part of commissioning and sending out 70-plus men and women to serve the Lord.  Please mark your calendars now and don’t let anything keep you from being here to support and pray for these men and women as they obediently answer the call God has placed on their lives. For more information about the IMB and our mission as a convention of churches, click here.

For more information on these events or anything else going on in the life of our church, visit our online calendar.

In Christ,




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