by Mike Ratliff
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 14:25-35 ESV)
Thomas More was one of the 16th Century’s most promising scholars before he became one of Henry VIII’s men. He was friends with Erasmus. These two Roman Catholic apologists would write enlightening works and were, therefore, allowed access to the higher echelons of society and the church. They would defend the Pope and the Roman Church with vigor, but in private they would write letters to each other making jokes about the corruption in the monasteries and with the Pope himself. To them, Christianity was all about religion not about faith. The Church was their means to their scholarly pursuits. More had a certain nobility of character that opened doors to wealth and power. When he was young he wrote his first book, Utopia, with Erasmus in mind. It was published in 1516. In it, he gave notice that there was a great humanistic scholar in England. He had graduated from Oxford and thereby became a Latin and Greek scholar. He had the tools to become a great Biblical apologist. However, his rise to power in English society took him down another path. He was knighted in 1521. He became Speaker of the House of Commons in 1523 because Henry VIII favored him. He became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1525.
In 1521 King Henry was working on his own book against Martin Luther. The book was named Assertio septem sacrementorum. The Latin words means “assertion of seven Sacraments.” Martin Luther had written in his Babylonian Captivity that there were only two in scripture. Henry was not a patient writer and became frustrated. More confessed that he took up the pen to “help” Henry complete his work. The book was translated into German and published in Germany much to Luther’s consternation. There was not one scholar in Europe during this time who doubted that More had authored the book rather than King Henry. Luther read the book in 1522. He was shocked at the viciousness of the attack. In fact, in the Assertio, Henry claimed all sorts of things against Luther such as Luther calling Henry’s crown a pile of s***. You get the idea. Of course, Luther had never done any such thing. The reason most modern scholars are convinced of More’s authorship of this book is the exact sort of sordid attack against Luther found in works directly authored by More. Here is an example from More’s Responsio against Luther.
“Since he has written that he already has a prior right to bespatter and besmirch the royal crown with shit, we will not have the posterior right to proclaim the beshitted tongue of this practitioner of posterioristics most fit to lick with his anterior the very posterior of a pissing she-mule until he shall learned more correctly to infer posterior conclusions from prior premises.”
Pardon the profanity, but that is an exact wording from More in his attack against Luther. This book in uniquely disreputable. I must ask, is this being Salt and Light?
I could fill up my entire blog with More’s attacks against Luther and William Tyndale. When Tyndale’s first edition of his English translation of Erasmus’ Greek New Testament was published, it was viciously attacked by the religious leaders in England. They sent a copy to Thomas More to study. More responded with 3 quarters of a million words in attack against it. What was Tyndale’s crime? He offered the people Paul in English and translated four key New Testament words (prebuteros, ekklesia, agape, metanoeo) in their correct Greek meanings (senior, congregation, love, repent) instead of priest, church, charity and do penance. That was it.
More ran into another huge problem though. He was Chancellor at the time that King Henry wanted a divorce from Catherine so he could wed Anne Boleyn. When the Pope would not give Henry an indulgence to divorce Catherine, he transformed the Church in England to the English Church. He confiscated all Church property. Thomas More would not agree to side with Henry so he was charged with treason and was executed. Even though he knew the Catholic Church was corrupt and not teaching the truth found in scripture he would, through clinched teeth say that the Pope and Church were perfect and incapable of making a mistake. In the end the persecution he rendered to others was delivered back upon his own head.
More caused the persecution and execution of Christians who he did not agree with theologically. To him, the Roman Catholic Church was the only avenue to God. He believed this so heartily that it became his idol. Do people in the 21st Century become so enraptured by their “religion” that it becomes their god rather than God? Yes, absolutely this is true. When people are more concerned with forms and traditions rather than in obedience to God by obeying the Word of God then they have become idolatrous. What is the outcome of idolatry? Look at Israel’s example.
What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.” Romans 11:7-10 ESV)
This was done to the Israelites who would not repent of their idolatry. When professing Christians worship their religion rather than God they are doing the very same thing. They become spiritually blind and hard of heart. Their minds become darkened. They do what Thomas More did. They stop pursuing God and pursue their religion instead. When this happens they will find themselves justifying all sorts of activities that are condemned in the Bible such as persecuting people who don’t agree with them theologically. During the mid 1500’s in England the queen of England, Mary, became Bloody Mary by causing the death of nearly 300 people by burning all who remained faithful to their Saviour who died so they could be Justified by Faith alone. This was done with full agreement and support from the Church in Rome.
What is our role in the society in which God has caused us to live in our day? Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, first gave the progressive spiritual traits that His genuine disciples would take on as they grew in grace. Then he made a comment that succinctly defines the role of each of His disciples in this world.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16 ESV)
First, a little chemistry and geographical lesson. Salt does not lose it’s savor. That is, pure salt does not, but contaminated salt does. The salt around the Dead Sea in Palestine is contaminated with Gypsum. This causes it to have a metallic taste. If it was that contaminated then it was good only to be used to keep weeds from growing on the pathways. On the other hand, pure salt never loses it’s saltiness. Salt is both a flavoring and a preservative. In the flavoring sense, Christians are to never lose their savor when it comes to being effective in the Kingdom of God. Why would they become ineffective? They would lose their savor or saltiness due to contamination from sin. In the sense of a preservative, Christians in a society cause God’s blessings to abound to a greater degree. If they are actively pursing the Kingdom and its Righteousness then this role of being a preservative will cause then to stand out like a sore thumb amongst the larger group of non-believers all around them. Then they will more than likely be persecuted. However, if these Christians lose their savor or saltiness, their role as a preservative goes away. They become just like those around them.
In the sense that Jesus’ disciples are to the be light of the world, they are so when they are pure and are living their lives for their Saviour and God’s glory alone. They reflect God’s light of truth in all parts of their society. However, when they become contaminated by sin, that reflection goes away because they are ashamed of the gospel and the light is dimmed or goes out.
Our role in this world is to be salt and light. We are not to drive people away from our Saviour, instead, we are to act as salt and light in our obedience to be used by God to bring glory to Him and as His servants in bringing others to Jesus. I fear that many very salty Christians are not acting in that role, but rather have taken on the role of Judge, Jury and Executioner. They drive people from the throne of Grace rather than drawing them to it. That is wrong and we must not do that. We cannot differentiate with the gospel. It must be published to all people. We cannot be enamored with our religion instead of being obedient to our Saviour. When we encounter the spiritually blind religionists we must not attack them in kind (because they will attack us). Instead we must speak the truth, pray for them, then move on with Christ.
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