The Reformation at 500

Thomas W. Juodaitis

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Author’s Note: The following was presented at The Trinity Foundation’s 2017 Reformation Conference, The Reformation at 500: Is It Over or Is It Needed Now More than Ever? This was the introductory message, and is slightly edited and updated. Five other messages were presented by Christian Pinto of Adullam Films, Dr. Paul Elliott of TeachingTheWord Ministries, and Dr. Mark Evans of Hope Presbyterian Church.


Post tenebras lux – “after darkness light” – a motto of the Protestant Reformation, which recovered the Gospel of Justification by Faith / Belief Alone in Christ Alone according to God’s Grace Alone and not the cooperation of man’s works. This came as a result of the study of God’s Word, and God’s Word Alone was made the standard for doctrine and life in the Church again. This glorious outpouring of God’s Spirit in reviving His people brought many out of the darkness of Rome’s false teaching into the light of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. This light of the Gospel also brought liberty – spiritual liberty, for Christ had set His people free from the bondage of sin, from the bondage of works-righteousness, from the bondage of a corrupt religious system. This recovery of the Gospel and spiritual liberty also had other implications, namely, political and economic liberty, and thus it was the Protestant Reformation’s reliance upon the Word of God alone that ushered in Western Civilization and the freedoms associated with it as a by-product.[1] This was the heritage bequeathed to our forefathers and to us, but like Biblical history and church history,


When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. (Judges 2:10-12)


Notice that the spiritual bondage of not knowing the Lord or His works preceded the physical bondage of political and economic slavery. The same is true today. The church today has forgotten the Lord, His Word, and His works, and there is much spiritual bondage in what is called the church, and political and economic bondage has followed. With the loss of a clear proclamation of the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the freedoms associated with Western Civilization have eroded into licentiousness and tyranny. Unfortunately, many in the church are trying to address the political and economic problems without addressing the spiritual. What we need today is not to get Christians elected to public office, we need to repent of forgetting the Lord, His Word and works, and serving the gods of secular America – “the American Dream,” my self-determination and actualization, my entertainment, the fear of man, all of which have added to the church losing most of its saltiness.


The Reformation is not over – the light is not extinguished; though it is dim, it is still flickering in the Remnant, but the darkness is encroaching, and we often succumb to fear that it will be extinguished because we do not look to our Savior, but to our circumstances. Again, we need to repent and seek the Lord according to His Word, realizing it is His power and might and not our own natural will and effort that will bring back the glorious light of His Word and His Gospel. We need a fresh outpouring of His Spirit upon us for this to happen. Therefore, let us call out to Him, confessing and repenting of our sin, and asking Him for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit (see Luke 11:13: “If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”)


Not only has the church forgotten the Lord, His Word and works, but His and our enemies have grown bolder, again, because the church has lost most of its saltiness. Shortly after the Reformation was well underway, Rome redoubled its efforts to counter the Reformation with the establishment of the Jesuit order (aka “the Society of Jesus”) founded by Ignatius Loyola. Chris Pinto of Adullam Films will go into greater detail about the Jesuits and the Counter Reformation later. It’s no wonder the church is in the shape it is in this country, including the Reformed churches, because many of the professors at the seminaries which train the pastors have been trained at Roman Catholic and even Jesuit institutions. I graduated from Covenant College, the college of the Presbyterian Church in America, and their current president earned his PhD in history from Loyola University in Chicago, and his Jesuit priest dissertation supervisor attended his inauguration service.[2] Knox Seminary in Florida hired professor Warren Gage who earned his PhD from the University of Dallas, not Dallas Theological Seminary – a Dispensationalist institution where Gage earned his Th.M., but the University of Dallas, a Roman Catholic institution. Steven T. Matthews wrote extensively on the fall of Knox Seminary at the hands of Dr. Gage and his enablers in his book Imagining a Vain Thing: The Decline and Fall of Knox Seminary. Search the credentials and cv’s of professors teaching at Reformed seminaries and colleges, and it may be surprising (maybe not?) how many have advanced degrees from Romanist or Jesuit institutions. A search of the web sites of Reformed and Presbyterian and Conservative Baptist seminaries resulted in finding 16 professors who had Master or Doctorate degrees or extra doctoral work from the following Romanist or Jesuit institutions: Catholic University of America (Washington, D.C.), Loyola University (Chicago), St. Louis University (St. Louis), University of Dallas (Dallas), and University of Notre Dame (South Bend, Indiana). Is it any wonder why the Reformed churches are having problems with the Gospel and moral issues?


Another successful attack by Rome against the Reformation has been in the area of Church History. Most modern Church History texts label Rome not as a counterfeit Christian church, but as an expression of the catholic or universal church. The saying is that the victors write the history, and throughout the Middle Ages, Rome quashed any dissenting groups that opposed her false teaching, often labeling them Manichaeans, even when there was no evidence to support this. Furthermore, Rome often burned the books of the dissenters so that the only information available about them comes from Rome herself and not the dissenters themselves. Since the Reformation several writers wrote about the true Remnant Church of the Middle Ages that was persecuted by Rome, her Crusades, and Inquisitions: John Foxe, Merle D’Aubigne, and J. A. Wylie to name a few. Since the latter half of the 19th century, after the Oxford Movement, most modern Church Histories have neither seen Rome for who the Scripture shows her to be, nor followed the Reformers in their identifying the Pope as Antichrist. I taught Church History in a Christian High School for several years and used a conservative Reformed text on the history of the church, but it too depicted Rome as flawed and in error, but nonetheless an expression of the Christian Church, and it labelled some of the dissenters as Manichaeans, as Rome had done. Dr. Ronald Cooke has done a great service to the Church with his series of tracts on “A Protestant View of Church History” from the beginning of the church to the Oxford Movement, and its aftermath.  


What was it that the Reformers recovered? It was an outpouring of God’s Spirit that went back to the Word of God. A Latin slogan of the Renaissance and the Reformation was ad fontes – to the sources – and Erasmus collated the manuscripts of the Greek New Testament and published them. The Word of God was unfettered from the mistranslation of the Vulgate, and this led to its literal unfettering for the people, because the Reformers went about translating the Scriptures from their original languages into the languages of the people, so that they could have the Word of God for themselves. With the Word of God recovered, the Gospel was recovered – the Word of God did away with a millennium of false teaching on the Gospel. The Gospel recovered was Justification by Faith / Belief alone in Christ alone, not with the church interposing itself, not with faith in the pope of Rome, nor in Mary, but Christ alone. Further it was by God’s grace alone, not by works of the Christian, or the church, but God’s grace alone. And because salvation is by God’s grace alone, received by faith / belief alone in Christ alone as taught in the Scripture alone, salvation redounds to God’s glory alone.


The two key principles – the formal and the material – of the Reformation were the doctrines of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide. These two principles have been the focus of attack since the Reformation began. The Counter-Reformation Council of Trent attacked both in its canons. From the Council of Trent’s Fourth Session, and its “Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures,” comes this anathema: “But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church [sic], and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema.”[3] The Council continued,


Moreover, this sacred and holy Synod,—considering that no small utility may accrue to the Church of God, if it be made known which out of all the Latin editions, now in circulation, of the sacred books, is to be held as authentic,—ordains and declares, that the said old and vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many years, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever.[4]


The Council anathematized any who would use any other version of the Bible than the old Latin vulgate, which contained the Apocrypha. This was an assault on the Word of God recovered, translated into the common languages, and distributed to the people during the Reformation. But as the apostle Paul wrote, “the Word of God is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:9), and the recovery of the Word of God led to a mortal wound being inflicted on the Roman Catholic Church-State. Since the Reformation and the translations of the Scriptures from the original languages based on the Textus Receptus or Received Text by men who feared God and revered His Word, Rome was held in check by the Word of God faithfully translated in Protestant Bibles, and thus Rome began its deceptive attack against the Protestant Bible by attacking and replacing the Received Text with a new Critical Text based on its own Codex Vaticanus. Chris Pinto of Adullam films has produced three documentaries on The Untold History of the Bible, which demonstrate Rome’s continued attack on the Word of God. Additionally, Dr. Paul Elliott has written several articles on the corruption of modern translations based on inauthentic source texts. Since the Word of God could not be chained, burned, or suppressed any more, Rome’s tactic has now been to adulterate it and cast doubts on its genuineness, especially the source texts that are the basis for the Protestant translations. Evangelicals and even those who call themselves Reformed have been duped by Rome’s deceit, as witnessed by the onslaught in the 20th and 21st centuries of translations, paraphrases, speculative methods of translation, all of which use the modern Critical Text, and not the Received Text of the Reformers. Though her methods changed, Rome has not changed her attack on the Word of God, and the imposition of her own authority over it, as witnessed by her teachings in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:


Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together and communicate one with the other. (Paragraph 80)

Sacred Scripture…and [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. (Paragraph 81)

As a result the [Catholic] Church…does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. [Denial of Sola Scriptura] Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence. (Paragraph 82)[5]


At Trent, Rome also anathematized the doctrine of Justification by Faith alone – Sola Fide. From its Sixth Session meeting in 1547 come the following anathemas:


Canon IX: If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema…. Canon XI: If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema…. Canon XVI: If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end, – unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema…. Canon XXIV: If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.[6]


In her anathemas, Rome brought upon herself the anathema of God according to Galatians 1:8, 9: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed [anathema]. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed [anathema].”


Despite her rhetoric in light of the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, Rome has not changed her position on Justification as witnessed by her statements on justification in her Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. “Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sancti­fication and renewal of the interior man.”[7]


In this last sentence, which is a quotation from the Council of Trent, we see Rome confusing and conflating Justification with Sanctification, which accords with her doctrine denying assurance to believers; for Justification is a process not a once for all declaration of righteous based on the righteousness of Christ alone, received by faith / belief alone.


This attack against Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide by Rome is not unexpected. However, there have been attacks against the Bible and Justification from within Evangelicalism and even from within the Reformed community. In the 1970s and 1980s the attack came from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and the teaching of Norman Shepherd who taught justification by faithfulness. If you are not aware of this you can read O. Palmer Robertson’s The Current Justification Controversy, Mark Karlberg’s The Changing of the Guard, A Companion to The Current Justification Controversy edited by John W Robbins, and Christianity and Neo-Liberalism: The Spiritual Crisis in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church [OPC] and Beyond by Paul M. Elliott. After Shepherd was dismissed from both the Seminary and the OPC without discipline, Richard Gaffin, Jr. continued to teach a doctrine of justification similar to Shepherd’s for over thirty more years.[8] Another attack from the Reformed camp has been from the Federal Vision or Auburn Avenue Theology of John Barach, Peter Leithart, Rich Lusk, Steve Schlissel, Tom Trouwborst, Steve Wilkins, and Douglas Wilson, among others, who teach among other things, that baptism is what makes a person a Christian, that justification is by faith and the obedience of faith,[9] and that the elect can become reprobate because they are not given the gift of perseverance, among other false teachings. The New Perspective on Paul of E. P. Sanders, James D. G. Dunn, and N. T. Wright also attack justification by faith alone, teaching instead that Paul is more concerned with the “identity or boundary markers” of who is in and who is not in the church, and not how a sinner can be declared righteous before a holy God. These teaching have become popular in Reformed and Presbyterian churches and have caused great spiritual harm to many, as they are soul-damning heresies.


However, it is not just the Reformed and Presbyterian church which have been afflicted with this heresy, but even the Neo-Reformed or Neo-Puritan teachers in the Neo-Calvinist movement within the Baptist churches have begun to promulgate a similar teaching as seen in the writings of John Piper and Thomas Schreiner, the Baptist counterparts to Norman Shepherd, Richard Gaffin, and John Kinnaird. In the Foreword to Schreiner’s book Faith Alone The Doctrine of Justification: What the Reformers Taught…Why It Still Matters,[10] Piper writes,


As Tom Schreiner says, the book “tackles one of the fundamental questions of our human condition: how can a person be right with God?”

The stunning Christian answer is: sola fide—faith alone. But be sure you hear this carefully and precisely: He says right with God by faith alone, not attain heaven by faith alone. There are other conditions for attaining heaven, but no others for entering a right relationship to God. In fact, one must already be in a right relationship with God by faith alone in order to meet the other conditions. (11, emphasis in original)


More recently, Piper wrote a brief article, “Does God Really Save Us by Faith Alone?”[11] to which he answers:


I think these five solas can be preciously illuminating, both for the crux of the Reformation and for the essence of the Christian [G]ospel itself, which of course was central to the dispute. I say they can be helpful because five prepositional phrases hanging in the air with no clause to modify are not helpful in making clear what the great controversy of the Reformation was about, nor do they clarify the essence of the true Christian [G]ospel.

All five phrases serve to modify God’s work of justification – how sinners gain a right standing with God so that he is one hundred percent for us and not against us.


Then under the heading of “Don’t Substitute with the Solas,” Piper makes it clear that he believes that the solas apply only to justification and not to all of salvation.


If you substitute other clauses besides “We are justified…” such as “We are sanctified…” or “We will be finally saved at the last judgment…” then the meaning of some of these prepositional phrases must be changed in order to be faithful to Scripture. For example, In justification, faith receives a finished work of Christ performed outside of us and counted as ours – imputed to us. In sanctification, faith receives an ongoing power of Christ that works inside us for practical holiness. In final salvation at the last judgment, faith is confirmed by the sanctifying fruit it has borne, and we are saved through that fruit and that faith. As Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, “God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” (Emphasis in original)


Finally, under the heading of “How Are We Ultimately Saved?” Piper writes,


Especially as it pertains to final salvation, so many of us live in a fog of confusion….


The only kind of faith that counts for justification is the kind that produces love – the kind that bears the fruit of love. The faith which alone justifies is never alone, but always bearing transforming fruit….


Paul calls this effect or fruit or evidence of faith “the work of faith” (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:11) and the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5; 16:26). These works of faith, and this obedience of faith, these fruits of the Spirit that come by faith, are necessary for our final salvation. No holiness, no heaven (Hebrews 12:14). Mortification of sin, sanctification in holiness. But what makes that possible and pleasing to God? We put sin to death and we pursue holiness from a justified position where God is one hundred percent for us – already – by faith alone.[12]


Schreiner, in the work already cited also makes statements which undermine justification and salvation. In his chapter “Righteousness Is Eschatological,” Schreiner states, “Yet another piece of evidence points to the eschatological character of justification. The Bible speaks of Jesus Christ being ‘justified’ or ‘acquitted’ at his resurrection (1 Tim 3:16).”[13] Further on, he writes,


Believers in Jesus Christ are now justified through faith in Jesus Christ. They are justified by faith alone by virtue of Christ’s death for their sins and his resurrection for their justification (Rom 4:25). Still, they look forward to the day when the declaration will be announced publicly and to the entire world. In this sense, as many scholars attest, justification is an already buy not yet reality. (157, emphasis in original)


Later in his chapter, “The Role of Good Works in Justification,” Schreiner continues to speak of final justification and salvation, meanwhile attacking faith as belief.


When some hear the Reformation cry of sola fide—“Faith Alone!”—they assume that it means that good works are an optional part of the Christian life or that they play no role at all in our final justification or salvation…. The NT clearly teaches that bare faith cannot save, and that works are necessary for final justification or final salvation.

By bare faith I refer to what is often called intellectual assent to a set of statements, doctrines, or beliefs. In other words, merely saying that one believes isn’t the same thing as saving faith…. A “claiming” faith, a “saying” faith, an “assenting” faith without any accompanying works is not a saving faith. (191, emphasis added)


Schreiner here confuses belief with a false profession of belief, which is what James is referring to. Saving faith is indeed assenting to the propositions of the Gospel. Schreiner should have read Gordon Clark’s What Is Saving Faith? to clear up his confusion on faith / belief. But by confusing faith / belief with a profession of faith / belief, he attacks intellectual assent, that is agreeing with what the Bible says. Throughout this chapter, Schreiner continues to attack belief by using weasel words like “bare,” “barren,” and “mere.” He even brings up James 2:19 about the demons believing in one God and shuddering to attack bare intellectual assent.


Demons can confess monotheism, and yet their hearts are far from the one true God. Indeed, they hate him and all of his ways. Consider the reactions of the demons when they encountered Jesus during his earthly ministry. They acknowledged that he was “the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24; cf. Luke 4:34), and in that sense they “believed” in him and knew more about him at that stage in his ministry than most anyone, even Jesus’ own disciples. But they certainly didn’t love Jesus, and they didn’t believe in him to the extent that they entrusted their lives to him. This leads me to conclude that there is a kind of faith, an intellectual understanding, that is “bare and “empty.” It subscribes to mental propositions only but doesn’t embrace and love Jesus, and in the final analysis it proves to be no faith at all.

It is clear, then, that James is teaching that bare faith alone – simply agreeing that certain statements are true – does not save us. “Faith by itself” when “it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (Jas 2:17). (192-193, emphasis added)[14]


The “faith” that James is condemning is not faith, but a false profession of faith, which is clear from the text: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can [such] faith save him?” How can we in the church tell if someone’s profession of faith is genuine? This is what James is describing. Moreover, the demons believe in one God; they are monotheists. But monotheism is not the Gospel. There will be plenty of monotheists in hell. James is not attacking genuine faith / belief, but Schreiner, Piper, and others are, and they are attacking the Gospel; for they are teaching justification by faith alone is not enough to get you into heaven, but you must add your good works for final justification or final salvation. Rome has said much the same – “Canon XXIV: If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.” With friends like Piper, Schreiner, Shepherd, Gaffin, Kinnaird, Leithart, Lusk, Schlissel, Wilkins, Wilson, and Wright, who needs enemies. Thus, for the sake of God’s grace and truth, we need to expose these false teachers by name, rebuke them publicly for teaching such heresy, call them to repentance, so that the people of God may be warned of this false teaching and those who teach it, and “earnestly contend for the faith [doctrine / teaching] which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). May God grant us the conviction to stand for His truth in this crooked and perverse generation – to Him alone be the glory – Soli Deo Gloria.

[1] See the tract “Civilization and the Protestant Reformation,” and John W. Robbins, Christ and Civilization, The Trinity Foundation, [2003] 2007.

[2] J. Derek Halvorson, “A Path with Purpose: President Halvorson’s Inaugural Address,” View, Autumn 2012, 17.

[3] The Canons and Decrees of the Sacred and Oecumenical Council of Trent, The Fourth Session, 1546, Translated by J. Waterworth (London: Dolman, 1848), Hanover Historical Texts Project, Hanover College, 1995, 19, viewed at, October 9, 2017. Emphasis added.

[4] See note 3.

[5] Taken from Richard Peter Bennett, “Are You Right with God?” Tract, Berean Beacon, 2005, quoting the 1994 edition of The Catechism of the Catholic Church.

[6] The Canons and Decrees of the Sacred and Oecumenical Council of Trent, The Sixth Session, 1547, Translated by J. Waterworth (London: Dolman, 1848), Hanover Historical Texts Project, Hanover College, 1995, 45-47, viewed at, October 9, 2017.

[7] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1994, paragraph 1989. The last sentence quoted is from the Council of Trent (1547): DS 1528.

[8] See Mark W. Karlberg, The Changing of the Guard, The Trinity Foundation, 2001; Paul M. Elliott, Christianity and Neo-Liberalism: The Spiritual Crisis in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Beyond, The Trinity Foundation, 2005; and Stephen M. Cunha, The Emperor Has No Clothes: Dr. Richard B. Gaffin Jr.’s Doctrine of Justification, The Trinity Foundation, 2008.

[9] “The presuppositions undergirding Paul’s statement [in Romans 2:13] include the facts that the Law is ‘obeyable,’ that truly responding to the Law (the Word) in faith does justify” (Steve Schlissel, The Federal Vision, Steve Wilkins and Duane Garner, editors. Monroe, Louisiana: Athanasius Press, 2004. 260) quoted in David Englesma, “The Federal Vision,” The Trinity Review, January 2006.

[10] Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015.

[11] John Piper, “Does God Really Save Us by Faith Alone?” Desiring God web site, September 25, 2017,, October 12, 2017.

[12] For a full refutation of Piper’s false gospel see Timothy F. Kauffman and Tim Shaughnessy, “John Piper on Final Justification by Works,” The Trinity Review, November, December, 2017. See also John W. Robbins, “Pied Piper,” The Trinity Review, June, July, 2002.

[13] Schreiner, Faith Alone, 156. Schreiner adds a footnote here: “On this theme, see particularly G. K. Beale, “The Role of the Resurrection in the Already-and-Not-Yet Phases of Justification,” in For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper (ed. Sam Storms and Justin Taylor; Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 190-213.” This is also the teaching of Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. especially in his Doctoral Thesis, later published as Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul’s Soteriology, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1987. Schreiner quotes Gaffin approvingly in his book.

[14] This calls for a more careful reading and analysis or Dr. Schreiner’s work, especially as he is in a position of teaching other men for the ministry. As the Scripture says, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).