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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Reformation Essentials - Part 6 - Soli Deo Gloria

Soli Deo Gloria: Our Only Ambition
The world is full of ambitious people. But Paul said, "It has always been my ambition to preach the Gospel where Christ was not known." (Rom 15:20). Since God has spoken so clearly and saved so finally, the believer is free to worship, serve, and glorify God and to enjoy him forever, beginning now. What is the ambition of the evangelical movement? Is it to please God or to please men?

Is our happiness and joy found in God or in someone or something else? Is our worship entertainment or worship? Is God's glory or our self-fulfillment the goal of our lives? Do we see God's grace as the only basis for our salvation, or are we still seeking some of the credit for ourselves? These questions reveal a glaring human-centeredness in the evangelical churches and the general witness of our day.

Robert Schuller actually says that the Reformation "erred because it was God-centered rather than man-centered," and Yale's George Lindbeck observes how quickly evangelical theology accepted this new gospel: "In the fifties, it took liberals to accept Norman Vincent Peale, but as the case of Robert Schuller indicates, today professed conservatives eat it up."

Many historians look back to the Reformation and wonder at its far-reaching influences in transforming culture. The work ethic, public education, civic and economic betterment, a revival of music, the arts, and a sense of all life being related somehow to God and his glory: These effects cause historians to observe with a sense of irony how a theology of sin and grace, the sovereignty of God over the helplessness of human beings, and an emphasis on salvation by grace apart from works, could be the catalyst for such energetic moral transformation. The reformers did not set out to launch a political or moral campaign, but they proved that when we put the Gospel first and give voice to the Word, the effects inevitably follow.

How can we expect the world to take God and his glory seriously if the church does not? The Reformation slogan Soli Deo Gloria was carved into the organ at Bach's church in Leipzig and the composer signed his works with its initials. It's inscribed over taverns and music halls in old sections of Heidelberg and Amsterdam, a lasting tribute to a time when the fragrance of God's goodness seemed to fill the air. It was not a golden age, but it was an amazing recovery of God-centered faith and practice. Columbia University professor Eugene Rice offers a fitting conclusion:

All the more, the Reformation's views of God and humanity measure the gulf between the secular imagination of the twentieth century and the sixteenth century's intoxication with the majesty of God. We can exercise only historical sympathy to try to understand how it was that the most brilliant intelligences of an entire epoch found a total, a supreme liberty in abandoning human weakness to the omnipotence of God.

Soli Deo Gloria!


Dr. Michael Horton is professor of apologetics and theology at Westminster Seminary California (Escondido, California).

© Modern Reformation

This article originally appeared in the Mar / Apr 1994 edition of Modern Reformation and is reprinted with permission. For more information about Modern Reformation, visit www.modernreformation.org or call (800) 890-7556. All rights reserved.

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