Rutherford Defended Sola Scriptura, Luther, And The Law-Gospel Distinction Contra Antinomians And Anabaptists

Anno, 1522. Did arise in Saxony Nicholas Stork, who boasted of dreams and visions and rejected the Scripture as being a carnal and literal rule. Antinomians call it carnal, literal, and legal. From him and others arose Thomas Muntzer, about anno 1524, who styled himself “Thomas Muntzer, the servant of God, with the sword of Gideon against the ungodly.” This man, being hungry for glory, hunted for Luther’s name to his new designs but not obtaining it, said but [unclear] Antichrist: that Luther’s carnal and literal gospel was worse than the pope and therefore cried down books and the letter of Scripture and said the Spirit was the leader and rule to believers.

Samuel Rutherford, A Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist Opening the Secrets of Familism and Antinomianism in the Antichristian Doctrine of John Saltmarsh…The Mind of Luther a Most Professed Opposer of Antinomians is cleared and Diverse Considerable Opinions Of the Law and the Gospel, of the Spirit and the Letter, of the Two Covenants, of the Nature of Free Grace, Exercise Under Temptations, Mortification, Justification, and Sanctification are Discovered (London, 1648), 2. [spelling and punctuation modernized].

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. It is interesting to reflect on the differences between the Reformed, confessional approach to theology and that of the the broader evangelical nonconfessionals. I have finally gotten around to reading Recovering the Reformed Confessions. You make the point that the quest for illegitimate religious certainty and the quest for illegitimate religious experience are both attempts at knowing God outside of the ordained means that God himself has provided in His Word and the sacraments of baptism and communion. The nonconfessional approach comes down to knowing God by my personal, subjective experience. We see in Muntzer and the radical Anabaptists what this can lead to, discarding the ordained means God has provided, in favour of dreams, visions, and private revelation, not unlike what we see in the broader evangelical churches in our own day who decry the use of those creeds and confessions which represent the tried and tested standards of doctrine that the Church has come to by a consensus established through centuries of careful study of Scripture, in favour of my own subjective opinion and experience.

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