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In the 1500s, Martin Luther wrote "The Bondage of the Will" to defend the Biblical teaching of the depravity of our nature and our slavery to sin. Luther's work was in answer to the writings of Erasmus on free will. Of Erasmus' defense of free will, Luther wrote: "Your book struck me as so worthless and poor that my heart went out to you for having defiled your lovely, brilliant flow of language with such vile stuff. I though it outrageous to convey material of so low a quality in the trappings of such rare eloquence; it is like using gold or silver dishes to carry garden rubbish or dung."
Obviously, Luther was unimpressed with Erasmus' theology or scholarship. Even so, he thanked Erasmus for debating the question of depravity: "You alone, have attacked the real thing, the essential issue. You have not worried me with those extraneous issues about the Papacy, purgatory, indulgences and such like--trifles, rather than issues.... You and you alone have seen the hinge on which all turns, and aimed for the vital spot. For that I heartily thank you."
The vital spot is: "Are we dead in sin (or just maimed)? Is salvation a gift of God's free grace (or something with which we cooperate)? Am I really without hope apart from God's sovereign mercy (or is my decision the key)?" These are the issues that matter, and "respectable" people hate the Bible's answer.
In the early part of the twelfth century, in the Dark Ages, a haggard old sorceress went to the papacy with six envelopes that she claimed had within them God’s revelation for the Roman Catholic Church. She appeared before the pope and said, "I will sell this revelation from God to the church for $500,000." Well, they groaned, like you would, on the inside. And the prelates, along with the pope, decided no, they wouldn’t buy. And so in front of them she burnt the first envelope to ashes.
With a measure of excitement and anxiety the pope watched it burn up and began to rethink his answer as she said, "Now I have five envelopes. And I will sell you the five remaining envelopes which contain the future for the church off Rome for $500,000, My price has not gone down." They murmured and talked among themselves and decided no. And so she burnt the second envelope, leaving four.
With an increased sense of anxiety there was a sort of low roar up among The clergy. And she said, "Now I have four envelopes left and for $500,000 I’ll sell ‘em to you." And again, the answer was no. In predictable fashion she burned up the third envelope, leaving three. And then she did the same with the fourth, leaving two.
And finally she said, "Now, for $500,000 I’ll let you see the last two envelopes which contain the revelation of God." Well by that time they couldn’t hold back. So they agreed.
And wouldn’t you know it. The contents of the envelopes were written in Latin, and I can’t read Latin. So I can’t tell you what it said, I’m still wondering myself!
Quoted from The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, by Charles Swindoll.
For more from Chuck, visit http://www.insight.org
Some time ago my wife and I were watching Biography. It was about the development of the papacy, starting with Peter. Following the ascension Peter went to Rome. He is talked about some in Acts and Paul’s letters so his travel to Rome is taken pretty much at face value. They said, however, that tradition has it he went to Rome to escape persecution of Christians in Jerusalem. During the time that Nero was emperor of Rome, persecution of Christians began there and tradition says that Peter ran again. He only came back when he had a vision of Jesus carrying his cross. Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?” and Jesus responded saying, “To Rome to be crucified again.” With that the tradition says, Peter returned to Rome where he himself was crucified, upside down by his own choice because, he didn’t deserve to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus. Once again, that leads us to the question, Peter, a rock man?