Reformation Sunday: Some Thoughts

Luther“I believe that there is upon the earth a holy congregation and communion of pure saints ruled under one Head, Christ, called together by the Holy Spirit in one faith, in the same mind and understanding, furnished with multiple gifts yet one in love and in all respects harmonious, without sects or schisms.”

Martin Luther, on The Apostle’s Creed, Luther’s Large Catechism.

Yesterday was Reformation Sunday but it slipped my mind. OOPS!!! But I am on target for Reformation Day which is October 31st. Last year, you remember, I looked at Reformation Day from a Scottish perspective.

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I was trained for the ministry in a reformed Bible College. My understanding of the Reformation was quite very biased and I understood the Reformation in terms of ecclesiastical and theological separation from the heresies of the Roman Catholic Church (Babylon the Great). After some thought and research, I have a somewhat different view and yet I am equally committed to the historical Reformation as well as the ongoing reformation of the church today. Here are some thoughts on the Reformation:

1. The Reformers were committed to an ecumenical consensus of unity. They wanted to reform the whole church, not just one break-away segment that became the Protestant Movement. Sectarianism was not the intention.

2. If there is a Babylon the Great today, it is not the Roman Catholic Church. It is probably something closer and dearer to us.

3. If USA and England had as many Czech immigrants as they did German, history would probably show that the Reformation started much earlier and its geographic center was a few hundred miles eastwards of where we currently believe it to be. YES – I am talking about Jan Hus.

4. The Reformation was initiated NOT because of doctrinal purity, as commonly taught, but because of corruption in the use of power and wealth. Doctrinal reform was a bonus, but not the primary motivation.

5. There is reform in the church today because there is corruption in the church today. God still cares about his church. So should we. The way we play with ecclesiastic power and the way we spend the Bride’s finances should concern us all, not just our commitment to a common creed.

6. The emerging church might well be a protest (Don Carson) but it might also be a corrective measure to the excesses and imbalances of the reformation and the Enlightenment.

Let the Reformation continue.

Others: Reformed Trombonist and check out Campi who is always seasonal this time of year, even if he comes from a different angle than me.

TSK: Emerging Church in Modern Reformation, Our Post-Reformation Christmas, A Little Scottish Oats with your Bratwurst? Reformation Unfiltered, Scot McKnight at Westminster.

UPDATE: Jim Bublitz challenged this post and so I wrote a response to him here. It has more background info for this post and it deals with his objections.

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Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name “Precious” :-)

18 Comments

  • I am sobered (not that I have been drinking :)) to think that the reformation was mostly about the lack of love expressed through political gain and the greed for wealth. That is how the history books read.
    The pain that can come from seeking power and prestige is the quintessential undoing of the church’s standing in society and its strength to act in Christ’s name. The lack of love has unimaginable consequences. . . .

  • Perhaps it could be argued that Babylon the Great is consumerism? All conquering, all powerful, all pervasive in all areas of our lives (including church – it’s half the problem…). A bigger force than the sum of it’s parts and the perfect enshrinement of ‘what the pagans run after’. Perhaps?

  • hi tom. there are 7 characteristics in Revelation of Babylon the Great. One of those is that the merchants of the world got rich by her.
    so i think its connected with both consumerism AND the Great Market.
    Think Wall Street, Hollywood, Internet, etc . . . as an idolatrous substitute for the One True God who provides all our needs.

  • The Reformers despite disagreement between them held to a high view of the Bible. They let it judge them. My deep concern is that the Postmodern church stands in judgement of the Bible and perhaps is more influenced by continental philosophers than St.Paul.Perhaps it might also be said that the Church Growth Movement, if it represents the ‘modern Church’, was more influenced by business managers, reseachers and social scientists etc than Paul!

  • Well said, Andrew. Thanks for the good reminder from history. October 31 is additionally special at our home: 9th birthday of our 2nd son ;^) Cheers!

  • I am starting to believe that the Church that needs reform is not primarily identified by theology or format (both of which may desperately need reform) but by inaction.
    It doesn’t really matter if you’re a bunch of guys sitting around drinking gin and talking theology, a wild charismatic church or the highest of high churches. If your vision only extends to your four walls and you have negligable effect on your community, then you’re simply not living the gospel.

  • It might not always be inaction (although it often is). People might just not know how to deal with the issues and problems facing the church today. I think many of the ministries and people going round in the church today ‘equipping’ people don’t really know or haven’t thought what they’re equipping them for.
    It’s a hard job to overcome this mind you, if we’ve all been brought up in this atmosphere. As I always say, it’s hard or nearly impossible to stick your head out the top of the box and think outside the box, if all you’ve even known IS the box.

  • Reformation Day Arbitrariness

    My pastor sent me this image from The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus. Apparently he thought it was appropriate. I think some of you would think so too : And some good reads for Reformation Day which falls tomorrow :…

  • I agree Tom – the problems manifest themselves in different ways depending on the context. I would suggest that we’re mostly living in a non-christian or post-christian society, to the extent that church is almost totally meaningless to people ‘outside of the box’. So evangelism – as we tend to think of it – has limited effect because for most people the words we use mean nothing to them. So church has become something ‘that bunch of people do on Sundays’.
    This forces us into a position where the only alternative is patient long-term service, where we do not expect instant returns. Where we work for the time when church becomes something meaningful for, and a blessing to, people in their lives.

  • 1. Agreed.
    2. Disagree with clarification. I don’t necessarily equate the RCs with Babylon, however I do think the RCs are apostate, at least the official teaching out of the Magisterium.
    3. Let’s indeed give Hus credit where credit is due.
    4. It is true that indulgences helped spur Luther on, but I disagree that was the primary motivation. Luther was first struck by seeing that we are saved by grace through faith. That got the ball rolling.
    As to 5 and 6, I am afraid we get caught up in the differences between “emerging” and “emergent.” There might well be valid criticisms coming out of the emerging stream here and there, but the emergent stream goes way too far in throwing doctrine out the window.
    Indeed, we should be “always reforming.” Hopefully to a truer understanding of Scripture and embrace of its authority, and not farther away.

  • Hello and thank you for posting those helpful points!
    Thank you also for being a voice reminding people to celebrate ‘Reformation Day’ instead of the the lawless holiday.
    your friend and
    a servant of Christ,
    Steven

  • Happy ReformationDay!

    Just a brief pause to wish everyone a Happy Reformation Day! Remember from history class, somewhere long ago, that a monk, frustrated by corruption and seeking debate on theological issues, started a whirlwind when he nailed the 95 Theses to the Witte…

  • Hey Andrew. Thanks for the comment on my blog. Also wanted to let you know that your post way back in June on profanity has inspired my term paper for my Postmodern Theology class at Fuller – the Theology of Profanity. Love your blog and keep it up.

  • Ha! I’ll send it your way when I’m done. I think you’ll find it interesting.
    I need to say again – thanks for your comment. Jim has really lit into me over my comment on his blog and has even banished me from posting. I admit, my comment was a little flippant, but holy cow, I didn’t really see this coming.

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