Happy Reformation Day 2009

On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther kicked off the Protestant Reformation. His purpose was to reform the church. That did not work, however, and the Catholic church instead responded with the Council of Trent. Today the protest continues as Trent stands in opposition to the biblical and Protestant understanding of the Gospel.

Many of us are thankful what the Lord did through Martin Luther and the other Reformers. Today is a day of celebration for many. For others it is hard to tell if the Reformation really mattered or not. For example, Protestant Timothy George praises the day in his post Reformation Day, but claims that Martin Luther “belongs to the whole church.”

This includes Roman Catholics who anathematized Luther and to whom Luther would not repent of his theological positions.  Or just look through the lack of consensus among “Evangelicals” at the new Evangel blog section at First Things (who many consider to be a Roman Catholic site.)

Who else is scratching their head? Rome’s theological positions have not changed and neither have the Protestant confessions. It is hard to tell what drives people to compromise what both sides once agreed once saw as disagreements over the very thing that defines Christianity: the gospel.  R.C. Sproul gives some insight on theological compromise in his chapter in The Coming Evangelical Crisis: Current Challenges to Authority of Scripture and the Gospel.

All of this being said, it is an immense tragedy when in our day people are making a mad rush to bring peace, seemingly at any price, when there is no real peace. I have frequently felt the burden of pressure to cooperate in this move away from the sufficiency of the gospel now going on in evangelicalism. I feel this burden for the sake of relationships for the sake of peace among evangelicals, and for the sake of simply getting along and not being perceived as a troublesome person. But the gospel and its sole sufficiency demands much more of me than simply “getting along” with everyone. [Armstrong, John H., General Editor. The Coming Evangelical Crisis: Current Challenges to Authority of Scripture and the Gospel. Chicago: Moody Press, 1996. 114.]

I’m sure we have all seen this and felt the pressure. However, trying to erase, ignore, re-write or re-interpret history does not make it go away. It does not make the written infallible dogmas of Rome some how agree with the Protestant confessions in defining the gospel. Whether it is from the pressure of political agendas, friendship or peace there is another side to this. That is those who do agree that Rome and the Protestants have a different gospel, yet are unwilling to say as much. Sproul gives more insight here too.

A friend of mine, another theologian, said to me recently, “R.C., there’s a strange thing going on today.What we have is people who are willing o be evangelicals and to say, ‘Yes, I believe in the gospel of the free grace of Christ,and that justification is by Christ and Christ alone, by faith and by faith alone, by grace and by grace alone.’ These theologians and leaders are willing to say this in their discussions of theology. What they are not willing to do is to speak out against an opposite view.” To put it another way, they are willing to affirm, but they are not as willing to deny. They’re wiling to be positive, but they’re not willing to say anything negative. I have appreciated the way in which theologians involved in the lordship debate of the last ten years or so have frankly admitted that one side or the other is preaching another gospel. At least we are admitting ths this issue is as important and it really is.

I appreciate when people on both sides have been willing to admit, “One of us is not preaching the gospel of the New Testament.” [ibid. 115-116.]

Sproul wrote those words 13 years ago and they are still insightful today. Maybe more so. If the gospel is really at stake, more people like Luther are needed to stand up for this issue which is of eternal significance. I pray for the boldness Luther had in such disagreements. A boldness that is found in Holy of  which the Apostle Paul reminds us.

and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.[Ephesians 6:19-20, ESV]

For the Kingdom.

P.s. Calvin College has put together what looks to be a great online resource: Post-Reformation Digital Library.

P.p.s. Previous Reformation Day posts: 2008, 2007 and 2006.

Let's connect!

tagged as , in Gospel,heresy,roman catholic,theology

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mark Lamprecht October 31, 2009 at 4:41 pm

James White comments on the “Roman” in Roman Catholic. #RefD http://aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=3598

2 Darrin November 3, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Very important thoughts and great quotes in this post. I hope you had a meaningful Reformation Day.

How relevant it is where Sproul speaks of many failing to identify and question error. Refutation of false doctrine is an important counterpart to teaching right doctrine.

3 Mark Lamprecht November 3, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Darrin, agreed. I’ve been meaning to look through that book and see if it turned out to be “prophetic.”


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