Today marks the 495th anniversary of the day (though the exact date is not certain) when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of Wittenberg Church.
Some years ago this would be my favorite day during the year, yes, even more than Christmas or Easter. Yet, today I have some different thoughts about celebrating this day.
I do celebrate and am thankful for the fact that God brought the attention of the church back to the Scriptures. Reformation was built upon the works of great Renaissance scholars. Their motto “ad fontes” (back to the sources) led to a fresh look at the Scriptures in the original languages, Greek and Hebrew. I am in agreement with many that the Roman Catholic Church was in need of some sort of reformation. Most Reformers wanted to reform the church within and not cause any unnecessary divisions. Yet the resistance they saw also led them to conclude that this was almost impossible. Then comes the lamentable part. Once the Reformation began so did the blood bath in Europe. Many theological books and tracts condemned each other to the uttermost parts of hell and soon the Church has lost sight of the fact that its unity was being dismantled.
There is so much to commend about the Reformation and I am thankful to God that He orchestrated it despite our petty fights.
That being said, I can’t bring myself to celebrate it in the full sense of the word. As someone who has read volumes of Reformers and studied the history of Reformation, I am saddened by the direction it has taken. It is a sad fact that the body of Christ had to be divided to such an extent that theological treatises quoted Galatians 1:9
As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!
I have used this verse myself while describing the Roman Catholics. I have seen many other Protestants sincerely finding Catholics in the pages of the New Testament and feel justified in their condemnations. I was once so advanced in my reading of the Reformers and Puritans that I was more sure of the damnation of Catholics and the Orthodox than my own salvation. Until I began reading their actual works and meeting actual, real life Catholics and Orthodox.
Sorry folks, I am going to disappoint a lot of my Protestant friends here but I feel the need to apologize as an individual from my Catholic and Orthodox friends.
I apologize for the times when I thought of Catholicism as a religion coming from the bowels of hell. I apologize for agreeing with sermons and text that preached that Pope is the Anti-Christ that was talked about in the New Testament.
I am deeply sorry for my arrogant times when I thought that Protestants got it all right and that everyone else should be on the same boat with us.
I am deeply sorry for thinking that Jesus’ church simply failed and reached its zenith with the coming of the Reformers.
I apologize for not paying attention to the works and thoughts of my Orthodox brothers and sisters and the rich theology and liturgy that they have offered for the glory of Christ for centuries.
Why do I say all of these now? Very simple. I have witnessed the exact same things in some “Reformed” churches which necessitated the Protestant Reformation.
What are these? Reformed creeds are now immune from criticism and revision. A reformation slogan Semper Reformanda (always reforming) is applicable to churches other than the Reformed ones. My brothers and sisters who are adamant about their allegiance to Calvin, Luther, John Foxe, John Owen and many other Reformers espouse such commitment to these men that when someone shows their error from the Scriptures that person is immediately blamed for introducing some sort of heretical teaching.
In short Reformed churches adopted such ways of forming doctrines from the Scripture that if some of these Reformers were to be born into this century, they would not be allowed in teaching positions.
Was the Reformation necessary? Have the children of Reformation gone too far? Yes to both questions. And yet what I hear from these Reformational churches that what the “others” need is another Reformation. What I say is that these “Reformed” churches have stopped reforming and become the next target of a much needed reformation.
The Church catholic exists before the watching eyes of the world and instead of uniting at His table, we’ve become unruly children who fight at the dinner table of Christ.
The Eucharist is meant to be the eschatological sign of God’s children coming together in unity but as far as I know Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox won’t admit each other to this table.
That is partly why I am an Anglican today. But this is a discussion for another day.
If you’re a Protestant, or calling yourself Reformed and think that you’re not guilty of none of this, then I applaud you and encourage you to work for a greater and better unity with others. If not, let’s pray for unity instead of relishing in our anathemas. Let’s read John 17 on this day instead of Galatians 1.
How good and pleasant it is
When brothers dwell in unity (Psalm 133:1)
Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one: Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit, that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
(The Book of Common Prayer, 255)