I Live in a Post-Reformation World

1 Nov

As I was celebrating Reformation Day yesterday, someone actually asked me if the Reformation really had any impact on our lives today. The argument went something like, “Martin Luther didn’t even really want to establish a new church when he posted the theses. The effect today is even less, as almost no one uses indulgences.”

The fact that Martin Luther did not want to leave the church when he posted the theses is true. That is why it is not called the Protestant Emergence, but rather the Reformation. There are several reasons for that, to be sure, but I am going to hypothesize about a couple of them. First, I think they understood that just because you disagree, you needn’t separate altogether. This is, I believe, a natural extension of our Rugged Individualism. Also, in a culture where the church you went to depended only on geography, to go against the church was the perceived equivalence of denying God altogether.

So, while it is true that Luther wasn’t yet advocating leaving the church, it is true that he starting a chain of thinking that led to that. In today’s culture, Protestants think nothing about leaving a church to go to one down the street. While I think we should care about that a little more, the fact remains that it is just a different world. Luther may not have left the church on that day, but he became an outcast from the church as soon as the the events of that day were understood.

This commitment to the authority of Scripture over the commitment to a church is something that I value about this post-Reformation world. The fact that before he left, he wanted to attempt to change the church where he was, is something I value. The fact that he fought for the yielding to Christ above all is something I value. The fact that he worked for decades to translate the Bible so that we all may read it in our own language is something I appreciate.

The benefits of this day are not limited to Protestants. Clearly Roman Catholics view the day differently, but even a good Roman Catholic has the benefits of a Bible in his own language. They benefit by going to a church service that doesn’t have to be in Latin, so that they may understand the homily and Scriptures being read. They benefit by having people consistently sharpen them and hold their leaders feet to the fire theologically.

Many people celebrate Halloween on October 31. While there are many elements that are not focused on Christ, we know that the nature of God is to take people and things that are completely contrary to His nature and to make them more like Himself. We see this in people all over and it has happened to holidays. I think we live in a culture that doesn’t focus on the proper things, yet we are able to point people to the proper things.

Because of the Reformation, we have Bibles in our own language where we can point people to verses. Because of the focus on education, both of the people in that conversation can normally read. Because of the Reformation, we returned to the Augustinian theology from centuries earlier. Because of the reformation, I am able to write a blog that disagrees with the theology of our leader and not fear being burned as a heretic. This is why I can proudly proclaim and appreciate the fact that I live in a Post-Reformation World.

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