Thursday, October 31, 2013

Reformed or not Reformed? - Happy Reformation Day!

Today is celebrated by some as Reformation Day, the day in 1517 when Martin Luther posted 95 theses questioning indulgences on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg. This act accelerated the Reformation in Germany and elsewhere. 

Before recommending some resources for remembering the Reformation, I would like to offer some thoughts on the term 'reformed' as applied to modern Christians who believe in the sovereignty of God, election, perseverance of the Saints…etc. My dad and I have had several talks about this term.  To put it plainly, we do not like the term. The Reformation was about reforming back to the Bible, God's Word, as the so-called 'church' had strayed from that foundation.  I was born into a Christian family, we go to a church that is Biblically grounded, so we have no need to reform, but rather focus on conforming to God's Word.  The word 'Reformed' always points back to the Reformation, and the doctrines that the 'reformers' rediscovered.  As Christians, ought we not to base our beliefs on the Bible, God's Word, and those doctrines that have been in that book for 2000 + years?  By focusing too much on the people God used and the books they wrote about the Bible, we are in danger of doing what the Catholic Church did and end up revering men as objects of worship and holding the books of those Reformers, Puritans and Modern Reformed people as a replacement for the Bible itself.  Ironically, we will need to reform the Reformed.   

My dad believes that 'Biblicist' is a better term for Christians than 'Reformed'.  It makes sense doesn't it? Instead of insinuating that our doctrine is that of the Saints rediscovery of a particular era, we should particularly associate ourselves with the authoritative Word of God.  Luther, Calvin, Owen, and Edwards are mere men, who made mistakes(yes, even in Biblical Interpretation), they were not the originators of truth, they were merely focusing on studying the Word of God as we should be doing.   

L. S. Chafer makes a good point:  "It is a bad indication when, in any period, men will so exalt their confessions that they force the Scriptures to a secondary importance, illustrated in one era, when as Tulloch remarks: 'Scripture as a witness, disappeared behind the Augsburg Confession" ...No decrees of councils; no ordinances of synods; no "standard" of doctrines; no creed or confession, is to be urged as authority in forming the opinions of men. They may be valuable for some purposes, but not for this; they may be referred to as interesting parts of history, but not to form the faith of Christians; they may be used in the church to express its belief, not to form it."  And no, I do not agree with Chafer on everything as I do not agree with his interpretation on certain things, but the statement above is an excellent summary of the point that I am trying to make.  Let us get back to the Bible, not back to the Reformers.  

All of this is not to say that I don't appreciate these men.  I do!  I love reading about God's usage of them, and like to read their writings.  I just want to be wary of focusing more on the instruments God used more than God Himself and His Word.  We do not need to know about the Reformers or their writings in order to discover the Truth as we have the Word of God. 

My favorite books about the Reformation are Jean Henri Merle D'Aubigne's History of theReformation of the Sixteenth Century and the sequel to that work, "TheHistory of the Reformation in the Time of Calvin."  He does a pretty good job of keeping the focus on God's Word rather than on the men God used.  His aim is to show God's working in History.   

Also would recommend a 1980s movie on Luther entitled, Martin Luther: Heretic.  The music is horrifically cheesy at parts, but the acting is okay.  I was surprised at how much this movie actually dealt with Luther's discovering Biblical salvation, rather than just focusing on His discovery of the love of God as other movies do.  They even dealt with his excited finding of the Greek word for repentance, and what means: changing one's mind, which was against the Latin translation: 'do penance'.  The biggest complaint I would have about this movie is that it is too short (only about 70 minutes).  We got the dvd for free from just had to pay for shipping and handling), and it looks as though they still have that deal:
Today let us thank God for convicting Martin Luther of sin, for giving him faith in His Word that tells the true way to be saved, and for the grace to act upon what he believed. 

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