I have noticed that some celebrants of Reformation Day see it as a day to mark God’s freeing of the true church from the bonds of Catholic slavery even as God delivered Israel from its enslavement to Egypt. Surely it cannot be reduced to such a stark comparison. Surely we would not cast all those who did not subscribe to the Reformer’s pleas to the side of tyranny and evil. So what do we do with this day?
As one who subscribes to the Reformed theological tradition, I see the day marking a particularly great expression of God’s faithfulness to another generation of mankind to expand his kingdom further and deeper into the whole world. It is by means of the proclamation and the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that God is bringing his creation into renewed beauty. This is what I hope marks the Reformed theological tradition instead of a movement borne of violence, slander and hatred as one can read online in various blogs and even encyclopedia entries.
There is no denial nor should there be of the evils committed by people against each other on both sides of the aisle, but the heart of the matter is about how God raises up people in every generation to make fresh proclamations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This moment in history as well as others made shock waves that changed the course of Christianity especially in terms of its expression of ecclesiology – essentially, the organizational theory of the church – and theology.
It wrested the Church from a path that focused on human authority, dogma and ideological containment to that of the authority of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God working in and through the Church. This day provides the Church with much needed encouragement as well as correction for our own misguided notions.
Reformation Day means that God has not left his people to wander off into destruction. This is a day that reminds us to consider what truths in God’s Word we have buried that someone will unearth tomorrow. Even now one can observe “Reformation” movements gathering within many Christian denominations seeking to return the Church to a more faithful alignment to the Word of God. Greed, politics and power are leaving deep wounds in our churches today, yet not to the point of destruction.
Reformation Day gives us a historical perspective concerning how these same issues plagued the Roman Catholic Church throughout fifteenth and sixteenth century Europe. The result was nothing less than the birth of Protestantism.
This is not to disregard our brothers and sisters of the Catholic Church as somehow not being part of the true church of Christ, but it reminds us that God is the one who protects and preserves his Church. We remember Reformation Day because it speaks powerfully of yet another era of the Church gone wayward in its discipleship of believers and witness to the world and how God calls us back to his Word and to himself. That is why we should not be surprised that it happened in the first place and that it could and should happen again.
There is pounding on the door of the Church once again. Will we be humble enough to open the door and read what has been left on it? And, of course, that leads to an even more important question: Will we crumple it up and throw it in the trash? Reformation Day should above all remind us never to think that we are above reformation as God’s Church and, in fact, should spurn us to greater humility as we proclaim Christ to the whole world as his lowest of all servants.
Steve Braun is a modern man who has been slammed by postmodernity into confusion but has been made whole by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He seeks to humbly move forward as a Christian in love for God and for mankind without apology. His life is a testimony of the power of the Gospel to heal a broken and conceited man even years after knowing better.