Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Reformation Day: A Reminder for our Times

Today is Reformation Day, a holiday celebrating the great faithfulness of our forefathers in the faith, as they defended the Word of God in the Middle Ages. On October 31st of 1517, Martin Luther nailed his famed ninety-five theses onto the castle door of the church at Wittenberg. He was challenging the Catholic church's practice of indulgences, and what ensued is what is commonly known in history books as the Protestant Reformation.

Many Christians today (myself guilty at times!) look at our culture today and think that there is no hope for the Gospel, and that we are indeed sinking into greater and greater unbelief, heresy, and corruption. We are prone to see the earth on a freight train headed straight towards a great engulfment. We see our current political situations, the unBiblical laws passed, the millions of our children who are murdered by their own parents each year, prayer stripped out of schools, Gospel truth replaced by moral relativism, and the "Christians" in our society following mammon and Hollywood more readily than Jesus. And we take a VERY pessimistic view of where our glove is headed. We think there is nothing that can be done.

But look at Europe at the time leading up to the Protestant Reformation. The Word of God was held captive by a religious elite who were corrupt to the very core, hiding theft, adultery, greed, swindling, and lies underneath the guise of the name of our Lord. The Gospel was not being preached to the masses; instead they were hearing select portions of scripture read to them in a language not native to them, and the public were being taught that they had to help earn their righteousness. They were so frightened of the future of their souls, and so frantic to do anything to earn their way into heaven, that the poor would give away some of their last pennies to buy off a few years from purgatory or to save their souls from hell. The masses murmured rote prayers in penance, trusted in priests to be their mediators before God, and lived in utter fear and spiritual darkness.

That, my friends, is despair. That sounds like a place where the Gospel truth would never spread. That's a society sinking into greater unbelief, heresy, and corruption. The Word of God was not even available to the masses! Yet God was still sovereign, even when His church came to the brink of self-destruction. He used a monk who was bold enough to challenge the powers that were, and He used corrupt church counsels and men who were still searching for the truth to accomplish His will. And look at the fruit it has born! Churches around the globe still benefit from the courage of men like Luther, Calvin, Knox, Zwingli, and others. God's church continues to spread, not because all the factors are aligned in its favor, but because God is in His heaven, and He is still ruling.

So when I get discouraged and am tempted to adopt a very pessimistic eschatology, I remember the Protestant Reformation, and give a prayer of thanks to God for always preserving a remnant of His people. And I remember a brave monk in 1517, and all the reformers who came after him, who were willing to die because of their beliefs, letting the truths of God be their dying cry:

Sola scriptura - Scripture alone

Solus Christus - Christ alone

Sola gratia - Grace alone

Sola fide - Faith alone

Soli deo gloria - To God Alone be Glory!

Make sure to read some of the excellent posts linked at the 2007 Reformation Day Symposium.


Cecilia Rose said...

Dear Susan,

I can't remember exactly how I found your blog, but I had always enjoyed reading your Christian, conservative posts. However, today I read your post about the Protestant Reformation with sadness.

I am a Catholic, and what was said about the Catholic Church hurt me. God's Word was not "held captive by a religious elite who were corrupt to the very core." You may think that Martin Luther was the first one to have the Bible available to lay people in the vernacular, but actually the first printed Bible (in German) was from 1466, which is 51 years before Luther posted his 95 theses. There were also many vernacular translations of different books of the Bible, one being as early as the year 670 (a paraphrase of Genesis, in Anglo-Saxon by Caedmon). And as far as Latin goes...all people who could read and were educated at the time of the Reformation could read and understand Latin, so it wasn't a problem for it not to be in the language of the country. You also may be under the impression (since you said "The Word of God was held captive") that the Catholic Church chained Bibles to their churches so that the people couldn't have access to it. Yes, it is true that Bibles were chained...but they were chained because Bibles were scarce (b/c before printing became easier, Bibles were very expensive and hard to come by), and if they kept it chained, then it could be available for everyone in the town who could read.

I would also like to point out that the Bible is a Catholic Book. I don't want to sound uppity, but if it weren't for the Catholic Church, then Protestants wouldn't have the Bible! Also, in the Bible doesn't it say something about not adding or taking away from it? However, that is exactly what Luther did: he took away books from the Bible, on his own authority.

Also, "earning" or "buying" your salvation was NEVER condoned by the Catholic Church. Maybe some individuals within the Church tried convincing people of that, but they were the unfaithful ones. Of course there will be people who are corrupt in the Church and try to lead people cannot expect any humans to be perfect. But when Christ said to Peter, "Upon this rock I will build my church," He meant the Catholic Church! Maybe he didn't call it that, but He didn't call it the Protestant church, or the Baptist church, or whatever other sect of Christianity, either. The teachings of Jesus have been handed down through the centuries through the Catholic Church. The popes are direct successors of St. Peter, who was Christ's representative on earth. There was meant to be "one fold and one shepherd"...but how is there "one fold" of Christianity when there are hundreds upon hundreds of different sects (Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, non-denominational, you name it), who all think they have the full truth? There can only be one Church that has the full truth, because there is only one fold and one Shepherd.

I have another query for you: you believe in Sola Scriptura-by Scripture alone. If you are supposed to believe only by what the Bible says, it must say that somewhere in the Bible itself; otherwise, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is unbiblical.

The Catholic Church has always held the Bible in very high esteem, since the Holy Spirit did inspire the human writers of it and we do consider it the Word of God (although "The Word of God" does not always mean just the Bible).

This is such a deep subject that it's impossible to express everything here. However, if you want to know more please ask questions (my blog link should be here), and I also HIGHLY recommend that you read "Where We Got the Bible" by Henry G. Graham. It is an excellent read and has so much interesting information about the origins of the Bible! I also recommend "Where is That in the Bible?" by Patrick Madrid, which has specific issues that Protestants have with Catholic doctrines and where you can find evidence for our doctrines in the Bible.

I hope I haven't sounded too harsh, but I just wanted to defend my faith, because what was written about the Catholic Church was done in unfortunate ignorance.

God Bless,
Cecilia Rose

shorty said...

Thank you so much for this post. It is so nice to be reminded of who is ultimately in charge. It does get disheartening when we look at the world around us but you put it back in perspective and I thank you for that. Thank you for your wonderful blog, I have enjoyed it so very much, God bless

Susan said...


I appreciate your honest critique of my post, and I realize that we simply are not going to agree totally on this. Please realize that I'm not making a sweeping generalization for all Catholics (in fact, the Catholic church has made giant leaps of reform, due to the counter-reformation) or even all Catholics back then. I did not even mention the Catholic church, though it was implicit that I was speaking about some Catholic practices.

As for many of the statements you make, I think they're completely without basis, though I say this with good will, realizing that you think the same about some of my statements :-).

Rather than answering each of your points in turn, I would just ask if we can cordially agree to disagree. At another stage in life (not one in which I find myself just trying to keep down dinner. . . pregnancy, et al) I would have loved to engage in a friendly debate on Protestantism and Catholicism. I've studied the subject a great deal, and I love debate in general. But I simply can't do a debate justice right now, while I'm also struggling just to get the very basics of homemaking done.

Thank you for understanding.

In Christ,

Lindsy said...

Well said. Thanks for reminding us all of these great truths!

Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

Dad said...

"And we take a VERY pessimistic view of where our glove is headed."

I agree. In the past every glove I have had has worn out, gotten holes in it or been burned by fire during my annual tree burning. Perhaps if I treated my glove better or had a more positive attitude towards my glove, it would not head in the wrong direction.

I will try not to be so pessimistic to my gloves anymore. Thank you for this post. ;-)

Jessie said...

Oh, that was a lovely post! Very well written, my dear, especially for one suffering from mommy brain : )

Mandy said...

Great post!!