Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Christian Reformation

In 1517, an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther presented a list of 95 Theses entitled Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences. This was a shot ultimately heard around the world but certainly echoing in Wittenberg, Germany and the European principalities as a cataclysmic rebuke of Papal authority and scriptural confinement. This act ushered in the age of the Reformation even though it is rightfully begun earlier and among Luther's contemporaries as well. It opened the European continent and Isles to the most stalwart of Christian declarations, justification by faith. The Reformation provided the impetus for the spread of evangelical missions so much so that rather than be known as Protestants, we are better served with the distinction as Evangelicals. The Gospel of Christ no longer constrained by often times illiterate priests serving an even more so peasantry, found its way to every corner of the globe over the next four centuries. Christians preached Christ and continue to do so, Christians reformed from the ways of a self serving papal organization that sought to strangle the light of Christ. We are indeed a Reformed faith.

Baptists, Anabaptists, Lutherans, Arminians, Calvinists and others encouraged by the valor of men such as Luther and Huss comprise the fruit of the Reformation. Our Calvinist brethren are sensitive about sharing the distinction of Reformed for they seem to have claimed the phrase as their own and limited it to their own unique doctrines. Yet, they seem unaware or unconcerned about the source of their label, the reformation itself. Lacking that great Lutheran, one certainly not Calvinist, or his fellow Melanchthon, there could have been no sustained Reformation. Lacking the intellectual strength of men such as James Arminius, Episcopius and others, the evangelical fervor of Christianity might well have extinguished under the burden of a harsh determinism. To that end we give thanks to the LORD for His grace in such matters. Nonetheless, there are cur dogs in our midst who exalt the letter R at the cost of denigrating those who serve the purpose of the cross. Denying any place at the Christian table, these souls have staked a claim upon one label after another not realizing that at the end day such zealotry will choke the life out of them. To their label of Reformed I reply Christian, to the Doctrines of Grace I answer the teachings of Christ. Pray for the zealot who does not know what he speaks of.

There are Christians and I number myself among them that have grown weary of sects whose tongues are unbridled and whose desires are to grow a further schism. I yearn for a Christian ecumenicalism where we speak the same things, the things of our Christian faith. A wise pastor once preached to me an immeasurably valuable lesson. Before there can be revival in the Kingdom of God there must first be a reformation in the house and before there can be a reformation there must be repentance in the body.