When did I stop blogging about the Reformation? More to the point, why did I stop blogging about the Reformation? Over the past few weeks, I’ve had passing thoughts that I really should start addressing the topic again, especially since the 500th anniversary of its inauguration is a little more than a year away. To be honest, however, I’ve felt pretty overwhelmed by all the church history I’ve been learning this year, and I didn’t want to do the heavy lifting required to write on its various aspects.
But the Lord has a way of using different things to nudge me in my blogging, and I believe He gave me a little push this afternoon towards reviving my posts on this topic. Today’s episode of Entreating Favor’s Fire Away podcast, featuring Grant Castleberry talking about Luther and the Reformation, reminded me that the Reformation restored Christianity to its biblical foundation: the Bible. Equally important, it brought the Church back to the Gospel message of justification by faith alone.
Evangelicals in the 20th and 21st Centuries have minimized these two pivotal doctrines, often teaching that Catholicism is a valid form of Christianity. I well remember that summer evening in 1973 when some friends and I attended a mass at a local Carmelite convent, certain that God had saved those nuns because, after all, they spoke in tongues. Although I understood that their veneration of Mary and the saints had no Scriptural basis, I believed Roman Catholicism taught the basic tenets of the Christian faith. Most of my evangelical friends agreed.
In the 90s, several prominent evangelicals and Catholics drew up a document called Evangelicals and Catholics Together. They forged this alliance for the purpose of minimizing doctrinal discrepancies with the claim that both sides hold the same fundamental beliefs. And just last year, evangelical pastor Rick Warren insisted that the two camps “are far more united than divided.”
On January 26, 2016, Pope Francis announced plans to join in celebrations of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary this coming October in Lund, Sweden. In so doing, he implicitly has declared an end to the Reformation. In other words, he now believes that Protestants and Catholics have reached an agreement concerning the doctrine of justification by faith.
Most evangelicals, as well as most Catholics, see nothing wrong with putting the Reformation behind us and embracing unity. This eagerness to bury our theological differences sounds wonderful, but it betrays an ignorance of church history as well as an indifference to doctrinal purity.These lapses must be addressed and corrected by the clear teachings of Scripture rather than swept under the rug.
Bible-believing Christians must not forget the causes of the Reformation. nor must we take its benefits for granted. Martin Luther, John Calvin and the other 16th Century Reformers risked their lives to stand against teachings that the Roman Catholic Church has never renounced. Understanding both the history and the doctrinal positions of the Reformation is essential to maintaining Biblical Christianity.
Therefore, I will once again start blogging about the Reformation, bearing in mind that I’m more interested in history than accomplished in it. Despite my deficits, I pray that my posts will inspire you to study church history and consequently understand why we can’t unite with Rome unless she repents and embraces the Bible as her only authority. Yes, I feel completely overwhelmed, but I’m completely certain that I must blog on this immensely important topic.