During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump claimed to be a Constitutionalist. In other words, he implied a commitment to appoint Supreme Court justices who will interpret the Constitutional according to the original intent of the Founding Fathers.
In order to render such decisions, it necessarily follows that these justices will need to go back and read the writings of the men who formed the United States Constitution. They will also need to read their writings during the American Revolution, as well as various materials that influenced the philosophies of those Founding Fathers. 21st Century jurists, in order to ascertain “original intent,” must do everything they can to understand what the framers of our Constitution meant, as well as why they meant it.
The 16th Century Reformers had pretty much the same attitude of going back to the source documents to understand how the Lord intended His Church to function. Living at the height of the Renaissance, they knew the Latin phrase, Ad Fontes (“to the source”), which had brought a revival of classical art, literature and philosophy to Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. Under this inspiration, and disturbed by Roman Catholic teachings that obviously depended more on Church tradition than on Holy Scripture, the Reformers sought to bring Christendom back to its roots.
As we might expect, the Pope Leo X didn’t exactly view the Reformers favorably. Financially devastated by wars and desirous to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Leo relied on the sale of “indulgences” (the meritorious works of the Virgin Mary and the saints which could reduce someone’s time in Purgatory) as a way to replenish the treasury. Martin Luther famously stood against this practice, charging that it had no Biblical basis.
Moreover, Luther challenged the authority of the papacy, insisting that it did not hold equal weight to Scripture. Worse yet (in Rome’s estimation), he translated the New Testament into German, not from Jerome’s Latin Vulgate (which would have infuriated Rome enough), but from the original Greek.
These Reformers provide an example to 21st Century Christians. In studying them, we learn to value God’s Word. We see the danger of eclipsing it with human traditions, knowing that those traditions will lead men, women and children to eternal hell. In going “to the source,” Martin Luther and the other 16th Century Reformers restored Biblical Christianity to a world that had been blinded by Roman Catholic superstition.
Just as Donald Trump’s judicial appointees will hopefully go back to our Constitution’s original intent, so the Reformers went back to Scripture’s original intent. And, as serious as Supreme Court appointments are, they seem trivial in comparison to the eternal souls of men and women who need to go back to the Source.