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Reformation Day Symposium
October 31, 2006
Today is Reformation Day, the day we celebrate the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. October 31 stands as the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. Luther, when he did this, surely had no apprehension of just how significant an event this would be. And yet this act now stands as a defining moment in history, a moment which marked a point of no return. With the luxury of hindsight we can see that Luther was now committed to Reformation. There would be no turning back. The true church would rise from the false, the gospel would finally shine forth once more.
Protestantism is not a doctrine or a dogma. It is not a nation or an organization. Protestantism is a principle. J.A. Wylie says the following:
The History of Protestantism … is no mere history of dogmas. The teachings of Christ are the seeds; the modern Christendom, with its new life, is the goodly tree which has sprung from them. We shall speak of the seed and then of the tree, so small at its beginning, but destined one day to cover the earth.
Viewed thus – and any narrower view would be untrue alike to philosophy and to fact – the History of Protestantism is the record of one of the grandest dramas of all time. It is true, no doubt, that Protestantism, strictly viewed, is simply a principle. It is not a policy. It is not an empire, having its fleets and armies, its officers and tribunals, wherewith to extend its dominion and make its authority be obeyed. It is not even a Church with its hierarchies, and synods and edicts; it is simply a principle. But it is the greatest of all principles. It is a creative power. Its plastic influence is all-embracing. It penetrates into the heart and renews the individual. It goes down to the depths and, by its omnipotent but noiseless energy, vivifies and regenerates society. It thus becomes the creator of all that is true, and lovely, and great; the founder of free kingdoms, and the mother of pure churches. The globe itself it claims as a stage not too wide for the manifestation of its beneficent action; and the whole domain of terrestrial affairs it deems a sphere not too vast to fill with its spirit, and rule by its law.
Protestantism is not solely the outcome of human progress; it is no mere principle of perfectibility inherent in humanity, and ranking as one of its native powers, in virtue of which when society becomes corrupt it can purify itself, and when it is arrested in its course by some external force, or stops from exhaustion, it can recruit its energies and set forward anew on its path. It is neither the product of the individual reason, nor the result of the joint thought and energies of the species. Protestantism is a principle which has its origin outside human society: it is a Divine graft on the intellectual and moral nature of man, whereby new vitalities and forces are introduced into it, and the human stem yields henceforth a nobler fruit. It is the descent of a heaven-born influence which allies itself with all the instincts and powers of the individual, with all the laws and cravings of society, and which, quickening both the individual and the social being into a new life, and directing their efforts to nobler objects, permits the highest development of which humanity is capable, and the fullest possible accomplishment of all its grand ends. In a word, Protestantism is revived Christianity.
Today I dedicate space on this site to this Protestant principle—to revived Christianity. I have invited anyone with a blog to send a link to their Reformation Day reflections and have compiled those links here. I will add more articles to the list as they become available. I hope and pray they will be a blessing to all of us.
Don Elborne, who lives in the area destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, writes about “Sola Fida and the Storm.”
At Wyclif.net they discuss how “Hugh Latimer and his colleague Nicholas Ridley received the grace to seal their testimony of God with the blood of martyrdom.”
Aspiring PolyMathis has a multi-part series dealing with the Reformation’s impact on the world.
The discussion at SixSteps deals with the Reformation and Harmartiology. “If you are a Christian and know very little about the Reformation, I encourage you to read up on this pivotal moment in church history.”
From Ray Van Neste come the words of that beautiful hymn, “For All the Saints.”
Against Heresies discusses (what else?) Luther on heresy. “Martin Luther was charged with heresy for his new found view of justification by faith alone. He was urged to recant but refused. After the Diet of Worms in 1521, Charles V issued a letter referring to Luther as ‘that notorious heretic.’”
Tony Reinke was unable to take his mind off Reformation Day yesterday, so contributed a short post.
Nick Srader points out that, even on the day we celebrate as the first Reformation Day, “the greatest Reformation Day in Luther’s life hadn’t taken place yet.”
Fundy Reformed discusses Ulrich Zwingli under the heading of “Reformation Day and Unity.”
Alex Chediak points in the direction of a new book that is relevant to the theology of the Reformation.
Carolyn McCulley looks forward as well as backing, saying her “celebration of Reformation Day is not a look back in history, but rather a celebration of a growing reformation taking place in this generation.”
Updates at 1:30 PM EST
Luke Wood asks “As someone who has only recently come to an awareness of Reformation Day itself, I have been asking the question “why should I celebrate it?” (at the same time as being thankful for a natural diversion from the utter pointlessness of Halloween).”
Rebecca of Rebecca Writes fame marks the day by “posting a reflection on one of the slogans of the Reformation: Solus Christus, or by Christ alone.”
Travis says “Happy Reformation Day, World.” “How much has the Reformation affected my life? Probably more than I’ll ever know. This is because the Reformation was not about politics or power. It was about the gospel. It was about truth.”
At This Fire and the Rose, Nigel breaks out into a humorous song sung to the tune of “Supercalifragilistic-expialidocious.”
When I was just ein junger Mann I studied canon law
While Erfurt was a challenge, it was just to please my Pa.
Then came the storm, the lightning struck, I called upon Saint Anne,
I shaved my head, I took my vows, an Augustinian!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!
Jason Furtak says “Today, Reformation Day, is an opportunity for every Christian to reflect on his or her foundational and core beliefs.”
Heather, following a theme that seems to be appearing more and more, asks “How is that after twelve years of Christian education, thirteen if you want to count kindergarten, I managed to never remember hearing anything about this historical holiday?”
Ed Goode says “Martin’s gone to change the world” and provides “some reasons why i believe that the Reformation is not only still boneshakingly important today, but also why i believe it is the second most significant moment in history not recorded in Scripture.”
Chris Hamer-Hodges. "This revival, for revival it was, was not so much a revival of power, but of truth. Revealing the eternal truth in God's word is just as much the activity of the Spirit of God as the manifestations of power."
At I See Daylight, Frank shares why he fights for the gospel.
Paul Huxley wonders "Do we need a reformation today similar to those of Zephaniah and Luther?"
Peter Bogert says that "teaching through the five Solas of the Reformation last year made me realize several things afresh, and these have continued to motivate my ministry this year."
Mark Horne writes "What Hath Madonna to do with Geneva? Thoughts for Reformation Day."
Ligonier Ministries is offering Max McLean's recording of Martin Luther's "Here I Stand" speech on their web site. It includes both the speech and a historical setting and is well worth the 26-minute commitment. You can access it by visiting ligonier.org and clicking the Audio button, or by clicking here for a direct link.
Thabiti Anyabwile reflects on the meaning of Reformation Day for an African American ministering in a small, international Caribbean island: "If there had been no recovery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ--the grand promise of justification in the sight of God by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone--I and most African-Americans and Caribbean peoples would likely be utterly and eternally lost today...The greatest miracle of the Reformation is that enslaved Africans heard, above the din of rattling chains and the back-slashing crack of whips, the free Gospel call at the hands of slave traders and many less-than-heroic gospel preachers in the plantation south. That untutored Africans, imprisoned in a foreign land and surrounded by hostile wilderness, heard with clarity the learned oracles of Christ, were spiritually set free, and found the glorious banks of Zion is astounding!"
Thomas from Doctrine Matters discusses Reformation principles and the importance of the day. "On Reformation Day, may we all (as we should) glorify God for what He accomplished in 16th century Germany through Martin Luther and the other reformers - the recovery of the gospel of salvation by grace through faith for Christ's sake."
Carla Rolfe wonders what would happen if we had a second Reformation. "The more I thought about praying for another reformation, the more I wondered what that would really look like? While it's easy to say 'we need another reformation', it's a completely different matter to find yourself on your knees earnestly petitioning our Heavenly Father for it in our homes, churches, cities and countries."
Andrew Hong asks what the Reformation principle of sola scriptura has to do with contemporary Chinese churches. "Chinese culture has a great love for the past. In contrast to the Western worldview which looks forward and values new things, Chinese culture looks back and values old things. And so tradition is greatly prized in Chinese culture. While the Chinese have travelled to many lands and set up restaurants everywhere, adapting themselves superficially to many foreign places, their culture and traditions do not change very much." He offers up a couple of subsequent articles on the same theme.
Anthony at Justified Sinner encourages Christians to follow the example of Martin Luther and love boldly. "In reflection of this historical event and its many implications, I often find myself musing over a couple of matters: my personal straying from the gospel of Christ; and the need for boldness in speaking and living the truth, notwithstanding the risk of controversy or division."
Jeff, who writes at Spiritual Kung Fu (he'd surely win if the prize went to the most unique blog name) prepared a short video tribute entitled "Fathers of the Reformation."
Steve Weaver posted the text of a sermon he preached on Reformation Sunday. He examines the "Reformation slogan of 'Grace Alone' by looking at the past, present and future of believers in Ephesians 2:1-10. It is all of God's grace that He has made us members of this wonderful body called the church. We who were dead in trespasses and sins have been made alive through Christ in order that we might forever show God's greatness! God's purpose for us in this world is that we show forth His greatness to all of creation. Therefore, salvation does not rest upon human merit, but upon the grace of God alone."
John Samson asks if the Holy Spirit has moved on since the Reformation. "I don't believe the Holy Spirit has moved on from the central truths of the Reformation. In fact, I believe He is calling His Church back to the proclamation of these doctrines that once shook the world."
C.R. Biggs discusses "Reformed Righteousness." He exhorts Christians to remember the Reformation: "Look to Christ and discover anew the Reformation of the 16th Century in your own heart of hearts. Remember the vital importance of Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone, to the glory of God alone!"
John Divito posts half of a project recently completed for his Systematic Theology III class dealing with the difference between Roman Catholicism and Martin Luther on the doctrine of justification.
Josh Rives looks at the Prequel to the Reformation claiming rightly that "John Wycliffe and John Huss set the stage for the cultural shift known as the Protestant Reformation."
From Kim from Hiraeth who "read quite a bit yesterday about Luther and the 95 Theses and the Reformation and was struck yet again with an awesome awareness of God's providential Hand in the affairs of men."
Steve Adkins reflects on the recent death of his mother. "The disease of sin ravaged her, even to her end. She had no savior. Her hope lived with man" and ties this personal tragedy into Reformation Day.
Cap Stewart adds a mock news story to the mix. "Halloween is upon us again and 13-year-old Knoxville native Martin Erasmus Hinn is in turmoil."
Brad Smith who blogs at Godsong Music uses Reformation Day as an opportunity to draw people's attention to the writings of John Owen, especially as "modernized" by Justin Taylor and Kelly Kapic.
J.D. Wetterling finally takes a day off and realizes that “what rocks my skull the most on this Reformation Day entered not through my ears but through my eyes in one of my long-time favorite daily devotional readings in the midst of all this sensory overload.”
The ladies of titus2talk write about Katie Luther: a Proverbs 31 woman. “This October 31st, when so many others are celebrating Halloween, let’s thank God for the legacy of the Reformation and for the example that Katie Luther is to Christian women nearly 500 years later.”
Dave, who blogs at The Blue Fish Project looks at the Old Testament and concludes “Whilst we are moored much more tightly we too can drift just like Israel and we must be always reforming. Not for reformation’s sake but that we would stay close to Jesus.”
Joel Tuininga says that the “doctrine of predestination is not at all unique to Calvinism. It was clearly taught by both Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, the greatest theologians claimed by the Roman Catholic Church.” He goes on to show that the Reformation was not about predestination but about justification by faith alone.
Keith of The Schooley Files reflects on the successes and failures of the Reformation, bemoaning the lack of unity in the church after the Reformation. Perhaps overstating things he writes, “The great failure of the Reformation was simply that it didn’t actually reform anything. It created something new, in which people who believed something different could have a place to exercise that belief. But it didn’t create the opportunity for people who have differing doctrinal convictions to be able to work through those convictions, perhaps come to a mediating position, and perhaps find unity and continue to worship together.”
The Legacy of the Reformation (access to the Bible) is Eddie Beal’s topic. “But if there is going to be a new Reformation, we are going to have to be more passionate about the Bible than we are about football. or Oprah. or even the internet.”
Brian at Voice of the Sheep offers some “Reformation Day Reflections. “I must say that I am in awe of what one little Augustinian monk could do against an all-powerful church and empire with only one thing on his side: the TRUTH.”
Stepping Heavenward wishes everyone a Happy Reformation Day and offers a hymn appropriate to the day.
From the White Horse Inn comes a Google fight between Cramner and Tyndale.
Eternally Significant the blog of Fellowship Bible Church, writes about climbing the uneven steps of the church tower at Wittenberg. “Luther knew about climbing uneven steps. He realized eventually from God’s Word that the higher you get climbing the spiritual steps of works and ritual, the more dangerous it becomes. Luther quit climbing. He started trusting. We need not climb either.”
Phillip Way offers “Always Reforming - Selected Scriptures.”
The Aspiring Theologian offers some “Reformation Reflections.” “On October 31st, when others are thinking about demons, witches, and ghouls on a holiday that has origins in the Roman Catholic church, turn your thoughts to the Reformation. Turn your thoughts to the day, hundreds of years ago on October 31st, when a monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 theses on the doors of the church in Wittenberg.”
Candy in Sierra writes about the printing press, which she calls “The Mechanical Engine of the Reformation.” “Present day. We are rapidly descending into a new abyss of image based experiences in the Church at the expense of the written word. Video images, song and dance, feel-good messages and little study of the Word of God has taken over the Church. We desperately need a new Reformation.”
John Kivell guest posts at New Lumps. “How marvellous is God’s plan of salvation - a plan that could have been written by no human hand or imagined by no human intellect. How wonderful is this truth, even if it may seem to from time to time have been forgotten; buried in the mists of time, or tradition, or fashion, or ignored in favour of some formula of human invention that transfers sovereignty from God to man.”
A Woman Who Fears The Lord ponders the doctrine of justification by faith alone and says “In a way, we would sometimes prefer if it was the other way round. It somehow seems fairer that way. Good people do more and get more. I have one Muslim friend whose biggest objection to Christianity is that it doesn’t depend on what you do and that it doesn’t seem fair that ‘all you need to do is believe in Jesus.’”
From Sweet Tea & Theology comes more Reformation Day Reflections. “The struggle today is similar to that of Luther’s day in that it is internal though not necessarily against Rome. Oh, there is still a battle with Rome, but few people in the pews even know the difference between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. The battle is so far off the radar and in some areas truly is non-existent so no one notices.”
Rey from The Bible Archive also reflects, writing about some of the dark days of the Reformation. “It’s easy to forget through the tinted glass of time and prosperity and unfortunately its something that we believers can get into right now, today—tearing down our brothers and sisters with our tongues instead of swords, devouring each other in our disagreements and in some cases outright condemning believers as anathema.”
At Under Sovereign Grace Mathew Sims recaps the significance of the day and asks “Why Celebrate Reformation Day?”
John Dekker states “a significant aspect of the Reformation was the recovery of the Biblical view of sainthood - as Paul indicates in Ephesians 1:1, every true Christian is a saint.”
Eternal Weight of Glory offers a Reformation Day podcast in the latest entry in “On the Poddy with Dave & Dan.”
Brent at Colossians Three Sixteen writes about “The Doctrine Heard ‘Round the World.” “In light of today being Reformation Day, I want to briefly examine the lasting effects that the Protestant Reformation has had on Christianity as we know it.”
Vine and Fig seems to think that the Roman Catholic Church has responded better to Reformation than have the Protestant churches.
Such Small Hands offers “Reformation Day: The Greatest Treasure.” “Instead of being puffed up, I hope that remembering the Reformation humbles us today. I pray that we grow in our appreciation of God’s grace toward us. And that we treat the Gospel as the treasure that it is. Even though we are just simple jars of clay, may our awareness of God’s grace be a powerful witness to those around us.”
Annette of Fish and Cans looks at both Reformation Day and Halloween and mentions her stance on these days.
Paul Shirley discusses the light in the darkness. “In today’s culture there is a darkness that pervades the day. It is a darkness that stems from a lack of moral clarity, a lack of biblical knowledge, and an overall distain for the Creator. The darkness, which is indisputably heavy, seems to be overwhelming at times. One wonders how the Church can possibly deal with this darkness.”
William Dicks says the church needs Reformation again. “In this day and age we do not only need one Martin Luther. We need hundreds. Also of Calvin and Zwingli and other Reformers. We need someone to stand on the pinnacle of the church’s ‘rooftop’ and cry for reformation in the church.”
Darryl Dash asks “What will we nail to the door today?”