Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Reformation

Reformation Sunday and Reformation Day are coming up later this month. I hope that you, your family, and your church will commemorate the Reformation in some manner.

Here's a video that Jeff Halley produced for Reformation Day last year. R.C. Sproul discusses the Reformation in an advertisement for The Reformation Study Bible. See here for his discussion of double imputation. You can listen to accounts of the lives of Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and John Calvin, as told by John Piper, here. See an account of the conversion of Thomas Bilney here. You can watch an overview of the early history of the English Bible here, hosted by the late Ken Connolly.

We have a lot of material relevant to the Reformation in our archives. (Try searching under "Triablogue, [subject]" with Google.) See, for example, Steve Hays' recent defense of sola scriptura, written in response to Philip Blosser. Earlier this year, I wrote a response to Francis Beckwith's reversion to Roman Catholicism, and that article has some material on justification through faith alone and the history of that doctrine.

"The Reformation went back to first principles in order to go forward. It struck its roots deep in the past and bore rich fruits for the future. It sprang forth almost simultaneously from different parts of Europe and was enthusiastically hailed by the leading minds of the age in church and state. No great movement in history - except Christianity itself - was so widely and thoroughly prepared as the Protestant Reformation. The reformatory Councils of Pisa, Constance, and Basel; the conflict of the Emperors with the Popes; the contemplative piety of the mystics with their thirst after direct communion with God; the revival of classical literature; the general intellectual awakening; the biblical studies of Reuchlin, and Erasmus; the rising spirit of national independence; Wiclif, and the Lollards in England; Hus, and the Hussites in Bohemia; John von Goch, John von Wesel, and Johann Wessel in Germany and the Netherlands; Savonarola in Italy; the Brethren of the Common Life, the Waldenses, the Friends of God, - contributed their share towards the great change and paved the way for a new era of Christianity. The innermost life of the church was pressing forward to a new era. There is scarcely a principle or doctrine of the Reformation which was not anticipated and advocated in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Luther made the remark that his opponents might charge him with having borrowed everything from John Wessel if he had known his writings earlier. The fuel was abundant all over Europe, but it required the spark which would set it ablaze. Violent passions, political intrigues, the ambition and avarice of princes, and all sorts of selfish and worldly motives were mixed up with the war against the papacy. But they were at work likewise in the introduction of Christianity among the heathen barbarians. 'Wherever God builds a church, the devil builds a chapel close by.' Human nature is terribly corrupt and leaves its stains on the noblest movements in history. But, after all, the religious leaders of the Reformation, while not free from faults, were men of the purest motives and highest aims, and there is no nation which has not been benefited by the change they introduced....The Reformation was a grand act of emancipation from spiritual tyranny, and a vindication of the sacred rights of conscience in matters of religious belief. Luther's bold stand at the Diet of Worms, in the face of the pope and the emperor, is one of the sublimest events in the history of liberty, and the eloquence of his testimony rings through the centuries. To break the force of the pope, who called himself and was believed to be, the visible vicar of God on earth, and who held in his hands the keys of the kingdom of heaven, required more moral courage than to fight a hundred battles, and it was done by an humble monk in the might of faith. If liberty, both civil and religious, has since made progress, it is due in large measure to the inspiration of that heroic act. But the progress was slow and passed through many obstructions and reactions. 'The mills of God grind slowly, but wonderfully fine.'" (Philip Schaff, in The Master Christian Library [Albany, Oregon: AGES Software, 1998], History Of The Christian Church, Vol. 7, pp. 20-21, 48)

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