Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reformation Day!

Here I stand -- in front of the door of
the Castle Church, Wittenberg.

Today, Lutherans recognize and celebrate the Lutheran Reformation.  October 31, 1517 is the day on which Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, inviting professors and theologians to debate the abuse of the sale of indulgences.

There are many who wonder if Luther's actions were truly beneficial.  After all, the Christian Church is much more fractured now than she was in 1517.  False teachings and alternative interpretations of Scripture abound.  Was it worth it?

For a brief answer, I borrow (okay, shamelessly copy) from Dr. Gene Veith and his blog, Cranach: The Blog of Veith. (Go visit there, frequently.  It is reguarly interesting.)

...the posting of the theses did not shatter the universal church.  Luther was reforming the church, and it needed reforming.  Financial corruption (the sale of church offices, the indulgence and relic trade, profiting from Christians terrified of purgatory), sexual immorality (popes with illegitimate children whom they named bishops, brothels for priests, the notion that fornication is better than marriage for clergy under vows of celibacy), and political power (popes with armies waging war against other countries, popes claiming temporal power over lawful earthly authorities).  Even worse, the gospel of Christ was obscured in favor of an elaborate system of salvation by works.  To be sure, the medieval church taught Christ’s atonement on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins, but in practice that was relegated to baptism only.  After baptism, Christians had to atone for their own sins in a complex penitential system, requiring the confession of each sin, works of penance, and even after absolution the punishment of those sins after death in purgatory (unless an indulgence was purchased or rewarded).

The issue of the Reformation was always the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the free and clear proclamation of that Gospel.  Luther had no patience for anything that distracted from or distorted the Gospel.  He blasted away at those who opposed its preaching.  We are, perhaps, much more timid today that Luther was.  This is to our shame.  Granted, we will not be considered tolerant, open-minded, or even nice if we take a bold stand on the Gospel and expose and condemn all teachings that distort it.  But, like Luther, our goal is not to promote ourselves or to gain popularity.  It is to be faithful to Jesus Christ and his word.  It is all that matters, because it is all that saves.

The work of the Reformation is not done.  False teachings still arise.  The Church is still attacked.  Christians still become tired from the battle, deceived by fine-sounding arguments, and apathetic to the Gospel.  The word of God is the only solution to any of this.  Some will despise it.  Others will cherish it.  But the Church will not perish.  God will not forsake us.  And even if our Christian faith costs us our reputations, our freedom, our families, or our very lives (that is, "Take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife...."), we have truly lost nothing.  The Lord still reigns, and the kingdom is ours forever.