Monday, 31 October 2011

Reform Begins- the monk & the mallot

Happy Reformation Day! On October 31 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the church door in Wittenberg. Its focus was on the teaching that led to the sale of indulgences, but behind the 95 points Luther made, lay a handful of convictions which would later become great slogans of the Reformation; Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria.

Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)

Few in the Roman Catholic Church of Luther’s day would have suggested that the Bible was unimportant or irrelevant, however neither did it hold the place of ultimate authority. To suggest that the Bible alone served as that supreme authority was in turn to challenge the authority of the pope and the church. If Luther was right, their teachings and traditions would have to be tested against Scripture. Nailing his thesis to the church door would eventually lead Luther to stand before the diet of Worms (diet as in council and Worms as in the place- nothing to do with eating wee beasties) 4 years later and famously state:

Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.

For his own safety he was seized and locked away in a castle where he devoted himself to translating the Bible into German, that ordinary people might encounter this authoritative God-breathed Word.

The Church has changed much in 500 years, yet there is nothing new under the sun. This question of authority is as pertinent as ever. No one in evangelicalism would deny that the Bible is important, few would explicitly state it to be a subordinate authority (including, I would hope, Baptists- more on that soon) but when it comes to the crunch I’m not sure that we would all take our stand like Luther. We fear sounding outdated if we question the wisdom of our secular culture, or looking unloving if we challenge false teaching in the church, or missing out on some perceived happiness that we think could be ours if we sidestep the Bible’s authority over our own thoughts feelings and desires.

Have a listen to some contemporary Christian preaching, a read of some contemporary Christian books, consider carefully the role they give to Scripture and come to your own conclusion as to whether my assessment is overly pessimistic or not! Is Scripture the final authority or is that privileged position reserved for the speaker’s experience or the hearer’s demands?

Then examine your own reading of Scripture and the role it plays in your life. Is it your final authority, or are you?

Take-in!  ‘If our Bibles remain sitting on our shelves and studied only by academics, they might as well have remained in Latin and chained to pulpits
(Burk Parsons) 

Live-out!  'Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.'
(James 1:22)

 Grow-up!  'Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked... his delight is in the law of the LORD,
    and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season  and whose leaf does not wither.'
(Psalm 1:1-3)

 This first ‘sola’ essentially laid the foundation for the remaining 4 (not to mention the Reformation itself) tomorrow I’ll reflect a little further on them.

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