Happy Reformation Day!
Things are busy today, but I cannot take my mind off this Reformation Day. It’s a day too important to let pass unmentioned.
Specifically, I am most thinking of the fallout of the Reformation. Often with the Reformation, we think about Luther with hammer in hand, denouncing the false practices of Rome. But what we often fail to remember are the major shifts that were required in the years following such a traumatic event.
What I am talking about was the dawning of a new day of Scriptural study. Sure Calvin and Luther came to understand that justification – a sinner being made right with God – came only through faith and not through any righteous merits or religion on the part of the sinner (Luke 18). But there were many, many more doctrines to hash out.
The Reformers, having been educated with a Roman Catholic background were taught “doctrine” that had been passed down from the church fathers through the centuries which had snowballed into Roman Catholic tradition and dogma. But the Reformation changed all this.
Scripture alone must determine doctrine, and while we take this for granted in Reformed circles today, this point opened up a million questions. Questions of hermeneutics – how we interpret Scripture – had to be defined. What is literal interpretation? How many interpretations of Scripture are allowed? Every doctrine passed down through the centuries now must be tested and tried before a literal interpretation of the biblical text. The study of original texts became vital – Greek and Hebrew became significant objects of study for the church. Trying to take the exegetical conclusions and formulate them into creeds and catechisms became a high priority. Commentators began working through the text and the church began discussing and debating these issues to renounce false doctrines from the past and discover new doctrines largely undiscovered in God’s Word.
For me, when I think of Reformation Day I am most reminded of men who transitioned from the classical Roman Catholic training towards a new avenue of undiscovered and undefined study of God’s Word.
The fall-out of the Reformation lives on today each time a new commentary is published seeking to discover more of God’s Word in its original languages, in the tightening of Creeds and doctrine and in our pursuit of the meaning of God’s Word in a literal interpretation of the text. This is why I celebrate Reformation Day.