Category Archives: Reformation Day
The same day he nailed his 95 theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Martin Luther wrote a letter to Cardinal Albrecht, the Archbishop of Mainz (October 31, 1517). In it he writes:
Works of piety and love are infinitely better than indulgences; and yet [the indulgence preachers] do not preach them with an equally big display and effort. What is even worse, [the preachers] are silent about them because they have to preach the sale of the indulgences. The first and only duty of the bishops, however, is to see that the people learn the gospel and the love of Christ. For on no occasion has Christ ordered that indulgences should be preached, but he forcefully commanded the gospel to be preached. What a horror, what a danger for a bishop to permit the loud noise of indulgences among his people, while the gospel is silenced, and to be more concerned with the sale of indulgences than with the gospel! Will not Christ say to [such bishops], “You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel”?
[Source: Luther's Works, vol. 48, page 47.]
When I think of Luther’s dramatic “here I stand” statement before the Diet of Worms in 1521, I think of …
… Roland Bainton’s excellent biography …
[When Luther concluded the statemet he] “threw up his arms in the gesture of a victorious knight, and slipped out of the darkened hall, amid the hisses of the Spainiards, and went to his lodging.” (181)
… Niall MacGinnis’ fired passion (1953) …
… Joseph Fiennes’ quiet resilience (2003) …
Here I Stand (lyrics)
Let my life be a wordsmith, the word is a gift
What I’ve heard made me observe every verb from my lips
When you come from the curbs, where nervous don’t exist
And your heart is just hard to your sin, it did this
You need a reality check, in actuality vexed is God’s person
When what’s out of His neck is treated like strep
To those that respect stand firm even if you squirm
Learn what’s correct, cause your Diet of Worms is next
Here I stand, the Bible in my hand, let my life testify Jesus Christ is a man
And fully God, in the cross it’s fully our declaration, legal justification
Here I stand, the Bible in my hand is God’s word, it’s infallible
Disagreement is laughable. Denying this authority is Scripture hating
Planting my flag, I ask: What is your reformation?
Now every so often a heresy will say
That it killed what we feel, putting nails in the coffin
For real, not an option. They all been contested
And next is Paul, and it’s called the new perspective
So here’s the perspective: It’s some that would say
That justification’s not what we know it today
It should blow you away, what they say is insanity
That justification means a part of God’s family
It doesn’t mean that you righteous despite this
Exegesis that strengthens many believers
It gets deeper and hostile, they say
That the gospel is not about how you are saved!
What a grave mistake that you make when
Righteousness imputed to what you did is fake
It undermines the very nature of truth
That grace has now declared us righteous when we see His face
Now just when you thought it was safe, some depict a negative view of Scriptures
That wrongly pictures God’s Word unreliable, filled with inconsistencies
Though inconsistently brought, it ought not to really be an item
But it’s sad that we gotta fight ‘em, dag what they brag
Affects the word as ad infinitum. Apparently, many find issues with inerrancy
That Scripture makes mistakes, the debate innately tears at the foundation of
Can we trust with our life and observe a word that we not even sure is right?
’Cause it might say something that is wrong is an accusation that is far too strong
What God breathed along through the men that would pen His works
Yeah, there are quirks, but trust in the whole Bible extends the church
Where problems in the Scriptures, search, be a Berean
’Cause the Word that’s infallible, inerrant we believe in
© 2008 Curt “Voice” Allen, posted here by permission of the artist.
My friend David Mathis was reading a bio on Martin Luther and stumbled upon this excerpt from Twelve Reformation Heroes by G. A. Neilson:
I take great joy in knowing (or hoping) that one of my direct ancestors (or someone’s ancestor) was a “chum” of Luther, and helped feed the starving boy. My guess is without this clever Reinke intervention Martin would have starved and the spark of the reformation would have been extinguished.
I’ve never been more proud to be called Reinke! So thank you, David! This excerpt makes my reformation day.
On October 31 many of us will celebrate Reformation Day, an annual reminder of a time when the sharp scalpel of biblical convictions smoothed and refined the church in many of Her priorities, associations, methods, preaching, and ordinances. Not much was left un-reformed during the period and we see this in the abundance of reformed creeds produced during the period.
To commemorate the date, Reformation Heritage Books is preparing to release the first of a three-volume series beginning with the first title, Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation: 1523-1552 edited by James T. Dennison, Jr. (2008). It will be shipping by Reformation Day. In total, the large cloth covered volume contains 33 confessions. Flipping through the volume I’m reminded of the speed with which the flame of reformation spread from country to country and find it difficult to comprehend the tumult of the period.
Some snapshots of the new volume.
The confessions are chronologically organized, and several of them translated into English for the first time. A brief introduction is included for each of the 33 confessions. The first volume includes:
1. The Sixty-Seven Articles of Huldrych Zwingli (1523)
2. Zwingli’s Short Christian Instruction (1523)
3. The Ten Theses of Bern (1528)
4. Confession of the East Friesland Preachers (1528)
5. William Farel’s Summary (1529)
6. Zwingli, Fidei ratio (1530)
7. The Tetrapolitan Confession (1530)
8. Waldensian Confession (1530)
9. Zwingli, Fidei Expositio (1531)
10. The Bern Synod (1532)
11. Waldensian Synod of Chanforan (1532)
12. The Waldensian Confession of Angrogna (1532)
13. The First Confession of Basel (1534)
14. The Bohemian Confession (1535)
15. The Lausanne Articles (1536)
16. The First Helvetic Confession (1536)
17. Calvin’s Catechism (1537)
18. Geneva Confession (1536/37)
19. Calvin’s Catechism (1538)
20. Waldensian Confession of Mérindol (1541)
21. Waldensian Confession of Provence (1543)
22. The Waldensian Confession of Mérindol (1543)
23. The Walloon Confession of Wesel (1544/45)
24. Calvin’s Catechism (1545)
25. Juan Diaz’s Sum of the Christian Religion (1546)
26. Valdés’s Catechism (1549)
27. Consensus Tigurinus (1549)
28. Anglican Catechism (1549)
29. London Confession of John à Lasco (1551)
30. Large Emden Catechism of the Strangers’ Church, London (1551)
31. Vallérandus Poullain: Confession of the Glastonbury Congregation (1551)
32. Rhaetian Confession (1552)
33. Consensus Genevensis: Calvin on Eternal Predestination (1552)
Last night we celebrated Reformation Day with some friends in Minneapolis. A half-eaten “Diet of Worms” still sits on the kitchen counter.
In the days preceding the sacred day, my precious wife took the initiative to chase down the threads for our son and daughter’s costumes. Our son sported a German lederhosen, a monk wig and a copy of the 95 theses in hand (see picture). It’s obvious who he was dressed to be.
Who is she?
Leave your guesses in the comments. The winner can come over and grab a handful of worms.
“… we need to realize that the Reformers saw nothing less than the gospel at stake. We sometimes forget what Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others risked in taking a stand for the gospel. They risked their very lives. Regarding the Reformers’ work as nothing more than sowing seeds of unfortunate division shows both little knowledge of and little respect for what they did. They were human, and they had their faults and shortcomings. They sinned, sometimes greatly. But they also, like the imperfect characters of the Bible, were used greatly by God. In other words, the church should be grateful for the Reformation. And in this age of religious pluralism, theological laxity, and biblical illiteracy, perhaps the Reformation is needed more than ever before.”
- Stephen J. Nichols, The Reformation: How a monk and a mallet changed the world (Crossway: 2007) p. 21
Happy Reformation Day everyone!
What better way to celebrate this sacred day than to listen to Carl Trueman being interviewed by Al Mohler over the question: Is the Reformation Over?
The interview can be heard between the 11:02-19:40 mark.
“In his struggles with penance and confession, he [Martin Luther the monk-scholar] wrestled with Psalm 19:12, ‘Clear thou me from hidden faults’ (ASV). Luther’s problem was never whether his sins were large ones or small ones, but whether in fact he had confessed every single one. What about the sins he could not remember? What about the sins committed in his sleep? Luther anticipated Freud by recognizing a depth-dimension to the human person and by refusing to limit the effects of sin to the conscious mind alone. Such a radical reading of the human situation could only be answered with an even more radical reading of divine grace. …
Luther’s new insight was that the imputation of Christ’s alien righteousness was based, not on the gradual curing of sin, but rather on the complete victory of Christ on a cross. The once-for-allness of justification was emphasized: ‘If you believe, then you have it!’ Nor is there any direct correlation between the state of justification and one’s outward works, as Luther made clear in his sermon on the pharisee and the publican (1521): ‘And the Publican fulfills all the commandments of God on the spot. He was then and there made holy by grace alone. Who could have foreseen that, under this dirty fellow?’
Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith fell like a bombshell on the theological landscape of medieval Catholicism. It shattered the entire theology of merit and indeed the sacramental-penitential basis of the church itself.”
- Timothy George essay on Luther in Reading Romans Through the Centuries: From the Early Church to Karl Barth (Brazos Press: 2005) pp. 115-116.
“I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philipp and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.”
- Martin Luther
“Martin Luther described the doctrine of justification by faith as articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiae — the article of faith that decides whether the church is standing or falling. By this he meant that when this doctrine is understood, believed, and preached, as it was in New Testament times, the church stands in the grace of God and is alive; but where it is neglected, overlaid, or denied, as it was in medieval Catholicism, the church falls from grace and its life drains away, leaving it in a state of darkness and death. The reason why the Reformation happened, and Protestant churches came into being, was that Luther and his fellow Reformers believed that Papal Rome had apostatized from the gospel so completely in this respect that no faithful Christian could with a good conscience continue within her ranks.
… the doctrine of justification by faith is like Atlas: it bears a world on its shoulders, the entire evangelical knowledge of saving grace. The doctrines of election, of effectual calling, regeneration, and repentance, of adoption, of prayer, of the church, the ministry, and the sacraments, have all to be interpreted and understood in the light of justification by faith. Thus, the Bible teaches that God elected men in eternity in order that in due time they might be justified through faith in Christ. He renews their hearts under the Word, and draws them to Christ by effectual calling, in order that he might justify them upon their believing. Their adoption as God’s sons is consequent on their justification; indeed, it is no more than the positive aspect of God’s justifying sentence. Their practice of prayer, of daily repentance, and of good works — their whole life of faith — springs from the knowledge of God’s justifying grace. The church is to be thought of as the congregation of the faithful, the fellowship of justified sinners, and the preaching of the Word and ministry of the sacraments are to be understood as means of grace only in the sense that they are means through which God works the birth and growth of justifying faith. A right view of these things is not possible without a right understanding of justification; so that when justification falls, all true knowledge of the grace of God in human life falls with it, and then, as Luther said, the church itself falls.
A society like the Church of Rome, which is committed by its official creed to pervert the doctrine of justification, has sentenced itself to a distorted understanding of salvation at every point. Nor can these distortions ever be corrected till the Roman doctrine of justification is put right. And something similar happens when Protestants let the thought of justification drop out of their minds: the true knowledge of salvation drops out with it, and cannot be restored till the truth of justification is back in its proper place. When Atlas falls, everything that rested on his shoulders comes crashing down too.
How has it happened, then, we ask, that so vital a doctrine has come to be neglected in the way that it is today?
The answer is not far to seek. Just as Atlas, with his mighty load to carry, could not hover in mid-air, but needed firm ground to stand on, so does the doctrine of justification by faith. It rests on certain basic presuppositions, and cannot continue without them. Just as the church cannot stand without the gospel of justification, so that gospel cannot stand where its presuppositions are not granted. They are three: the divine authority of Holy Scripture, the divine wrath against human sin, and the substitutionary satisfaction of Christ. The church that loses its grip on these truths, loses its grip on the doctrine of justification, and to that extent on the gospel itself. And this is what has largely happened in Protestantism today.”
- J.I. Packer, from an introduction essay in the reprint of James Buchanan’s classic, The Doctrine of Justification (Banner of Truth: 1961 ed.). You can download a PDF version of Buchanan’s complete work (with Packer intro) here. Packer’s essay also appeared more recently in the Collected Shorter Writings of J.I. Packer (Paternoster: 1998), 1:137ff.