Fresh from two weeks in the wilds of Idaho, it feels good to get back in the blog posting saddle again. The church calendar constrains me. October 27 is Reformation Sunday. Every last Sunday of the month of October we at Orlando Grace, along with most churches in the Reformed tradition, mark the anniversary of the official start of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his church-shaking Ninety-Five Theses on the the door of the Wittenburg church, catalyzing a tectonic shift in Western Christianity.
I’m not sure I can improve on last year’s post to this end by a fellow officer of mine. However, I do feel certain things need to be said, if only by repetition. The question to observe or not to observe Reformation Sunday for this pastor is a no brainer. Yes, a thousand times yes. Although I must admit for years as a pastor, I failed to do so. I credit a former associate of mine, now turned jeweler, for opening my eyes on that score. Thank you, young squire. I miss you.
Orthodox Christians of the 21st century stand on the shoulders of giants who have gone before us. None matter more than the Reformers in one respect for what they recovered for the church laboring under the legalism and apostasy of Roman Christianity. As captured in the first of the solas, sola Scriptura, the Reformation saw a return to the ultimate source of authority over the church – the inspired, inerrant word of God (2 Tim. 3:16). Thanks to Luther, Calvin, Zwingly and the rest, no longer do we look to creeds, confessions or tradition for the source of truth guiding God’s people. Scripture sets the standard. Creeds and confession have enormous value, even as OGC subscribes to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, but only as they accurately reflects the Word of God.
As captured in the additional solas – sola gracia, sola fide, sola Christus, and sola deo gloria, the reformation accomplished a recovery of the gospel that is rightly grasped and proclaimed only as salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone. Hence my sermon text for this Sunday – Ephesians 2:7-10 and title – Eternity’s Glorious Display. God will forever put on display the wonders of His grace precisely because the nature of the redeemed’s salvation is by grace alone, not a result of works, lest anyone should boast.
One final thought why we ought to observe Reformation Sunday. Because we need a modern day Reformation. I first became convinced of this by reading David Wells provocative book No Place for Truth: Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology. Lately I have been reinforced in my determination that the same need exists more than ever by reading Ross Douthat’s helpful assessment of the American religious landscape Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. Douthat chronicles the demise of orthodox Christianity over several decades into a panoply of false teachings and heresies that make one’s hair stand on end. In his concluding thoughts, he notes historical evidence including within America’s journey when it looked like all was lost for true religion when the opposite actually occurred. He offers this hope with the help of G. K. Chesterton:
In each of these cases , an age of crisis was swiftly followed by an era of renewal, in which forces threatening the faith either receded or were discredited and Christianity itself revived. Time and again, Chesterton noted, “the faith has to all appearance gone to the dogs.” But each time, “it was the dog that died.”
Yes, we should observe Reformation Sunday. May we celebrate what the Reformers recovered and hope the heterodox dogs of the day die once again.