Monday, October 16, 2017

Trivializing the Reformation. . .

Lutherans have been accused from the beginning of being papist sympathizers or failing to go far enough in their reform of the Church.  In every age and generation since Luther, faithful Lutherans have been forced to defend themselves and their catholic doctrine and practice.  Already in 1524 Luther mentioned how Karlstadt had chided the Wittenbergers who continued to elevate the host in the consecration as "neo-papists" and "unreasoning asses and horses" and even "kissing cousins of the anti-Christ."  Walther in his own day was forced to defend the old Lutherans whose theology and practice was derided as Romish,  In the days since there has not been a lull in the steady drumbeat of Lutherans unhappy with the catholic voice and ceremony of their own Confessions, much less those outside the fold who find Lutherans "half Catholic." 

As we make our way through the 500th Anniversary of the shot sent around Germany, if not the world, we find Lutherans still struggling over who they are and who they should be.  Wannabe evangelicals and progressive Protestants still do battle with those who claim the title confessional.  In convention, resolutions are passed to affirm the historic doctrine and to encourage the ceremonial that accompanies such faith even though many parishes and pastors continue to ignore them or claim the freedom of adiaphora to do as they please in the name of expediency. 

How foolish and shallow this Reformation must be if the disputes with Rome were merely ceremonial!  How we should repent of the schism and claim the shame of those who would divide the church over merely ritual and ceremony!  The challenge Luther faced as not in small things but in great truth, the article upon which the Church stands or falls.  Whoever makes it a matter of ceremony invents a straw man that demeans Luther and all his cohort and makes a sham out of the claims of the Augustana.  It is as if Lutherans were so arrogant and selfish as to divide the Church over matters of how we practice rather than what we believe, confess, and teach.

We must bear in mind that those who reject catholic ceremonies and rites often are revealing their discomfort with the doctrines these ceremonies and rites confess and in rejecting them have rejected the doctrines as well.  We must also bear in mind that ceremonies and church usages that are in themselves adiaphora become confessional when they are proscribed.  No one would insist that such ceremonies and church usages are required but when they are no longer admitted as beneficial, worthwhile, good, right, and salutary, adiaphora become confessional issues. 

It should be the earnest desire of those who claim the legacy of Luther to use this anniversary to remember the Reformation as the tragic necessity of a church in which were it not for ceremony and liturgy the voice of the Gospel would have been muted entirely.  Luther was a conservative reformer and promoted a reform that preserved what did not conflict with the Gospel.  To many it was a reform that was not reformation enough and to some Lutherans today it represents a tradition they wish to ignore or forget, but to those who take seriously what was once confessed, it is the cause that can never be forgotten.  We dare not trivialize the Reformation by making it merely a matter of appearance, of ceremony, or of rite.  There is meat on the bones of the Reformation and it is not about how the thing looks on the plate.  It is what we confess and it is how that confession is lived out that remains both the core and the scope of the Reformation.  On this anniversary year, we cannot do less than remember this.


Janis Williams said...

Having come through Revivalistic, then Calvinistic beliefs before being led to Lutheranism, it is simple to see the influences of either or both in Lutheran fellowships who want to distance themselves from those who “don’t go far enough” (away from Catholicism). The other side of the coin is our blue jean, tee shirt culture that can’t bear the rigor of anything they perceive makes them uncomfortable physically or mentally. I hear people calling for a new Reformation, which I don’t believe they truly know what they are asking. We must always be reforming; reminding ourselves of the centrality of Christ and His Gospel. What we don’t need is what Luther (and others) were wise enough to see; you don’t burn the house down in order to kill the mice.

James said...

There is a new Reformation slowly taking over American Evangelicalism, and it is called the New Apostolic Reformation. It will take over Calvinism as well. Let us rejoice that such idiocy will completely ruin Protestant Christianity. Chris Rosbrough is already sounding the alarm. At some point, even the most pig-headed, Evangelical-leaning Lutheran will realize the folly of imitating Evangelicals and non-denominational mega-churches. Confessional Lutheran pastors such as Wilken, Fisk, Wolfmueller, and others are standing by waiting to welcome Evangelical-leaning Lutherans and other Christians home.

Anonymous said...

The Papacy is the office that divides Roman Catholics from other
Christians. Popes have declared the existence of purgatory, the
sale of indulgences, forced celibacy on their clergy, money for masses,
papal infallibility, immaculate conception of Mary, the assumption of
Mary, and the list goes on.

Bottom Line: There has been a split between Roman Catholicism and