Monday, October 16, 2017
Trivializing the Reformation. . .
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.