Wednesday, October 31, 2018

We made it. . .

We made it through the anniversary year.  It was the 500th anniversary of 1517 to 2017 -- since we are not sure about the accuracy of the nail pounding in the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church it is an anniversary without a specific starting point.  And, I suppose, the same could be said about its ending point.  Nevertheless, we have made it through a year of beating our chests and parading about our pride at being Lutheran.  For what it is worth, I am not at all suggesting we should have ignored this anniversary nor am I saying that we should not have a little pride of place as Luther's heirs.  But this was not so much the start of the Reformation as June 25, 1530, might be, with its formal presentation of the Augsburg Confession that has binding doctrinal force (at least in theory) among nearly all Lutherans.  Yet the Reformation spark that burned into a great flame began inauspiciously enough with some words of challenge on a paper by a monk not yet Lutheran and sent to an Archbishop who had no inkling of what this would turn into.  So 1517 is appropriately enough a good date to begin with. . . even if the end is not yet in sight.

We had a display of pictures and prints, a Lutheran timeline, a framed page from a Luther Bible published pretty close to Luther's time, and a host of other memorabilia.  We worked our way through everything in the Confessions except the Formula of Concord (that is to come shortly) and sang our way through Lutheran chorales.  For some it was a joy and for others it was a relief when it all came to a close.  But it remains an open question -- this thing called the Reformation.  It is not over yet and still there are Lutherans who want to be even more Lutheran (along with those who would prefer not to be reminded about such inconvenient truths as confession and catechism).  But the Reformation was never merely an event, it was and is a movement.  Maybe it is too little to claim that the Reformation is a reform movement within the church catholic or perhaps it is too much but Luther would surely think something was amiss if we made it into something that came and went in the past.  The Church is always being reformed.  Maybe not by a single force of nature like Luther but by the faithful who call with the Gospel and the faithful who hear and heed this call.  She is inhabited by sinful men (and women) and for this she must constantly be in a state of reform.  The devil's work will come to a close but he is still feverishly vexing the Church and creating reasons to acknowledge God's work of cleansing.  So I would posture a guess that God is not yet finished with Luther's heirs.  No should He be!

As you munch on your Halloween candy tonight, it would be good for you to ponder on the circumstances that surrounded the need for reform and renewal then and whether our own age and time is ripe for the same thing.  And then pray that those in our generation who hear and heed the call to reform will not squander the legacy nor fail to live up to the challenge of the future.


Anonymous said...

I was one of those who was persuaded to think that the "posting" was apocryphal, but then ... I read Aland's study of the event and the document. He believes it happened. What really pushed me well over the edge to accepting it actually happened was "Brand Luther" in which I learned that Luther was known to have posted his debating points before on the University's "bulletin board" ... the Castle Church door. The University's largest lecture hall was in the Castle complex. And then finally the recollections of those later explaining how it happened. Plus too, the rapidity with which they theses were printed in Germany indicates that the theses were taken from the door and translated ASAP and put out, etc. I think the weight of the evidence at this point is on the side of "he did post them."


Anonymous said...

There was no reformation but a revolution. It is completer lunacy to even consider that this event was good for the Body of Christ. All it did was to foster further fracturing of the Church. Luther is not a hero but a villain. He was defined by his hubris not humility. His teachings were novel not from of old. And his doctrine of faith alone, through grace alone, scripture alone are not even scriptural and were not taught by the Early Church Fathers, let alone Christ. So there is really nothing to celebrate about this cantankerous individual and the mess he caused in the Church.

Anonymous said...

A villan for those who believe in paper unity in which the Gospel remained hidden, corruption among the clergy was unchallenged, papal excesses could wait until whenever to be addressed, and the gifts of God in the Sacraments could be turned into laws required instead of grace offered.

If you think Luther caused a mess, I suppose that means you think that Alexander VI and the Borgias were saints.

Carl Vehse said...

There was indeed a Reformation of the visible church in Germany and other areas of Europe that eventually spread throughout the world. Sadly the Romanist church continued in its heresies, lunacies, and obedience to the Antichrist, the pope. As indicated by C.F.W. Walther, prior to the Reformation and the development of what became known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church, there was no true visible church in the world.

The refusal of the Antichrist and his minions to reform and the persecution of Lutherans was to be expected, as Martin Luther noted in his Bondage of the Will: "The world and its god cannot and will not endure the Word of the true God, and the true God neither will nor can keep silence; so when these two Gods are at war with one another, what can there be but tumult in the whole world?"

To the visible church Martin Luther restored the Scriptural doctrine of the Gospel and Objective Justification that had been hidden and perverted in the Roman church with works righteousness, mariolotry, sacerdotalism, purgatory, indulgences, etc., etc.

This restored Scriptural doctrine was that of the teachings of Christ, the Apostles and the early church - Scripture alone, Faith alone, through Grace alone.

Even 500 years later, the true doctrine which Luther restored to the Evangelical Lutheran Church continues to be attacked by Romanists and others that have distorted Scripture with their own rationalistic, pietistic, or worldly distortions.

Christians, especially Lutherans, should indeed celebrate the Reformation and redouble their efforts to stand firm and continue to assert the true Christian doctrine restored during the Reformation. As Luther noted, "Let skeptics and academics keep well away from us Christians but let there be among us asserters twice as unyielding as the stoics themselves."

Anonymous said...

"As indicated by C.F.W. Walther, prior to the Reformation and the development of what became known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church, there was no true visible church in the world."

Please provide this quote and cite the source.

Carl Vehse said...

It is C.F.W. Walther's Thesis IX, in his The Evangelical Lutheran Church the True Visible Church of God on Earth:

"THESIS IX - Though according to the divine promises it is not possible for the one holy Christian Church ever to perish, it is yet possible, and at times it has really happened, that there did not exist a true VISIBLE Church in the absolute sense, in which through an uncorrupted public ministry the preaching of the pure Word of God and the administration of the unadulterated Sacraments held sway."

The translation by Wm Dallmann is taken from Walther and the Church by Dau, Engelder, Dallmann (Concordia Publishing House, 1938)

Walther's book, Die Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche: die wahre sichtbare Kirche Gottes auf Erden, (pp. 47-50) contains the thesis and supporting text in German.

CPH published an English translation, The True Visible Church and The Form of a Christian Congregation (trans. J.T. Mueller, 1961).

Anonymous said... have proven your claim about what Walther said is untrue.

Carl Vehse said...

No. You're just being silly.

Anonymous said...

Ah the Borgias! I guess you have one up on us now right? It would be unimaginable that today, any informed Catholic would defend the Borgias. It would also be unimaginable for said Catholic to deny the abuses that were going on at the tine of Luther's revolt. However even though many bad popes, bishop and priests have come and gone the Deposit of the Faith has remained intact because our Lord assured us that the gates of hell would not prevail.

Luther's revolt did not go the way he wanted as sure enough, along came Calvin, then Zwingli, then the Anabaptists all claiming the Bible as their sole rule of faith yet couldn't agree with each other let alone Luther.

Luther did not anticipate the chaos his revolt created the result being that today we have denominations in the tens of thousands that do not agree with each other. Some say that there is no trinity, some say that Jesus is not God Incarnate, some say that only 144,000 will rule in heaven at the consummation of the world. Some are even saying that Jesus (God forgive them) was really a homosexual. Seriously? No, there was no true "reformation" begun by Luther. Only chaos and it's getting worse as his errors and heresy have crept into the Catholic Church. But, in the end, the gates of hell will not prevail.

Carl Vehse said...

Walther points out the distinction between visible churches, such as the true visible church (i.e. the Evangelical Lutheran Church), and the one holy Chirstian Church (the invisible Church), when he states:

"Therefore the assumption that the true visible church having the pure confession and an uncorrupt public ministry is the one holy Christian church to which has been given the promise of uninterrupted existence, outside of which there is no life and no salvation, is devoid of all Scriptural proof."

And from the Apology of Augsburg Confession, Articles VII/VIII. 9-11:

"9] And this article has been presented for a necessary reason. [The article of the Church Catholic or Universal, which is gathered together from every nation under the sun, is very comforting and highly necessary.] We see the infinite dangers which threaten the destruction of the Church. In the Church itself, infinite is the multitude of the wicked who oppress it [despise, bitterly hate, and most violently persecute the Word, as, e.g., the Turks, Mohammedans, other tyrants, heretics, etc. For this reason the true teaching and the Church are often so utterly suppressed and disappear, as if there were no Church, which has happened under the papacy; it often seems that the Church has completely perished]. Therefore, in order that we may not despair, but may know that the Church will nevertheless remain [until the end of the world], likewise that we may know that, however great the multitude of the wicked is, yet the Church [which is Christ's bride] exists, and that Christ affords those gifts which He has promised to the Church, to forgive sins, to hear prayer, to give the Holy Ghost, this article in the Creed presents us these consolations. 10] And it says Church Catholic, in order that we may not understand the Church to be an outward government of certain nations [that the Church is like any other external polity, bound to this or that land, kingdom, or nation, as the Pope of Rome will say], but rather men scattered throughout the whole world [here and there in the world, from the rising to the setting of the sun], who agree concerning the Gospel, and have the same Christ, the same Holy Ghost, and the same Sacraments, whether they have the same 11] or different human traditions."

David Gray said...

"Luther's revolt did not go the way he wanted as sure enough, along came Calvin, then Zwingli"

Anyone who writes this knows basically nothing about the Reformation.