On October 31st 1517 Anno Domini a comically tonsured German monk, with an attitude and a mallet posted the Medieval equivalent of a snarky blog post on the castle door at Wittenberg. Martin Luther’s 95 Theses voiced irrefragable concerns about doctrine, ecclesiastical abuses, and unbiblical doctrines. The paper was merely intended to spark debate and reform within the Roman Catholic Church.
However, the spark blew a little further than the intramural playground of the Vatican. The white squall of God’s Spirit (with a little help from Guttenberg’s press and a Latin-German dictionary) ignited the hearts of the masses, as the Theses went viral.
Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Melanchthon, Bucer, Farel, and countless others lived and died to leave a legacy of passion and proclamation. They showed that when you love Jesus and his word, you would rather die than keep quiet. If they inspire you, here are…
3 ways to make the Reformers proud today:
1. Read more Bible than blogs
Post Tenebras Lux is Latin for “After Darkness Light” which was the tagline motto of the Reformation. After centuries of spiritual darkness which enshrouded the world in ignorance, the Reformers basked in the illumination which dawned with the Scriptures availability in vernacular languages.
When Luther was exiled, and went into the witness protection program of Fredrick the Wise (cool nickname) at Wartburg Castle, instead of languishing in a pity party of impotence, he redeemed the time by translating the Hebrew OT into German [Actually it was the NT, which he did in 11 weeks, later called the “September Testament” (1522); the OT was tackled in 1534]. One of the hallmarks of Reformers was their desire to get the Bible in the hands of everybody. As biblical translator, William Tyndale, articulated in his impromptu mission statement retort to a Greek-snob, “I defy the Pope and all his laws! In fact, if God spares my life, I intend to make it possible for a common farmer, a plowman, to know more of the Scripture than you do!”
You are standing on the shoulders of the Reformers when you savor the taste of Scripture on your native tongue. Enjoy your English/Spanish/Afrikaans/Zulu Bible. Read it, mull over it, memorize it. I’m a fan of Greek and Hebrew, but a translated Bible is a precious gift of God.
Read the part above the study Bible line with more attention than the comments below. Read more Bible than commentaries.
If you quoted Calvin in a debate on Election, he would slap you. Quote Scripture. If you appealed to Luther to back up pedobaptism, he’d grunt a Germanic expletive at you. Appeal to Scripture. (As a Baptist, my guess is that he’s changed his view on baptism, and his use of coarse language!)
And read more Bible than blogs. Make that a personal rule, “Resolved to not check my RSS feed until I’ve checked in with the God-breathed word.”
Well, not actual Latin. What I mean is that we should be familiar with whatever medium or forum in which doctrine is currently discussed.
Latin was not the lingua franca. It was the medium of the academic elite. Theological debate flowed in Latin. It was one of the ways the Roman Catholic church stopped people thinking for themselves.
Today, there is no way anyone with a modem or smartphone can plead ignorance. To be in the dark today is a matter of negligent stewardship.
If you live in a township in Soweto, you may have an excuse for not having access to sound teaching. But if you are reading this blog post, and still don’t know both sides of the Cessasionist/Continuationist brouhaha, or the Premill/Amill tussle, or the Lordship/FreeGrace debate…it is because you are willfully ignorant (a nicety for ‘stupid on purpose’).
Know who the movers and shakers of Evangelicalism are, read their blogs and books, and listen to their MP3 sermons. Make sure you are not unplugged from the matrix of theological understanding due to laziness. Don’t be the sluggard with his hand in the bowl, too lazy to get the gruel to his lips.
Get familiar with the mediums in which doctrine is discussed today.
Not that many Protestants are really tempted to become a ECT signatory; but there is a sentiment among those whose libraries are light on church history books, to think of Catholics as “not so far off.” (Sorry to bring this up 2 weeks in a row, but it is Reformation Day.)
Please read Vatican II in your spare time. It will bring tears to your eyes as you see how deviant its view is of what our Savior did on the cross (passages that exemplify this are found in last week’s post, see the former link). It will make you love Jesus more, and it will make you run far from Rome on your way to the cross in gratitude for grace by faith alone.
Understand what the Reformers were willing to die for. Read “Five English Reformers” by J. C. Ryle. That will purge the urge to reconcile with Rome. Don’t give up ground for which the Reformers bled.