Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Reformation Day

Today, October 31, is Reformation Day. It's also Halloween, but I'll ignore that in this post.

Reformation Day is when we remember the Protestant reformation of the 1500's, when Martin Luther and others discovered and taught that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Recently I went to a Roman Catholic church for the funeral of a friend. As we entered, the organist was playing standard Protestant hymns, such as "Amazing Grace." Then, when it was time to begin, the choir director stood up and told us that "Catholic worship is by its nature participatory." Every song was sung either by the congregation as a whole or responsively between choir and congregation or between soloist and congregation. In the music, the words (all in English) were obviously more important than the beat. Many of the words were paraphrases of scripture. The dead man's children read passages of scripture aloud (one was from one of the books that's accepted by Catholics but not by Protestants). The service was still Catholic in theology, but in the entire service, the virgin Mary was mentioned only once. The presumption seemed to be that our departed friend was in heaven through the merits of Jesus, though the service did include prayers for the man who'd died.

In so many ways, that was a "reformed" worship service: common-language, participatory, emphasis on the merits of Jesus, scripture read, filled with hope. The reformation has, in the end, had a good effect on that Roman Catholic church. May the reformation in those churches continue and flourish until they see fully the grace that is available through faith in Jesus.

By contrast, I believe the Protestant churches in the USA could use another reformation. Some of them (especially many mega-churches) seem to be based not on "only grace, only faith, only Christ," but on "only self, only money, only worshiptainment."

Then there are other churches that have taken the reformation much too far, ending up not only rejecting the Pope's authority, but rejecting Biblical truth.

A third, smaller group of churches are so dedicated to the reformation that they've fossilized in the 16th century. They are more dedicated to Calvinism (or maybe to Lutheranism) than to the Lord.

Still, Reformation Day is worth marking. If we are saved, it is indeed by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. (Ephesians 2:8, 9)

Prayer: Lord, thank you for those who have called your church back to truth. May I live in the light of your scripture, through faith in Jesus Christ. Deliver me from faith in myself, from faith in my works, from faith in faith itself. Be my heart's focus.

Vine and Fig


Bill Burns said...

Well said, Jim. Grace & peace,

Bill Burns
Olathe, KS

Jim Swindle said...

Thanks, Bill.

I see that Tim Challies (at Challies.com) slightly mis-understood me. I'm not saying that the Roman Catholic church as a whole is applying the reformation principles better than the Protestant church as a whole. What I'm saying is that SOME Roman Catholic churches are applying those principles better than SOME Protestant churches.

All of us can find salvation only in Jesus; not in being Roman Catholic nor in being Reformed. That is, indeed, a reformation principle.