Monday, October 15, 2007

Why the Reformation Matters (1)

On Saturday morning, I spoke for the Protestant Truth Society on Why the Reformation Matters at a men's breakfast at Whiddon Valley Evangelical Church, Barnstaple, Devon. The meeting was attended by men from the host church and other fellowships in the area. We were served a full English breakfast complete with sausage, fried egg, bacon, fried bread and hash browns washed down by a nice, strong cup of tea. After this excellent breakfast, the time came for me to speak. I had wondered how it might go, as I'd not spoken at such an event before. But the men listened well and my talk was followed by a lively and informed time of discussion. Sarah and the children had travelled down to Devon with me on Friday evening. We spent the night at the Manse, enjoying the hospitality of the Pastor and his wife, David and Ruth Kay. After the meeting, we went into Barnstaple town centre for a bit of shopping and then watched the film Ratatouille, which is about a rat, who became a top chef in a French restaurant. The kids liked it anyway. Here's the first installment of my talk:
Why does the Reformation Matter?
The trouble with history is that it’s all in the past. Who cares about stuff that happened around 500 years ago? What’s it got to do with living the Christian life today? Well for Christians, history does matter because our God is at work in the historical process. The Bible is not a book of wishy-washy spirituality; it is the record of God’s acts in history. Think about it. In history, God called Abraham and made a covenant with him. He delivered his people from Egypt and gave them the Promised Land. In the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son, Jesus. The coming, death and resurrection of Christ are great events in history, as is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church at Pentecost. In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke gives us the history of the early Christian missionary expansion from Jerusalem to Rome. So, history matters, right?

God did not stop working in history at the end of the apostolic era. In Church history, with its triumphs and failures, we can see the hand of God at work. One of the key events in Church history is the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century. Biblical truths that had long been forgotten or distorted were suddenly rediscovered. Corrupt practices in Church life were challenged and reformed. This was a time of Christian heroism and gospel boldness when men and women lived and died for the truth as it is in Jesus.

But today, the Reformation is often regarded as a shameful tragedy that needlessly rent asunder the Church. Nick Needham comments,

"…although the necessity for the Reformation may have been a tragic necessity, the Reformation itself I don’t see as a tragedy (parting company, here, with the increasing tendency among Evangelicals today), but as a movement that was essentially wholesome and good." (2000 Years of Christ’s Power: Part 3: Renaissance and Reformation, Grace Publications, 2004 ,p. 12).

Do the debates and discussions of 500 years ago really matter to 21st Century Christians? Yes they do. The Reformation was not about secondary issues – it was a fight for the recovery of the biblical gospel. We forget this at our peril. The Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin may not be able to help us send an e-mail or a text message. Do not look to their works for help setting up your DVD player. But if you want to be reminded of truth that matters, go back to the Reformation.
Click on "The Reformation" label below for the rest of the series.


michael jensen said...

Great stuff. More power to you. Takes my mind off the dismal rugby results too.

BTW reading the John Donne Bio on your recommendation - thanks!

Exiled Preacher said...

I didn't manage to finish the Donne book on holiday. I'm dwon to last couple of chapters. A great read.

I left a comment on your blog re Radiohoead's In Rainbows. I downloaded it last week for £1! Enjoyed listening to it on the way to Devon.

michael jensen said...

Yes, I think rather bizarrely we were commenting on each other's blogs simultaneously. We have got to stop meeting like this.

Exiled Preacher said...

Spooky init?

Jonathan Hunt said...


Did you meet my brother-in-law David Berry? My sister susanna has just had her second son so I dunno if he made it to the breakfast...?

Exiled Preacher said...

He may well have been, J. A man fitting your description was there for part of the time. He missed breakfast, but caught part of the talk and some of the discussion that followed. He asked me about the relationship between the radical and magisterial Reformers. I hope he was convinced by my improvised waffle.