Reflections on Reformation Day
As everybody knows, the Reformation is the talk of the Internet these days, seeing that Reformation Day is today (October 31). The ubiquitous spirit is certainly one of defiance. One website I visited even argued that we need to put the "Protest" back in the "Protestant" Reformation. It would probably be impossible to catalog all of the essays and blog posts that will be posted today honoring the Magisterial Reformers. After all, the Reformation is revered in many circles as a revolution in Western civilization. No doubt it represented a major upheaval in religion. But it's always dangerous to declare a turning point in history.
There's no question that the Protestant Reformation brought about a renewed and much-needed focus on the Scriptures as the source of truth about God and man. But I wouldn't short the Anabaptists (called by some scholars the only real Reformers of the Reformation) or plug the Magisterial Reformers without reminding everyone of the point Arthur Sido made on his blog yesterday. In an essay called Are We Too Gospel Focused? Arthur writes:
My wife and I spent six hours driving yesterday and during that time we
listened to some talks from the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed
Theology. The talks dealt with the topic of justification and were deep
and rich, saturated with Scripture. Yet something was missing. These
were not evangelistic talks aimed at unbelievers. These were talks
targeted at mature believers but the talks were all about "what and how"
and virtually nothing about "what now?". The speakers lamented that we
don't talk about the Gospel enough but I wondered what the people in
"Gospel centered churches" understood the necessary consequences of the
Gospel to be? Coming to church? Being a "member"? Getting baptized?
Obeying the church authorities and contributing to the operation of the
church? These talks and books and sermons that are "Gospel focused" seem
to me to be like reading half of one of Paul's epistles, the parts where
he speaks of the Gospel proper, while ignoring his admonitions and
examples of how the church is to live as a family and to live as
witnesses to the world. So when I ask, "Are we too Gospel focused?",
this is what I mean...
In other words, nothing develops a person's Christian walk as sharing his or her blessings with others. A reasonable amount of time spent in Bible study and meditation is indispensable, but it is to be spent preparing us to return to the battle.
In a nutshell, the way of salvation is just that: a way of living. This does not mean that the Gospel is not worthy of our best theological thinking. It is worthy of the best of everything. But the genius of Christianity, as far as world religions go, consists in the fact that its beauty lies in another direction altogether. Its glory lies not in clever phrases but in the Spirit and in power. There is no simpler way to state it than in the words of the apostle Paul: "The only thing that matters is faith working through love" (Gal. 5:6).
A lot of sound orthodoxy can coexist with outright disobedience to God and indifference toward man. Doctrine must be translated into duty. We must get over the idea that Christianity is a matter of making a profession of faith. The Scriptures give us no such notions. As Arthur points out, there is really no place for the Bible conferences we attend if there is no sacrificial service accompanying them. A song has both words and music. In today's church we must have both strict orthodoxy and obedient love.
Does your song have both words and music?
October 31, 2011
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.