It’s coming. It’s just over a month away. How will you remember it? Do you remember it? It’s what makes Protestants – Protestant! But how many Protestants even know why they are Protestant? Many Protestants probably spend more time protesting against people ‘judging’ them instead of protesting against the false gospel of the Roman Catholic church – the real reason for the Protestant reformation. The problem is, protestantism today is so full of that false gospel that we need to be looking at ourselves rather than at the Roman Catholics. For many, the gospel – justification by faith alone – is no longer the ‘article upon which the church stands or falls’ (Luther) or the ‘hinge (or better main axis) upon which religion turns’. For some protestants that article is now about having a big church, or having trendy music, or being health and wealthy, or speaking in tongues, or having baptism by emersion, or being part of a particular denomination, or being Pentecostal and charismatic, or a particular version of being ‘filled with the Spirit’…and so on and so on.
The heart of Luther and Calvin’s reformation is the heart of the apostle Paul’s gospel: a righteousness that is revealed from heaven from faith for faith (Rom 1:17). It is revealed from heaven because we are wicked, a wicked person cannot be righteous nor do righteous things. We are incapable of revealing any righteousness that is why it must come from heaven, from God. Often we are too stupid to see how filthy we are, too dumb to understand the gravity of our depravity, too proud to admit our spiritual leprosy, and too blind to see the ever nearing pit of hell.
We typically celebrate the reformation on the anniversary of when Luther was said to have nailed his Ninety-five thesis to the castle church door in Wittenberg Germany. But, I think it started earlier than that. I think the reformation started when Luther dethroned Aristotle from the lecture halls of the universities and theological training. Since the 13th century Aristotle had been a vital part of theological study. Aristotles’s views of ethics (i.e., that one can know they are just because they do just things) ended up being taught as the way for God to see whether we are just or not. So the church promoted Aristotle as good theology. Luther recognised this and stuck his boot into Aristotle and even said that Aristotle’s Ethics are the worst enemy of grace and that no one can do theology with Aristotle (this he said because a particular medieval theologian said one cannot do theology without Aristotle!!). Aristotle posited that we can reveal our own righteousness – by doing righteous deeds. Luther, Calvin and more importantly Paul, posited that our righteousness must come from heaven from God in Christ and we receive this by faith alone. This message is too important to get wrong. It is too important to forget. How will you celebrate it this year?
I am pondering walking around with the ‘trick or treaters’ selling indulgences this 31st of October. At least it is one way to remember…Maybe I can make some money. Maybe I can make enough to buy a new car having just sold my motorbike…yes, I am no longer Triumphant. But seriously, here are some videos that remind us of the reformation and what it stands for in the event we need to remember why we are Protestant:
And from Luther’s own pen, one that must be played at my funeral:
**No catholics were hurt during the making of the this post. In fact it is loving to tell them to flee from the wrath to come – their righteousness will not save them. Of course, it must be said that no indulgence sellers were hurt either…or at least that is the rumour. But I can’t guarantee they didn’t ride off into the sunset without a moustache.