Post Tenebras Lux
On October 31, 2019, most of the world will be celebrating Halloween. But in my house, each year we have spent it with a study on the Protestant Reformation and handing out chocolate with Gospel tracts to the neighborhood children. The reason Monica and I started this tradition was because 1) what an incredible opportunity it is to have people come to our doors and willingly accept Gospel tracts, and 2) as we wait for the day when God will make all things new, we desire to redeem our time and actions and holiday celebrations for His glory. But probably the most influential reason for why we do what we do is because, having been a pastor for over 9 years, I am struck at how little most Christians know about their own history. I am by no means a Church Historian, but I do believe that there are certain figures and events in our history that all Christians would do well to acquaint themselves with. For example, the early church writings (such as John Chrysostom, Augustine, and Basil) to Scholastic Writers like Anselm or Renaissance writers, like Aquinas, to modern church figures like the "original" Puritans (John Owen, Richard Sibbes, or John Bunyan) and modern puritans (Jonathan Edwards and Martin Lloyd Jones). Events in Church History as recorded in the Scriptures, the early century church, the Protestant Reformation, and one's own denomination's history (Southern Baptist History for me).
Why? Because it is foolish to try and build your theology on your own, ignoring all of the work of those who have gone before you. It would be like someone trying to build an app for a phone but refusing to use Google or Apple's operating system and deciding to make their own OS. It would be like a doctor who refuses to study what other doctors and scientists and biologists have discovered and trying to understand the body and how certain treatments affect a person. It is foolish and prideful. And just as much as we can formulate and better understand the doctrines we affirm as Christians; we can also learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before us. They help us and walk with us on our journey of faith and help us to better understand the challenges that we face as a body of faith. And so, leading up to Oct 31, Reformation Day, each Wednesday I will highlight a figure or event from the Protestant Reformation which will hopefully encourage you to press on in your study of your history.
Most people know who Martin Luther was and how he spoke out against the injustices of his day. But there are many other characters that were instrumental and influential to him in creating the climate where a Reformation could flourish. But before we look at some of the figures, I want to briefly discuss some of the injustices and events that led up to the Protestant Reformation. Most people are well aware of the corruption of the church, but it goes far beyond indulgences and the Inquisition. Monasteries had been converted into places of leisure and old-fashioned dance halls. The leadership were also corrupt and had a hand in further corrupting the church. For example, many of the Monarchs and high nobility (and even some bishops and priests) were having illegitimate children. And to "provide" for these children, they would simply make them abbots regardless of that child's conviction or monastic calling. This set the tone which the people naturally began to follow. It was also a time known as the witch craze and, whereas heretics were the targets of the Church and state, witches became the new enemy to be crushed. Even in John Calvin's Geneva, two to three witches were executed every year.
As you can tell, it was a time of corruption, confusion, and chaos. But what really made this a dark time was that the Gospel had been obscured and the Scriptures were hidden. We live in a time, very similar to that. A time where scandals in the church and political leadership are reported on almost a daily basis. A time where there is much confusion on the absolute nature of truth, morality, and sexuality. A time of chaos with pastors not even preaching, but hosting group counseling sessions instead and Christians dividing from one another because of the music style or the colors of the chairs. A time of darkness to the Gospel, despite us living in a time where accessibility to the Scriptures is at its highest. So, what are we to do? We can learn a lot from the Reformers, but to bring us to a resolution, we must place our faith in Jesus Christ and boldly proclaim the Gospel. We must live as Christ's ambassadors, walking in righteousness, and we must be vocal in spreading the good news of the kingdom of God. There will always be darkness in this world, but keep faith because we are called to be lights in the darkness; not of ourselves, but reflecting the light of Jesus Christ.
Grace and Peace,
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