October 31, 2017 is the 500th anniversary of what’s known as the Protestant reformation. I thought about doing a series of posts on the history and the theology that developed from the reformation but I will leave that to Ligonier and Desiring God. Instead I want to focus on why the reformation still matters, my connection with the theology, how certain things from its beginning need to be corrected and how we can walk in the spirit of the reformation today.
WHY THE REFORMATION STILL MATTERS:
Martin Luther and his 95 Theses are known as the catalyst of the reformation. The interesting thing is Luther wasn’t looking to start a new church, just reform the Catholic Church. When that didn’t go as Luther planned things progressed from there. Luther ignited a Biblical resurgence that was later carried by John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and my personal favorite, Charles Haddon Spurgeon and many others. I know many probably don’t read thick theological books or listen to theologically oriented sermons but we cannot have the practical without doctrine being established first and that is why the reformation still matters. Even if your church is Arminian/Wesleyan you still owe gratitude to Luther because without him, we would all still be in a system which base is not the Word of God but man-made extras. Yes, we have gotten off in areas as well, which we will address latter. There is no denying that through that point in history and the resurgence of the new Calvinism we began seeing in the early 2000’s hasn’t helped realign the Church doctrinally. I know the Church of today is all about practicality but if you don’t know and understand doctrine you will not know how to practically apply the Bible. You may not dive deep into the thick books but there are easy reads out there to help any level of study.
MY INTRODUCTION TO AND JOURNEY IN REFORMED THEOLOGY
My journey in reformed theology also known as Calvinism began in 2008. It actually began a little before that but I didn’t know it at the time. I had been listening to a radio broadcast from Pastor Steve Solomon since probably around the age of twelve. When I started driving I would go to his service on Saturday night then my church on Sunday mornings. in 2008 he started a series called Romans 8 in 2008. By late February of that year Riverwalk Fellowship became my home church. As Pastor Steve taught through Romans eight he mentioned two books; God’s Passion for His Glory by John Piper and The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards. I got both books from the church bookstore and that was the beginning of my discovery of Calvinism. This lead to reading more books by John Piper and Charles Spurgeon and listening to Mark Driscoll and Dr. James White. I began following The Gospel Coalition and its writers. Pastor Steve gave me Charles Hodge’s three volume Systematic Theology and for the three years I was at Riverwalk I dove head first into Calvinism. I left Riverwalk to move to Houston which lead me down a path of joining the Nazarene Church and studying Wesleyanism for three years. You may be wondering how I could go from a solid three years of Calvinism to the opposite view, my answer, the sovereign plan of God to expose me to both understandings. It is interesting that one of John Wesley’s closest ministry friends was a Calvinist. Jacob Arminius said Calvin had written the best Bible commentary. We can allow ourselves to become so easily divided. John Wesley said if it wasn’t for the belief in predestination he would be a Calvinist. There are parts of both theologies I agree with but when it comes to Christian beliefs I am Calvinist in theology and Word of Faith in practical application. These two things seem opposed to many but I have come to understand that the truth of God’s word is not relegated to one group. We all understand in part and we need each other. I got away from theology for more practical application in the last few years but recently the Lord called me back to refresh myself in my theological foundations so I am revisiting those first books recommended by Pastor Steve.
CORRECTING SOME ERRORS:
Martin Luther and some other reformers should be honored for how they helped move the Church forward but we should not celebrate them because they have also hurt the Church as much as helped it. Later in life Martin Luther became vehemently anti-Semitic which is a problem. We have a Bible because of the Jews, our savior is Jewish and while we are not called to be Jewish, Paul wrote in Romans nine through eleven that we should not forget we have been grafted in to a Jewish root and the root supports the branches. If you have read this blog for a period of time you know that I embrace a Hebrew understanding of the Bible and I love Israel. All of us can make mistakes in our beliefs, hating the Jewish people was one of Martin Luther’s and it spread throughout Church history but in our day we are seeing a number of believers begin to love Israel and the Jewish people again and for that I say praise God.
Many of the early reformers were not known for embracing the move of the Spirit but what has been termed the “new Calvinism” has. Pastors and teachers such as John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Sam Storms and Mark Driscoll have been able to open up many in Reformed churches to the gifts and ministry of the Holy Spirit. My prayer is that as time goes on many who hold to Calvinist theology will also see the truth in Word of Faith teachings as well.
WALKING IN THE REFORMATION TODAY:
While the reformation did give rise to a specific theology it must be that and more to us today. The reformation happened because things in that day needed to come back into focus, just as things in our day and in the past have needed to become re-centered on Biblical Truth. We have a tendency in the Church world to disregard the last move with each new move, that’s why a reformation becomes necessary. As we continue to get new light on the teaching of Scripture let us remember we cannot build anew if we get rid of the foundation.