Always Reforming

October 30, 2017

Tomorrow is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517, a certain German monk named Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church, igniting a powder keg. For the better part of the next century, others would share his concerns and voice their own by joining the Protest against the Roman Catholic Church. As a result, 500 years later, billions of Christians have reclaimed biblical truths about salvation, the nature of the Church, and the place and role of Scripture.

 

Luther's actions weren't the first schism in the Church, however. Every five hundred years or so, Christianity fragments. The first major split occurred in 451 as the Coptic churches broke away due to a disagreement over the nature of Christ. In 1054, the Great Schism split the Old Catholic Church in half, with the eastern portion becoming the Orthodox Church and the western part forming the Roman Catholic Church. Protestantism divided the West into several sects beginning in 1517. Today, 500 years after Luther, we see churches splitting into more distinct camps, with the major conflict being between those who affirm homosexuality and those who do not. History repeats itself every 500 years.

 

The Reformers of Luther's age had a phrase for this: ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda: "the church reformed, always reforming." Luther's work continues to this day as the Church continues to examine its doctrine and its practices in the light of deepening understandings of the Bible and historical thought as well as new evidence from archaeological and scientific research. We aren't throwing away our Bibles or the way we worship; rather, like Luther, we're getting rid of what isn't biblical or godly and carrying on. The Church is always reforming, and, as the Reformers would say, it is reforming for the glory of God alone.

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