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Monday, 23 October 2017

Ashamed of the Reformation?

Recent BBC TV Programmes
I have recently commended the BBC for a fine documentary about the Reformation in England, highlighting the three books that were forefront of the Reformation here: Tyndale's New Testament, Foxe's Book of Martyrs and Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer. Available on iPlayer for a while this programme is well worth watching. (There was another BBC documentary by David Starkey, which did not get my applause because its title encouraged the viewer to liken aspects of the Reformation to ISIS type terror, "Reformation: Europe's Holy War.")

But we need to commend the BBC when it does things well.

I sense, however, that some church people are sort of embarrassed by the Reformation and very reluctant to "celebrate" it. Why should that be so?

First, the age in which we live, militates against talk of boundaries and differences. Every fascinating mountain peak must be reduced to form one single boring plain.  There is a war taking place against the biological fact of there being two very different sexes (let us obliterate that difference). There is a war against there being only one kind of upright sexuality (let every sexuality be normal). There is a war against any notion of differing roles in marriage (let men and women be the bland same), and so it goes on. Twisted and completely confused notions of "equality" have resulted in a culture that is against any notions of "differences". So a Christian is reluctant in our environment to say anything spiky, such as, "I am a Protestant not a Catholic."

Second, we live in a culture so blind to its own faults that it dares to judge all other cultures by its own norms. So, a typical modern westerner would decry the terrible violence of a present day tin-pot political regime and denounce the sins of slavery and religious war, but completely overlook the barbaric murder in his own country. Around 200,000 defenceless children were murdered last year in Wales and England before they had the chance to live one single day. In the one place where a child ought to be most protected, the most secure, the most loved, the most protected, 200,000 lives were savagely cut down last year.

That is over 500 human beings were murdered in England Wales every single day last year! 

Yet our culture has the absolute Pharisaical cheek to complain about the atrocities of a Mugabe or a Kim Jong-il.

The result of this culture blindness is that any movement that is connected to war or death is automatically written off, automatically embarrassing: without recognising that every culture, including our own, has terrible, terrible blind spots. The greatest blind spot of late medieval days was the inability to disconnect church and state - and from that fatal error flowed some wars of religion (far less severe - it must be added quickly - than the wars caused by atheistic Communism in the last century).

Wary of all human Reformers....
We ought rightly to be wary of blindly following any human reformer. Luther, Zwingli and Calvin were men of their times, prone to all the human weaknesses that we all fall prey to. The greatest of he reformers saw something of their weaknesses and dissuaded people from following them. Luther said:

"The first thing I ask is that people should not make use of my name, and should not call themselves Lutherans but Christians. What is Luther? The teaching is not mine. Nor was I crucified for anyone. How did I, poor stinking bag of maggots that I am, come to the point where people call the children of Christ by my evil name?”

We should not call ourselves "Lutherans", "Calvinists" or "Zwingli-ites" (if there is such a thing), because these men were all flawed like the rest of us. We follow Jesus, and Jesus alone.

....but proud of the Reformation
But a Bible-believing Christian ought to be proud of the Reformation. Proud of the remarkable recovery of the Gospel the Holy Spirit was pleased to lead the flawed reformers to understand, preach and die for.

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