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Reformation Today

The last day of this month, October 31, is Reformation Sunday. As Protestants we remember Luther, Calvin, and in our own tradition the English Reformer Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. We know the doctrinal issues which faced those Reformers of the 16th Century. But what if the Reformation were today, would the critical issues be the same or something different?

Wherever Satan is attacking, that is where we need our strongest defense. Luther, Calvin, and Cranmer didn’t refight past battles, nor should we. It is quite possible in a battle or war to fight valiantly defending the wrong spot and consequently lose the war.

There were three major doctrinal battle fronts during the Reformation; authority, salvation, and the church. These primary doctrines are the same today as in the 16th Century. But in some ways we are in almost the exact opposite position in reference to these doctrinal matters.

Authority
One of the battle cries of the Reformation was Sola Scriptura, Scripture alone. The Reformers maintained that no doctrine should be accepted and taught unless it is firmly based on the Bible (sec. Art. VI of the 39 Articles). The Bible is sufficient, because it is the inspired and authoritative Word of God.

Now the church of Rome also held a high view of Scripture, affirming its authority as the Word of God. They taught that the Bible is authoritative, but so are church tradition and the pope. Rome erred in adding to Scripture, thus the cry, “Sola Scriptura”.

The battlefield today has shifted. Scripture is not being added to, but diminished. Liberal clergy and theologians teach that the Bible is merely an account of man’s religious quest and spiritual evolution. Christianity, they say, is a growing and changing phenomenon that must adapt itself to the times. The Bible as well as the Creeds and Confessions reflect on earlier, primitive stage of religious evolution. To accept the Bible as authoritative in the church today would be to return to the caves is the liberal view.

Sola Scriptura today means that here is an authoritative word from God Himself. Truth is not an evolving thing. Truth is not relative to time and place, but is absolute and unchanging, because it comes from an unchanging God.
Salvation
A second battle cry of the Reformation was Sola Fide, faith alone. Rome was teaching that salvation came through the church and its sacraments. The Reformers took their stand on Scripture. St. Paul, for instance, stated quite clearly, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.” (Romans 3:28)

Today the assault on the doctrine of justification has changed. The doctrine of justification through faith alone is based on the premise that we are sinners who need to be freed from guilt, i.e., justified. But no one is a sinner today. I’m okay and you’re okay. It’s not sin, it’s an alternative lifestyle. If anyone does behave badly, it’s society’s fault, or the economy, or lack of education, or a genetic condition. “Don’t be judgmental” is the spirit of the age.

The fact is we cannot be justified until we acknowledge that we are sinners who need desperately to be justified. Jesus Christ is only good news (the Gospel) to someone who knows that he is under divine judgment and needs a Savior.

The Church
The third major doctrine of the Reformation had to do with the Church. In particular the issue was the priesthood of all believers.

The church of Rome had during the Middle Ages divided the Church into two groups; the sacred and the common, or the religious life and the ordinary life. To be truly spiritual one had to become a monk, priest or nun and be celibate. The ordinary Christian was excluded.

The Reformers proclaimed that even the farmer in his field may be living a spiritual and religious life. Christians are priests under Christ our Great High Priest. All believers have access to God through Christ.

The perversion of truth today is not an extreme exclusiveness as Rome had taught, but an extreme in the opposite direction of inclusiveness. We are told by liberal theologians that Christianity is too narrow. People of every lifestyle and religious persuasion are true children of God. God, they tell us, would not condemn anyone. Remember, we aren’t really sinners. Religion, since it is primarily a human enterprise, may be multifaceted, therefore, there are many ways to God. It doesn’t matter what you believe, just that you believe something strongly.

Jesus said something that many today would consider startling and even offensive. Speaking of Himself our Lord said, “I am the way, and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (St. John 14:6) All are invited to come, but there is no other way to God and salvation. The message of the Gospel is very exclusive. Salvation is only extended to those who have faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God.

The doctrinal issues today are the same as they were in the 16th Century. However, the method of attack on these doctrines has changed radically. Our objective as the Church is to honor God and His truth and to persuade others to do so. If we are still fighting yesterday’s battles and answering yesterday’s questions and not today’s, we will never persuade anyone to follow Christ. In our spiritual warfare we need to know where the front lines are today. Our weapon, the truth, is still the same, but we must use it effectively if we are to have any hope of seeing a reformation in our own day.

by Rev. Frank M. Levi

Parish News
The St. Andrew’s Preschool Open House, August 22, 1999, was very well attended. The enrollment this year is the highest we have had. Pray for the Preschool that it will be a means of outreach to the community.

We were blessed with a perfect September day for the Sunday School Picnic. On Saturday, September 11, we met at the Monee Reservoir for this annual event. All who attended had a wonderful time eating, playing games and simply enjoying the beautiful day. Thank you to all who came and helped in any way.

Sunday School classes resumed on September 12, 1999. We’re looking forward to a great year in Sunday School. The following were promoted;
Jackie Robertson, into 1st Grade John Horn into Early Elementary
Anne Horn into Middle School
Parham Horn into Middle School
Caroline Robertson into Middle School
Annamarie Sellers into High School


Woman’s Guild
The next meeting of the Guild will be Sunday, October 10, during coffee hour. Annual dues are $20.00. All ladies are invited to join.

Episcopal Visit
The Rt. Rev. Royal U. Grote, Bishop Ordinary for the Diocese of Mid-America, will be with us on Sunday, Oct. 31, 1999. At the 10:30 A.M. service he will preach, confirm three of our youths and celebrate Holy Communion. The service will be followed by a catered luncheon in the Parish Hall. Do plan to be in attendance.

Happy Birthday!
Oct. 01 - Diane Stultz
Oct. 08 - Louise Rich
Oct. 17 - Carla Smith
Oct. 27 - Annamarie Sellers

Missionary of The Month

Domestic Missions
Newest areas of outreach, San Diego, CA, with the Rev. Jerry Kistler, southern Orange Co., CA, with Dr. Stephen Kennedy, Redding, CA, with the Rev. David Stark.

 


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