The REFORMATION – What’s It All About?

by Dr. Larry Ruddell
Dean, Belhaven-Houston

(NOTE: On Tuesday, October 31, 2017 … many Christians will celebrate the 500th year anniversary of the Reformation)

On October 31, 1517, at the Church door in Wittenberg Germany, a hammer hit a nail. And with that “Bang”! … an idea explosion took place that still impacts society today.

Martin Luther, Catholic Priest and Professor had his life changed over a period of months due to his wrestling with Romans 1:17, For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (English Standard Version) He came to realize that salvation comes from faith alone by the grace of God alone and he came to realize that this faith required action. As a scholar, he saw the disconnects between these Scriptural Truths and what the Catholic Church was teaching … which resulted in him writing out 95 Theses (or points for debate) … hence the need for the aforementioned hammer and nail.

This relatively innocent request for a discussion (as any scholar should have been respected for having broached) resulted in anger and attack from the Catholic Church, even the Pope himself. Jesus was hated and attacked for presenting Truth as well, See Luke 4:31b-32 that reads, And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. We see the reaction from the Pharisees a little later in Luke to Jesus’ teaching and works, But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. (Luke 6:11)

Ideas from the Reformation

What was different about Jesus and what Luther (and the others that followed, including Calvin and Zwingli) was getting at with his points of debate that got people so stirred up and what does it mean as instructors with Belhaven University?

The ideas of the Reformation are in some ways simple because they get back to the Scriptures and what the Scriptures say about themselves. … and here are the highlights:

Sola (or “Only”) Faith … we come to God not through any works that we do but only by trusting in Jesus Christ.

Sola Scripture … in other words, Scripture is our source of authority which means that ALL (including kings) are under the authority of Law. A corollary of Sola Scripture is the Perspicuity of Scripture … which means that the Bible can be understood by normal people and we could add that “Scripture interprets Scripture” … for example, see Matthew 5:21 where Jesus is explaining the meaning of the sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13 with Genesis 9:5-6).

The other key points follow; Sola Christ, Sola Grade, Sola Glory to God.

What do these ideas mean for us at Belhaven?

So, what’s the big deal? How do these ideas apply to us as faculty and citizens? Here are a few thoughts.

God’s world is one world … so Reformed thinking never separated God from the “secular” world; which would include a need to be involved in government, society and vocation as well as our church lives. This is our aim at Belhaven to show how God’s Word applies in natural ways to our class material.

Freedom of Conscience … no one should coerce the thinking of others … that is God’s purview. Students are made in God’s image so their ideas should be respected … but that doesn’t mean that we have to agree. It just means that we “disagree” by explaining our arguments and trust God from there … but never do we force ideas on others through coercion or disrespect.

We will be going “against the flow” … the church has always found it easy to “go with the flow” of culture … which the Bible constantly warns against (i.e. see book of Judges i.e. Judges 2:10-13). So we should be alert to class material that misrepresents what the Bible says … especially the tendency to allow ourselves (or students) to assert “what the Bible says” without using actual Scripture (read within the proper context).

There are others but this is a good start. May we all be faithful to “stand out” as distinctive servants in these tough times and remember this October 31 those who have gone before (see Hebrew 12:1)!

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