Friday, October 31, 2008

After darkness, light

If you're in a church where the Bible is read, where the Bible is preached, where the congregation sings songs that are based on the truth of the Bible, where prayers are prayed in your own language and they are Biblical in content, you're in debt to all of these men. You would not have that today if it were not for these men. You wouldn't have the doctrine of justification by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone. You probably wouldn't have the form of republican government that you enjoy right now where you're in a representative democracy. You wouldn't have the educational system that you have today without these just goes on and on.

J. Ligon Duncan

This week I've been listening to a series of programs called Profiles of the Reformation from which the above quote is taken (click on this link to listen or download). South Carolinian Ligon Duncan and Welshman Derek Thomas give a fascinating and candid history lesson on some of the lesser-known Reformers -- throwing in some funny LOTR references along the way. If you go to the Reformation Wall in Geneva, Switzerland you'll see the words Post Tenebras Lux (after darkness light). Hyperbole? I don't think so. Not if you understand the depths of apostasy and corruption to which the medieval Roman church had sunk. Fundamentally, the church had lost the gospel, the very thing the Apostles taught defined and animated the Christian church. The magisterial Reformers didn't see themselves as innovators, but as prophets calling the church back to her Apostolic and Patristic roots.

I get the impression some Protestants think the Reformation was a dreadful mistake, or that it's over, that we should paper over our differences and move on. In some cases prominent evangelicals have acted on their convictions and returned to the mother church. I can see why those who've tasted the thin gruel that often passes for the Protestant faith (in both the liberal mainline and generic evangelical varieties) would cast longing looks toward Rome. Like some of them, I too want to be part of a church that's defined by something older and richer than the latest strategy from Barna. I believe the answer lies in celebrating and rediscovering our Reformation roots. So on this Reformation Day 2008 I'm thankful for Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Beza, Bullinger, Vermigli, Tyndale, Cranmer and all the rest who gave their lives to advance the cause of a Biblical church across Europe. Though one can find few vestiges of that Biblical church in today's Europe, their legacy lives on around the world wherever Christ and his gospel are proclaimed. Soli Deo gloria!

UPDATE: Thanks to blogger extraordinaire Tim Challies for including this post in his Reformation Day Symposium. It's ok that he spelled my name wrong. I'll take the extra traffic any way I can get it!


Phil Estes said...

Stephen--great post. Probably one of the most interesting things I've read and gleaned more knowledge from "post-college" is by picking up one of my wife's old textbooks from college: "The Protestant Reformation" by Hans J. Hillerbrand. It is all based on primary source works from the time of Luther through the English reformation and, while maybe not as useful as a full historical narrative of the entire period, is intensely interesting and earthy in a way as you read the real letters being shuffled back and forth and the official documents "edicted" and declared during that era. Dr. Hillerbrand is also editor of the 4-volume Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, and as a fun side-note, was a wonderful guest at our wedding many many years ago!

Stephen Ley said...

Thanks, Phil! I'm going to look up Dr. Hillerbrand. I'm getting ready to dive into some Luther myself. Blessings to you and the family.