I am teaching a class for OCU right now, on Church History (Part II). It highlights the events in the church from 1054 to current times and even looks at future trends. It is interesting that the way the scheduled topics fall, that we discussed the pre-reformation last week and this week (Thursday), we will look at the Reformation. Sunday evening, I shared a little bit about the Reformation. Even though I do not agree with many of the nuances in Reformed Theology, the Wesleyan-Arminian movements are much indebted to the principles championed by the Protestant reformers.
The Coming Reformation
The Roman Catholic Church had become deeply corrupted. There had already been the “Great Schism” between the Roman Catholic Church of the West and the Orthodox Church of the East in 1054. However, towards the 14th and 15th centuries, many things brought this corruption to the forefront. People were leaving the church because of the crusades and the chasm between the priests and people. Those that stayed were encouraged to buy indulgences from the Catholic church to get some time off of purgatory for themselves or others, living and dead.
Other things, such as pressure to have the state to come out from Church’s scope of authority. As people came back from the crusades, they also brought back the lost writings of early Christian fathers and apologists that helped formed the faith after the close of the New Testament. In other words, some Christians were stepping out of superstition and ignorance, back into the light of authentic Christian teaching. Individuals such as Wycliffe and Erasmus realized that the people needed the Word of God in their own language (Wycliffe), and that it was essential to study the Scripture in its original languages (Erasmus). At that time, all they had was Latin and the only ones that could read it was the priesthood. The invention of the printing press was also instrumental, as it made it easier for everyone to have reading materials of their own (now everyone could have the Scripture for themselves). These pre-reformers and much more were hoping for drastic change.
The Protestant Reformation
It is said that “Luther hatched the egg that Erasmus laid.” Of course, Erasmus argued that he intended for a different kind of eff. Both, Erasmus and Luther were hoping for reform inside the church. Luther did not want to start a new group, but he did. It is accepted that on October 31, 157, the monk, Martin Luther, went to the Castle Church Wittenberg and nailed his 95 theses to the door. The response was overwhelming, and Luther would be called to recant his stance. To which he responded in an assembly called the Diet of Worms, “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me.”
More reformers, such as John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli would later join in the movement. Groups such as the Anabaptists (“to again baptize”) would move farther past the other reformers regarding practice. When the Reformation came to England, the state resolved to create the Anglican church, reformed in theology but Roman Catholic in practice. The Puritans of England would seek to make a full transition from Roman Catholics altogether. However, all these protestant groups and even my holiness brethren affirm the key principles of the Reformation. The principles are Sola Scriptura (“by Scripture alone”), Sola Fide (“by faith alone”), Sola Gratia (“by grace alone”), Solo Christo (“Christ alone”), and Soli Deo Gloria (“glory to God alone”). Another primary tenant is the priesthood of all believers. Highlighting our emphasis that we do not need a priest to approach God on our behalf but that we can have a personal relationship with the Lord.
Again, we owe much to the Protestant Reformation that seems much older than 500 years. It was and remains a great revival of Biblical proportions. In conclusion, have a happy Reformation Day!