Sunday, October 30, 2005

Celebrating the Re-Birthday of the Church - October 31, 1517

This morning Kathy, my good and Godly assistant and a LCMS pastor's wife, greeted me with a cheerful "Blessed Reformation Day." Strange words to say to a Baptist. But quite appropriate. If Pentecost was the birthday of the Church, then October 31, 1517 marks its second birth. 488 years ago, a young Augustinian monk named Martin Luther finally reached the limits of his patience with the corrupt practice of indulgence peddling. Rejecting Johann Tetzel’s crude techniques for merchandising God’s grace, Luther posted his now famous 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Castle church door.

Originally intended as an invitation to dialogue, Luther’s action prompted a revolution that carried out its campaigns under the banner of “Justification by Faith,” using the slogans of Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Christus, Sola Gratia, and Soli Deo Gloria. Sola Scriptura, Scripture alone, the formal cause of the Reformation, gave the Word of God a priority in authority even over that of church tradition.

As Luther put it: “The Word must stand, for God cannot lie; and heaven and earth must go to ruins before the most insignificant letter or tittle of His Word remains unfulfilled.” He cited Augustine approvingly as saying: “I have learned to hold only the Holy Scripture inerrant.” Although written by human authors, Luther maintained that “He who would not read these stories in vain must firmly hold that Holy Scripture is not human but divine wisdom.”

Nearly 500 years later, with mainline denominational drift into all manner of accommodation with secular wisdom, Luther’s heroic stand takes on as great a significance today. Blessed Reformation Day Kathy (and all the rest of you who appreciate the liberating news of the Gospel)!

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