Saturday, March 11, 2006

A Wall of Remembrance Worth Considering

Tourists walking south from the "Place Neuve" and the Opera House in Geneva, will come to a nice park called the "Parc des Bastions." Most people see it as just another good place to stroll through green lawns and huge trees (or snow covered grounds if you come in Winter as we did).

But, for the alert Christian, this park also plays host to a 100m-long wall called the "Mur de la Réformation" (or "Reformation Wall" in plain English). At the center of the display can be found the four major Genevan reformers: Jean Calvin, the father of the reform; Guillaume Farel, the first to introduce the Reform in Geneva; Théodore de Bèze, successor of Calvin; and John Knox, founder of Scottish Presbyterianism. Along this wall there are many other bas reliefs depicting scenes from Protestant history (including Roger Williams!).

Even secularized Geneva cannot completely cast off the traces of its rich history as the center of the Calvinist Reformation in the 16th Century. The monumental wall of remembrance stands as a silent reminder. Despite the lamentable church attendance in Europe today, the city cannot but help bearing witness to the truth of the Gospel, if only in a monument of stone.

What are the slogans of the Reformation by which an entire city turned from Rome to the teachings of the Protestant Reformers? History records these as the five principal “solas” of our movement in both its Lutheran and Calvinist expressions:

Sola Scriptura – The formal cause of the Reformation came from a belief in the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God which comes to us God breathed;

Sola Christus – This denotes the exclusivity of the provider, God’s “one of a kind” Son;

Sola Gratia – Testifies to the totality of the provision by God’s pleasure, unmixed with a shred of human merit or worthiness;

Sola Fide – This was the grand material cause of the Reformation. Sola fide declares the means of appropriation for God’s gracious salvation through the gift of faith;

Soli Deo Gloria – The final “sola” proclaims the ultimate doxological purpose of it all for God’s glory.

Today each of these watchwords has been under extreme attack by those who wish to mitigate the exclusivity of the Gospel, undermine its Christological center, deny its divinely designed plan for reconciliation with God, or simply wipe away its formal foundation in biblical authority.

In the current ABC debates, both the left and right claim to “believe” in the Bible as a Word from God. The right, however, goes further. We confess that the Incarnate Word cannot be separated from the written Word or from God’s Spirit. God has spoken his ultimate Word in Jesus Christ, of whom the scriptures bear witness. We accept the full and complete authority of the Bible as the received Word of God, our lens through which we see Christ and understand God’s law.

Modernity (or post modernity) offers us no more right or prerogative to revise the teachings of the Bible than it affords us a right to temporize the exclusivity of Jesus Christ. In the Greek New Testament the words “it is written” occur in the perfect tense, emphasizing both the initial writing of scripture and the on-going authority it holds even today. Evangelicals stand by the five “solas” first articulated by our Protestant forbearers and just as relevant today.

[His Barking Dog does not speak for anyone official in the PSW or elsewhere. I'm just a slack jawed American tourist doing my "gee whiz" through the lands of the Reformation]

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