The last 12 months have been very eventful. Whatever your views on Brexit and Donald Trump there can be no doubt that the world of politics has changed! However, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of an event that turned the whole western world upside down and had an impact greater than anything we have witnessed in recent months. In November 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, an act that, building on the work of men such as John Wycliffe and Jan Hus, began what we now call the Reformation.
The world we live in today has been hugely influenced by the Reformation and many Christians will seek to commemorate it this year. Others however will seek to undermine it, at best claiming it was a big misunderstanding, at worst labelling the reformers divisive heretics or even violent troublemakers.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York recently issued a statement in which they wrote,
In this Reformation Anniversary year, many Christians will want to give thanks for the great blessings they have received to which the Reformation directly contributed. Amongst much else these would include clear proclamation of the gospel of grace, the availability of the Bible to all in their own language and the recognition of the calling of lay people to serve God in the world and in the church.
They went on to say,
Many will also remember the lasting damage done five centuries ago to the unity of the Church, in defiance of the clear command of Jesus Christ to unity in love. Those turbulent years saw Christian people pitted against each other, such that many suffered persecution and even death at the hands of others claiming to know the same Lord. A legacy of mistrust and competition would then accompany the astonishing global spread of Christianity in the centuries that followed.
If the two most senior clergy in our national church have mixed and even confused views of the Reformation, what should we think about it?
An excellent article by A. Stoutjesdyk in the recent Quarterly Record of the Trinitarian Bible Society, entitled Is the Reformation still really relevant today? is well worth reading. He asks the question,
Five centuries! That’s five hundred years! Is the stuff that happened then so important that it needs to be commemorated?
I suggest that the Reformation is not only a milestone marking the past but a signpost for your future. The Reformation saw Biblical principles—about the way of salvation, marriage and family life, education and the importance of all work—woven into the daily tapestry of personal life, church worship and society as a whole. The Reformation is not a finished history; the need for personal, ecclesiastical, and national reformation continues and will continue until the end of time. We must not just be reformed but reforming; not just commemorating the Reformation but practising it too.
The full article can be read on the TBS webstite here.