Continuing Reformation?


Martin Luther and his 95 TheseFrom the Shepherd’s Conference (so ably liveblogged by Tim Challies) last week, Phil Johnson led a seminar called “Is the Reformation Over?” It’s a good read. It’s also a riff on Mark Noll’s book of the same title, though I side with Johnson and not Noll.

Thinking over that question, I had another one: Is all reformation over?

What do I mean by that? Well, as you know, this blog’s main talking point is the Church, specifically the American Church. From the day that Martin Luther pounded his Ninety-Five Theses to the front door of the Cathedral at Wittenberg, we’ve lived in a Church Age in which Protestantism has been considered—at least by Protestants—as the sole expression of the True Church. The stand he took against a blasé Roman Catholic Church that had fallen into ungodly excess and a tax-code-like set of rules for salvation should resonate with us all. We’ve lived out nearly five hundred years of Luther’s assertion that salvation is by faith alone, not by works or any other man-made machinations. Thank God for Martin Luther’s obedience to the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures!

But I wonder if his is destined to be the only Holy Spirit-inspired reformation of the Church.

If we were living in the age of RCC theocracy, would we—like Luther—have recognized the errors of what was then considered the only Church in the West? Being in the belly of the beast doesn’t always afford a person the most objective view, but Luther saw beyond the innards and got it right.

But what if the 21st century Protestant Church has fallen into the same kind of mire as did the 16th century Roman Catholic Church? Are we in the need of a 21st century Reformation? Or have new reformations occurred on some level, but we’ve missed them for what they are, or have labeled them blips on the radar?

Can there be another Reformation? We’ve seen one of grace, but are other pressing Church issues in need of reforming?

What do you think?

7 thoughts on “Continuing Reformation?

  1. Standing_Firm

    On first thought, revival yes, reformation probably not. Considering where we are on the prophetic timetable any reformation could lead us into the the ultimate deception, where “even the elect would be deceived if it were possible”. There is debate as to who the “elect” are, that aside, I am wary of a new way. Not that reformation is a new way but the enemy begins his deceptions subtly. Just a thought. I will be interested to read the upcoming comments on this post.

    Mat 24:23-25 (NIV) “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah/Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs/Messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.”

  2. Larry Who

    I believe there will be a revival and a reformation.

    The revival will occur in the traditional churches. By traditional, I mean churches with a clergy and laity system. And this constitutes 95% of all the churches in America – protestant, evangelical, Roman Catholic, charismatic, etc.

    There have been many prophecies about this revival from major ministries. I believe the heart of the Father desires fresh fire for His people and He is going to send it soon.

    But in the history of the church since 300 A.D., revival has been a short term fix for the church. Soon after the revival fires have cooled down, man has always jumped in with his administrative ways to govern what God has done.

    Does anyone really believe that the next revival will leave any different consequences in its wake? I don’t.

    The reformation that I believe will happen is the one George Barna speaks about in his book, “Revolution”. He states that by the year, 2025, only 35% of Christians will attend the traditional churches while the other 65% will attend non-traditional churches such as home churches, business churches, coffee churches, etc.

    Now Barna does not call it a reformation. He seems to believe that it will be a peaceable transition. Jim Rutz in his book, “Megashift” believes the same.

    However, I believe it is naieve to think we can go from a system that Frank Viola terms, “the active few and passive many” to a church filled with believers fulfilling their royal priesthood destinies. There is too much money and power involved for the clergy class to give it up without a fight.

    I believe the reformation will be like the one Martin Luther brought forth – a stinken mess that will take years before it is completed. But out of it will come a spotless bride fit for the Bridegroom.

    Do you know that when Jesus came on the scene a Jewish religious revival was taking place? The temple was being rebuilt even larger than the earlier ones. What a shock for the Jews that in the midst of their revival the Reformer visited them.

  3. I read two comments that suggested revival instead of reformation will occur. Myself I cannot honestly say I have spent much time thinking it over. I have found over the past year that when you are on the ground working with people you do not have much time to think, so I thank God for you guys who can. I did preach a sermon in the bush not to long ago about revival. My main point was that we do not need to revive things like: prayer, fasting, singing, church meetings, and other such type of stuff. We already do those things enough. We need to revive loving each other. Bearing in mind that love is more than an emotion, it is action. We need to people people of Acts and actually share.

  4. JonB

    Interesting post (as usual!) Looking from a British perspective I noted the bit that said….

    “The stand he took against a blas� Roman Catholic Church that had fallen into ungodly excess and a tax-code-like set of rules for salvation should resonate with us all.”

    Can we deny that most if not allthe Western church has fallen into the former excesses – where we ethically often cannot be told apart from non-believers in our morals and lifestyle, evangelicals OPPOSE moves to finally increase our environmental awareness, and our waste alone could feed the 3/4 world.

    Perhaps we need a new reformation that gets rid of ‘saved by faith’ as a magic mantra and fire insurance, as teaches it as just the entry to a total and Christ-like lifestyle.

  5. Jennifer

    “Are we in the need of a 21st century Reformation?” YES!!!! And I think many churches and individual Christians are going through positive reforms right now. Some call it the “emerging” church. I don’t care for that label. But I am seeing more and more Christians wake up to the fact that being part of the Body of Christ does not mean attending a liturgical church service, or even a traditional church building, but in forming relationships and community. My pastor calls it “doing life together”.

    It is actually a movement back to the tradition, fundamental truths that Jesus taught. Stripping away all the outside decorations we have erected over the centuries. Returning to the essential truths of the gospel and nothing more.

    Unfortunately, there are way too many churches out there still holding onto outdated traditions and rites that clearly parallel the RCC during Martin Luther’s time. Not in theology but methodology. I love jonb’s last paragraph above – that’s the kind of reform I think we need.

  6. Stuart Bryant

    I have been watching the church for over 20 years now and I believe that a reformation is now long overdue.
    What is reformation. It occures when the religious structure of the time has strayed from the truth and worships things other than God? This may sound odd to think that the church worships another kind of god, but I believe this to be true. The church now honours postion, power, charisma, money, self, buildings, ministries, university degrees and titles.
    We hear of the apostolic and prophetic reformations going on in the church and I am not saying that these changes going on are wrong, but I rarely meet a person who carries the title of apostle and or prophet who walks with the Love, grace and humility that I believe someone with these giftings should display. “Thus you will know my people by their fruit.” In fact I believe that these changes are needed for what God is doing and is about to do.
    So what needs reformation. Working from what I know about business, a successful business needs a business plan. The foundational business plan of the church is first of all love for God above all else. The second is Love for your neighbour and the third is to proclaim the gospel. These three items have either gone entirely and replaced with the gods I mentioned earlier or they are fast disapearing from all denominations.
    I believe without doubt that the fire of God will be coming onto the church in the very near future and He will consume all things that are not of Him in His body.
    I believe that God is going to reform the church and it will be founded on Christ, it will walk in Love and it will proclaim the Gospel.
    I am not talking about seventies style love which destroys the people but of Godly love that will bring hope to a dying world.
    All that is required for this to happen is for the people to fall in love with God again. To fosake all other gods and place God at the centre of our hearts. Once we have learnt what love is then we can love our neighbour and proclaim the gospel. Then the church will shine in all the glory that the Father shall place upon it.

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