Today is October 31st and in many circles of the Protestant world it is Reformation Day. Below is my annual reposting of my Happy What Could Have Been Day post, a remembrance of what could have been but was not reformed starting on that day. While the soul saving doctrines that had been suppressed for so long of the free justification of sinners by the grace of God were rediscovered in the church this day there was so much that was "unreformed". So celebrate the rejection of the papacy, the denial of the false priesthood, the renouncing of the abomination of the mass, the overturning of the endless pursuit of righteousness by works but remember was well that there is much that was retained in form and practice, and that has weakened the church in the hundreds of years that have passed since that fateful day on October 31st, 1517.
I used to look forward to this day as an exciting day in the church, a day when we should redouble our focus on the "Five Solas of the Reformation" and cherish the memory of the giants of the faith who came before us and laid the foundation for the Reformed, confessional wing of the church: Calvin, Luther. Zwingli.
Now? Now I look back with regret at this time, regret over what might have been. In those days when the shackles of Rome were first cast off there was a very real chance to reform the church in practice as well as in doctrine. Instead institutional inertia won the day. The doctrine got better (at least some of it) but the practice stayed the same. Pastors replaced priests but the machinery of organized religion kept chugging along. When a group of Christians started to ask questions and reject Protestantized Roman Catholic practices like infant baptism they were met with essentially the same response that the Roman Catholic church gave to the Reformers: persecution, imprisonment, torture and murder.
Today is as always an important day in the history of the church but rather than looking back at the Reformation as a golden era in the church to be emulated, let us instead use that period as a launching point to go even further back, all the way back to when the apostles were leading the church through service, sacrifice and imitation. Our foundation for church practice and doctrine in not found in the 16th century, it is found in the 1st.