Monday, January 02, 2017

Happy Reformation Year And Why It Still Matters (And Matters Just As Much)

Happy Reformation Year!

2017 is the year which includes the date of the 500th anniversary of the "official" start of the Protestant Reformation on October 31st, 1517 with Martin Luther's nailing of the 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg. With that one seemingly innocous act, Martin Luther forever changed the course of Western and world civilization, in some ways for the worse but for the most part for the better. Those of us who cherish our salvation by faith through grace recognize the debt we owe to those God lifted up at great personal danger to shine the light of the truth through the oppressive spiritual darkness of the day.

While many Protestants and others celebrate or at least recognize October 31st as Reformation Day, this being the 500th anniversary year means a lot of additional attention will get paid throughout the year to Luther and what he started. It is of course worth noting that there were many other individual and group reformers who preceded Luther but they mostly ended up dead at the hands of the Roman leadership and their willing executioners and torturers in the state. Luther was notable in large measure because he managed to survive long enough to see the embers of reform burst into the flames, sometimes literally, of Reformation.

While I expect to talk a lot about the Reformation throughout the year, it seems fitting that my first post of the year focuses on the on-going need for Reformation. It is the erroneous belief in many parts of the evangelical/Protestant world that the need for Reformation is long past. We have moved beyond silly squabbles and instead have moved closer together, propelled by our common foe of secularism and our common defense of religious liberty against godless liberalism. When engaged in an existential fight like we are the enemy of my enemy is my friend. All well and good except the mission of the church is not to fight for religious liberty but to preach the Gospel, in season and out, when it is welcome and especially where it is not, making disciples and teaching them the commandments of Christ. We cannot do that with one hand while with the other we hold hands with those who deny that very Gospel.

I have friends and family who are Roman Catholic and this post, and all subsequent posts in 2017, are not intended to be an insult, simply a statement of what should be clear. I don't attend the Roman Mass not because it just isn't my cup of tea but because I believe what happens in the Mass and elsewhere in the Roman religious system runs counter to and is affront to the Gospel of Jesus Christ we see in Scripture. The vast chasm between Rome and the Protestant world was always very apparent until recently and it is neither loving nor honest to anyone to pretend that those differences have faded with time or are no longer important.

Case in point, Jorge Bergoglio, aka "Pope Francis" tweeted out this message to ring in the new year:

Rather than putting together a response I am instead going to just reprint James White's response from a public Facebook post because he pretty much nails it (get it? nails it? 95 Theses?):

Why is the Reformation still important? Why is it proper for us to focus upon it this year in celebration of 500 years? Why do I pray that by the end of 2017 more and more of God's people will embrace the Reformation, and Reformed theology as a whole? Well, here is a tweet from the current Pope. He encourages Roman Catholics to "entrust the new year to Mary." Doing this, evidently, will result in "peace and mercy" growing throughout the world. And here I thought that could only happen as men and women bow the knee not to Mary, but to the Lord Jesus, in repentance and faith, trusting in His once-for-all work upon the cross as the perfect Savior. Rome's departure from the Gospel remains complete, and defiant. She continues to blaspheme the cross every time a man-made "priest" pretends to "re-present" the once-for-all sacrifice of Calvary upon a Roman altar. And she continues to enslave men with her endless gospel of sacraments and penances, which can never bring them peace. And in this tweet the Pope demonstrates once again the grossly idolatrous nature of modern Roman teaching concerning Mary.

How many non-Roman Catholics today understand why they do not bow the knee to Rome? In what is loosely called Evangelicalism, very few. One either has the wild-eyed bigotry of the Jack Chick variety anti-Catholicism, or the luke-warm "it's just a matter of taste" variety of synergistic Tiber-paddling that is so common today. May the number of those who knowingly, and out of a true commitment to sound biblical doctrine, reject Rome's pretensions, grow in this the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

The fawning, fan-boy fascination many "progressive" evangelicals have for Jorge Bergoglio is not surprising while it is still troubling but many who would consider themselves "conservative" have no clue what the differences are between Roman teaching and Scripture. When so many in the church have no idea why they don't attend Mass instead of going to what are most often silly and vacuous "worship services", there is clearly a lot of work to be done. Likewise tens of millions of people are still caught up in the Roman system and have never even heard the Gospel presented clearly and these people are in the same need for hearing the Gospel as poor peasants in 1517 who had been taught that buying an indulgence with the money they could scrape together instead of buying food for their children would somehow purchase favor with God.

Do not for a second think the Reformation is unimportant in 2017 or that we have outgrown the need for what are considered petty theological squabbles or that winning political and cultural victories is critical enough that we ought to make common cause with enemies of the Gospel. As Jorge Bergoglio's tweet proves, Rome is still selling a false gospel that cannot save and only serves to obscure the true Gospel and preserve a corrupt religious system. I think that if Luther could see the church today he would marvel at many things but I also think he would desperately want someone to walk up to our own equivalent of the church door in Wittenberg, take out a hammer and a nail and declare boldly that the Gospel is the one place that we will not, that we cannot, compromise for the sake of any other issue. In the end, only the Gospel of Jesus Christ really matters.

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