Reformation Day

Tonight in the U.S., many will be celebrating Halloween. So much focus will be on candy, costumes, & celebration of ghoulishness. Unfortunately, all this tends to obscure a day which should be much more significant for Christians than it tends to be.

October 31, 2016 is the 499th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation. The Lord used Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 theses to the door of the church to spark a movement among Christians to return to the Bible as the final authority on religious matters and to the understanding that salvation is by faith in Christ, not in one’s good works. The legacy of this return to the biblical scriptures is hard to overestimate. Indeed, we are still enjoying the fruit of this movement to this very day. The foundation of so much that we take for granted was laid by the biblical teaching of the Reformers. The arts, political theories and institutions, economic development, and greater spiritual understanding all advanced greatly because of the Reformation.

The foundational ideas of the Reformation were summarized in the 5 “solas” or “alones”:

Solus Christus (Christ alone), Sola Gratia (salvation through grace alone), Sola Fide (justification through faith alone), Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone as our final authority), and Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be the glory).

While these ideas have continued to influence Evangelical Christianity to our own day, as I work with Christian young people from around the world, I see evidence of a great drift away from these roots, especially regarding the centrality of scripture. (See previous blog post from August 15 regarding “drift”.) As author Os Guinness so clearly stated in his book, Prophetic Untimeliness: “A great part of the evangelical community has transferred authority from Sola Scriptura to Sola Cultura.” (p. 65)

Indeed, our current post-modern culture seems to have more influence on our thinking than does the Bible. Decades ago, Harry Blamires opined that, “Except over a very narrow field of thinking, chiefly touching questions of strictly personal conduct, we Christians in the modern world accept, for the purpose of mental activity, a frame of reference constructed by the secular mind and a set of criteria reflecting secular evaluations. There is no Christian mind; there is no shared field of discourse in which we can move at ease as thinking Christians by trodden ways and past established landmarks” (The Christian Mind, 1963). If that was an assessment in the 1960’s, where are we now?

Sadly, we have allowed the intellectual influences in Western culture to be dominated by secular humanists or those espousing Eastern Philosophy. And as these influences shape culture, the basis of many believers’ faith has come to be based on experience rather than based on the truth of the Word. Without having one’s faith anchored in the truth as revealed to us by God, doctrine and theological beliefs are often decided upon based on the feelings received by a given teaching or dynamic teacher. Thus, by conforming to the thinking patterns of the world, many Christians have blended false religious and philosophical ideas with their Christian faith.

Do we even have enough reference points to recognize how far we have strayed from a biblical view of the world? (Some have found the following worldview assessment helpful: http://www.minipeers.com)

As pollster, George Barna, suggests, “Without a biblical worldview, all the great teaching goes in one ear and out the other. There are no intellectual pegs… in the mind of the individual to hang these truths on. So they just pass through. They don’t stick. They don’t make a difference.” We urgently need another Reformation – a renewal of both the desire and the determination to relearn and to reaffirm how the Bible applies to all of life. In addition, we need the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to live on the basis of this truth.

Here at YWAM Maui, we introduce our students to the Biblical Christian Worldview as integral to their discipleship. Our goal is to build foundations for the next generation in both the written Word and the Living Word. We strive to live by the truth of the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.

This week, we will implement this goal in our School of Biblical Foundations & Missions by viewing the DVD series by Francis Schaeffer called, “How Should We Then Live?” It is a very insightful survey of the flow of Western thought that sheds much light on where we’ve come from, where we are now, and where we might be headed. A closing thought from Francis Schaeffer regarding the need for restoration of our foundations is worth contemplating:

Often men have acted as though one has to choose between reformation and revival. Some call for reformation, others for revival, and they tend to look at each other with suspicion. But reformation and revival do not stand in contrast to one another; in fact, both words are related to the concept of restoration. Reformation speaks of a restoration to pure doctrine, revival of a restoration in the Christian’s life. Reformation speaks of a return to the teachings of Scripture, revival of a life brought into proper relationship to the Holy Spirit. The great moments of history have come when these two restorations have come simultaneously. There cannot be true revival unless there has been reformation, and reformation is not complete without revival. May we be those who know the reality of both reformation and revival, so that this poor dark world in which we live may have an exhibition of a portion of the church returned to both pure doctrine and a Spirit-filled life. ” (No Little People, 1974)

WE NEED BOTH REVIVAL AND REFORMATION.