500th Anniversary of the Reformation

October 31, 2017 is the 500th 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 are 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. (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 become 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.

This week, I am teaching on the topic of “Christian Worldview” in our DTS here on Maui. In a couple weeks, I’ll be teaching the same topic for a week at the Crossroads DTS in Kona. The goal of this week is to introduce our students to the fact that they have been influenced by the spirit of the age (the thinking patterns of the world) and that there is a way of viewing the world from a biblical perspective.

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.