Celebrating the Reformation

Some lovely reader of this blog asked last week why I, or anyone in general, would celebrate Reformation Day. Why celebrate a divorce, she asked? Which is a good question. Why celebrate a division, a breaking apart?

And, before I actually stumble around trying to answer this question, I would just like to say that I don’t have that many actual friends, either in reality or in, cough, “my online community” but of those I do have, fully half of them are Roman Catholic. I have no interest whatsoever in irritating even a single person who, in good will, clicks a second time on this blog, or who willingly meets me for coffee, or who chats with me all day long on Facebook. I don’t expect my Roman Catholic friends to rejoice that I’m a Protestant, and when any of them go full bore Roman Catholic minutia on their blogs, I don’t trouble to read every detail in order to get mad at them. I do think the very simple solution of not reading stuff you hate could be tried out by more of the Internet. If you’re a progressive liberal episcopalian feminist what cheap thrill is to be gained by clicking on me who makes you so angry?

On the other hand, if a person wants to genuinely understand another person’s world view, well, then, the exercise of reading blogs of people you like but who believe different things from you can be interesting and eye opening. It is in that spirit that I’m going to spend this week blogging about the Five Solas of the Reformation. I am a Protestant by choice, by conviction, because I think what happened in the Reformation, though painful, was true, and right. It is not a celebration so much of a divorce, but a rejoicing over the gospel itself coming into the hands of ordinary people, of the beauty of salvation being grasped afresh. I have an affection, a love affair even, with the Solas, the rallying cry of the reformers. My ever increasing devotion to scripture comes because of what they articulated in these five simple statements.

Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, And Soli Deo Gloria together comprise the single, perfect cry of gratitude of the believer who has been rescued from the mire and misfortune and devastation of sin. Each individually deserve tomes and rivers of words to sink into the heart. Don’t worry, I’m not going to take them to that level. I’ll do two tomorrow and on each the following days, and not in this order.

If ever there was a moment when the gospel itself, God’s own work of saving his people and his creation, was under attack, was maligned systematically by that very creation, this is one of those moments. The church cannot go beyond the gospel. The Christian doesn’t graduate from a saving knowledge of Jesus into something better later on. So also, the Christian cannot ascend to something higher, cannot move on to some better, fancier doctrine. From the moment of Jesus’ first infant cry, to his sorrowful and painful death, to his rising again, to his crushing of his enemies under his feet those who love him can never cry out someone else’s name for help, they can never give glory to themselves or to another, they can never be sustained by some other grace, they can never lean on and be ruled over by some other authority than Jesus’ own Word, they can never be tethered by some other faith. And yet the churches born out of the fire and trouble and martyrdom of the Reformers are trying to do just that.

The straying of evangelicals into the labyrinth aisles of Christian bookstore self help, of following seven principles to a better you, of shuffling along to your best life now, indeed of looking to every other single voice of “revelation” than the bible itself is the Norm now. It is just what the ordinary Christian person does. If you want to make an “evangelical” angry anymore, all you have to do is say that you think that the bible is true, that what it says has actual meaning, that it is authoritative for life and practice.

The sweet zephyr of this rallying cry is needed once more, around the world. I myself will whisper the Solas very quietly, to the heavy, fog laden dawn, and hope that nobody will be too angry with me. See you here again tomorrow!

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